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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A word (or two) about Rabin and Amir

[I have written, deleted and rewritten this post more times than I can count since starting this blog in 2003.  It always comes out as an angry rant full of exactly the kind of hate and rhetoric i want so desperately to rail against.  I'm not terribly happy with this latest effort, but I don't see it getting any better than this... so here it is.]

I had really hoped to never have to write about Yigal Amir or the shameful, despicable act for which he was imprisoned.  Murdering anyone, much less a national leader, is beyond the pale by any standards.   

By the same token, I had hoped never to have to write about Yitzchak Rabin.  Despite the fact that he worked his entire life in the service of the country, he represented many of the things I loathe about the self-entitled, elitist old guard of Israeli politics.

But here I am writing about both of them.

Conspiracy theories (and theorists) aside, a murder was committed, a murderer was convicted, and other than the kind of tabloid-esque interest normally reserved for the likes of Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, et al, that, as they say, should have been that.  Lock the cell door and throw away the key.

But sadly it wasn't.  You see, the bullets that killed Yitzchak Rabin were fired by a religious right-winger.  And as a result, every year since, the period between the Hebrew and Gregorian anniversary of the murder is observed as a season of hate...a time when the secular left unsheathes its barely concealed revulsion for the religious right, and goes to work assigning blame.

It doesn't really matter that, isolated crazies not withstanding, the political right / religious community were as horrified by the killing of Rabin as the left.  But because the shots were fired across the political and religious fault lines that run through the very heart of Israeli society, those tectonic plates - already unstable from generations of mistrust and antipathy - began a pronounced and relentless shift away from one another.

The problem is that few people remember the reality that existed before those fatal/fateful shots were fired, or give a damn about what has happened since.  We're all too wrapped up in our fables to be bothered with inconvenient truths.

So let me share a few.

Yitzchak Rabin was widely reviled by the Israeli right long before he assumed a central role in facilitating the Oslo accords and the resulting Second Intifada.  As early as 1948, when as commander of the artillery that fired on fellow Jews on board the Altalena (killing 16... some of them as they swam, unarmed, towards the beach from the burning wreck) , Rabin showed his willingness to kill fellow Jews when their politics didn't line up with his own.

Rabin was also widely disliked by the religious community for the simple reason that he routinely ignored (and even derided) religious concerns/sensibilities while serving as the leader of a country where nearly half its citizens were religious.

But the Oslo accords were the tipping point which brought Rabin into open conflict with the Israeli right.  Despite clear (and in retrospect, accurate) predictions from the right of exactly what would happen if Israel were to make unreciprocated sweeping concessions at Oslo, an agreement was made that would directly result in the murder of over a thousand Israelis! 

However, the moment Rabin was murdered the worst elements on the left and right began to hijack both his memory and his legacy for their own purposes. 

Rabin was a liberal, but he wasn't a radical liberal (or a monster, for that matter).  I honestly think Rabin would be horrified to see the present Israeli government rushing headlong towards creating a Palestinian State without even the most basic conditions of the Road Map (e.g. renunciation/secession of incitement/terror and unconditional recognition of Israel's right to exist) having been met.

Also, if you ask most Israelis today whether Rabin was in favor of establishing a Palestinian state the answer you'd hear from most would be "Of course... what a silly question!"  But in fact he was extremely wary of a full fledged Palestinian state alongside Israel, and was quite deliberate in clarifying that he favored a Palestinian 'entity' with basic autonomy and self-rule... but not an actual state. 

A fellow blogger, Daled Amos, brought out a few interesting points he found on the ZOA website a couple of weeks ago.  What he found was that the Israel Foreign Ministry's web site has links to many of Rabin's key speeches (translated into English), but tellingly, no link to the last speech he delivered to the Knesset.  Perhaps the reason for this omission will become clear when you read the key points contained in that speech:

  • Rabin ruled out a fully sovereign Palestinian state: "We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”
  • Rabin ruled out a total withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and thus a return to the pre-June 1967 borders: "The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
  • Rabin ruled out withdrawing form the Jordan Valley: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
  • Rabin ruled out uprooting settlement blocs, like the Gush Katif bloc in Gaza (which was subsequently uprooted by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon): “The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.
  • Rabin ruled out removing any settlement before coming to a full peace agreement with the Palestinians: “I want to remind you: we committed ourselves, that is, we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”
  • Rabin insisted on Israel retaining full security control of the borders with Egypt and Jordan, contrary to Israel’s relinquishment of the Philadelphia Corridor on the border with Egypt: “The responsibility for external security along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as control over the airspace above all of the territories and Gaza Strip maritime zone, remains in our hands.”

Anyone voicing the views today that were contained in Rabin's last speech would be branded a right wing fanatic by many on the left.  The point being, while Rabin was certainly a lefty by his contemporary standards, if he were alive today he would feel at home just to the right of center.  Given what's going on today, I would be far happier with Rabin in the driver's seat than Olmert.

But i don't have that choice.  Rabin's murder changed everything. Ironic how the right is blamed for his murder yet the left seems to have reaped the greatest benefit from his removal.  Sheesh, I'm starting to sound like the conspiracy nuts!

But by far the worst is the current trend of the left putting words in Rabin's mouth that he never considered in his wildest dreams.  They march his corpse around the stage at every peace rally like some terrible 'Weekend at Bernies' send-up that would be funny if not for the fact that the watchdogs (the press)... the guys who in any normal democracy would be taking notes and checking facts... simply nod and serve as an amen choir for whatever the far left has to say. 

Quite simply, the 'fourth estate' has completely failed in its duty here in Israel and has instead positioned itself as an undeclared political party.

But what about Yigal Amir?  He has also been hijacked by both the left and right without any regard for who he is/was or who (if anyone) he represents.

As I mentioned before, there are always going to be conspiracy theorists who allege that Amir...

a) ... was a Shabak patsy

b) ... didn't actually shoot Rabin

c) ... was part of a wider conspiracy

Take your pick. 

But subscribing to any of these theories doesn't mean you condone the murder of Yitzchak Rabin any more than believing in an unseen accomplice on the grassy knoll that day in 1963 makes one in favor of murdering JFK.

And of course, now there is a prevailing theory that all the breaks amir has gotten since being encarserated have been part of a right wing plot.

To discuss this logically, one needs to acknowledge that an Attorney General who is not the least bit sympathetic towards the right wing crowd has reviewed each and every motion made by Amir's lawyers... from the first request to meet with Larisa Trembovler... through their courtship, engagement and marriage... to the granting of conjugal visits... and even the permission to attend the brit (circumcision) of his son.   So the left's outrage over these things is baffling when that outrage is directed at the right instead of at the AG and Judiciary.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I was horrified by each and every one of those decisions.  I can't blame Amir for making the requests... and I certainly can't fault his lawyers for arguing each motion.  But ultimately it was in the hands of a very liberal AG to say yea or nay... and he said yes to pretty much everything Amir asked for.

Yet the urge to punish the right persists.

When a bunch of unruly Beitar Yerushalayim fans booed during the moment of silence that was observed in memory of Rabin (and many even chanted "Yigal Amir"), MK Yossi Beilin urged Sports and Culture Minister Raleb Majadele to pull all government funding for the club and Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer immediately demanded that Beitar Jerusalem be penalized for its fans' conduct. 

I'm just wondering, do these people really think that the Beitar management has some sort of control over what the fans will say at a game?  I could see it if they flashed "Boo" or "Yigal Amir" on the Jumbo-tron and the fans dutifully followed along.  But this was a spontaneous occurrence... albeit in incredibly bad taste.  My point is that the left seems to have an insatiable urge to inflict collective punishment upon the right for something that was the act of a lone lunatic.

I guess what really has me most bothered is the idea that each year at this time the religious right is told that it must do some serious soul searching over its part in bringing about Rabin's death.  And excuse my French, but that is just total crap.  If we want to keep score, the secular left has some serious soul searching to do as well, over all the lives that were quite literally thrown away in the Oslo war. 

But we shouldn't be keeping score. 

Expressing one's political and religious convictions is not a crime.  Calling for (and even actively working towards) the fall of a government because one opposes their views and actions is not a crime.  That's called democracy.  Both the right and left in Israel can reasonably be accused of expressing their political views in an excessively hostile manner.  That one lone fanatic took things too far and killed a man is tragic.   But since the left certainly isn't planning on changing the tone or level of its hostile rhetoric any time soon, why should the right be expected to? 

I disliked Yitzchak Rabin for more reasons than I can list here, but I can't possibly condone his murder... or even be pleased at the Machiavellian result.  That is not a contradiction, although for some reason it seems so to many on the left. 

If anyone had bothered to ask me I would have also come out strongly against a convicted murderer - any murderer - being given permission to marry and conceive a child while serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.  Yet a left-leaning legal establishment not only allowed these things, but also allowed him to attend his son's brit on humanitarian grounds. 

If the country wants to make a saint out of Yitzchak Rabin, that's fine by me.  Let them polish up his image... downplay his personal weaknesses... gloss over his poor decisions.  After spending his entire life in the service of the country he certainly deserves at least that much.  But I won't sit idly by while anyone tries to betray the country Rabin worked so hard to build by putting lies in the mouth of a dead man... and then blames hard working, patriotic citizens for his murder.

Posted by David Bogner on November 6, 2007 | Permalink


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Tracked on Nov 8, 2007 3:14:29 PM


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All I can say is...Thank You.

I've been of the same mind for years, but always felt like I needed to keep my mouth shut for fear of being blasted by the left here in the US...I don't want to turn your comments area into a forum of it's own, so I'll try to post something on my blog later today.


Posted by: Jesse | Nov 6, 2007 11:59:45 PM

I'm still wondering why everyone is up in arms about these allowances granted to Yigal Amir, and yet strangely silent about the continual release of terrorists by the Israeli government...

If the government has gotten to the point of releasing those who try to murder us, then they shouldn't discriminate by keeping Amir in prison. They really should practice what they preach...

Alas, hypocrisy reigns supreme.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Nov 7, 2007 1:05:35 AM

Several comments:

1)Totally with you on your sentiments about collective punishment, hostile rhetoric, etc.
2) Very surprised about that last Rabin's speech. Will have to mull it over.
3) I consider the right to procreate a basic human right, and while the state has a right to deny marriage licenses to people who don't meet certain criteria, I don't think being in prison should be one of them. In fact, I personally wouldn't deny the right to procreate even to the most vile of murderers (should they find someone willing to conceive), and I am a firm advocate of capital punishment and with very harsh views on prison sentencing as well. Should Amir be locked away for life? Of course. He committed a political assassination, he killed a man, the law is the law, morality is morality, etc. But that's his sentence - imprisonment, deprivation of various priviledges, etc. Procreating is another category entirely, and I would find it extremely distasteful for the state to deny him that right.

Posted by: Irina | Nov 7, 2007 3:55:03 AM

Irina - I'm curious why you think the 'right' to procreation is somehow a separate category from the 'rights' to liberty, voting, etc. - which Amir most assuredly does not have.

This is not a question of 'rights' or the lack thereof, since prisoners have various rights taken away by the state as punishment; it is merely a legal issue. Is a convicted murderer allowed conjugal visits/etc. under Israeli law? If he is, then there is nothing more to discuss - all of the media circus is ridiculous. If he is not, then the AG was wrong in allowing it. Simple.

I have to admit that I find most of the hullabaloo about Amir ridiculous. He committed a terrible crime - no one sane disputes that - and he is being punished in accordance with Israeli law. To take it beyond that - whether it involves 'hijacking' Rabin's legacy or expressing support for a murderer - is pointless. Perhaps I would have needed to be in Israel at the time of the assassination to understand the underlying gestalt that seems implicit in all of this hysteria, but I just don't get it.

I did find one bit of your post troubling, though. You first argue that Rabin made "unreciprocated sweeping concessions at Oslo, an agreement was made that would directly result in the murder of over a thousand Israelis!", yet then you turn around and say that he would never have gone down the path of the peace negotiations we are seeing today - which are oddly similar to Ehud Barak's offer in 2000... which, of course, was what led to the murder of a thousand Israelis.

Rabin made some difficult and controversial decisions in his time, but I think it would be a disservice to blame the result of Oslo on him; its implementation and the circuitous route to the second intifada was hardly something that was solely dependent upon his signature on the Oslo Accords.

*shrugs* I think I agree with your basic point, though.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Nov 7, 2007 7:09:13 AM

Matlabfreak: I actually thought that this issue over, and posted more about it on my own blog. Apparently (or at least from what I understand) the conjugal visits in Israel are discretionary.

Posted by: Irina | Nov 7, 2007 7:22:33 AM

To blame Rabin for the results of Oslo is misplaced. The real Oslo criminal is Arafat (I hope he died an agonizing death). Many forget Israel's position before Oslo vis a vis the international community. We were hated much more than today. Shamir's bluff about conducting peace talks was exposed. We had to prove to the world that we would talk the chance, albeit a dangerous one, to finally end this conflict. Oslo had to be attempted. The political stagnation translated into an economic one as well. And after Oslo, Israel flourished in all aspects. The one point that I believe was Rabin's downfall was that he turned a blind eye to Arafat's true nature. Rabin was not the only one. Almost all on the left did so. Once Arafat had shown us that he didn't really change, Oslo should have been abandoned and that vile creature exposed for what he really was: a bloodthirsty murderer.
Now, with perfect hindsight, we all understand that Oslo was doomed to fail. I still believe we had to give peace a chance, to use a well worn phrase, but should have been more sober about the arabs willingness to uphold the agreements.
I find that the fascination with Rabin's murderer by the media (which is mainly liberal) to be an insult to morality and intelligence. Amir should have been executed. At the very least, he and his loony toons wife should not be made into a media circus. I, like many am disturbed by the left's "hijacking" of the assassination. The right, however, must own up to the fact that the atmosphere that condoned such an act is found mostly in the right. This is not new, Abrushme's murder of a peace now activist in the 80's, Goldsteins murder in Hebron, and then Amir all are the worst expression of what the far right has to offer. And the taint, unfortunately, with the help of the liberal media spoils the rest of the right.

Posted by: Avner | Nov 7, 2007 10:06:04 AM

Jesse... You're welcome. I'll look forward to seeing your take on this topic.

tnspr569... I have long maintained that many on the left hate right wing religious Israelis far more than the terrorists. With that in mind it isn't hard to understand how terrorists are released by the score while Jewish security prisoners are considered unworthy of consideration. Personally, I think both groups should rot in jail forever.

Irina... You and I will have to agree to disagree on that point. Once you are in prison for murder without the possibility of parole you should not have the right to create a life for which you cannot take responsibility. To look at it from another standpoint, we allow social welfare organizations to remove children from unsuitable/unsafe homes all the time. This indicates to me that the right of procreation is somehow tied to the ability of the parent(s) to provide a safe, healthy environment for the child.

matlabfreak... Obviously I can't reasonably lay Oslo at Rabin's feet. It was a process that had extremely wide popular support. However, we expect our leaders to be stewards of the treaties and agreements that we enter into as a country. When it becomes clear that we have been duped... or worse, openly attacked... for our good will efforts towards making peace, he was empowered to shift gears and abandon the agreement. He didn't do that. Instead of trying to land the Oslo plane safely once problems became obvious, he ignored the bells and alarms going off in the cockpit and proceeded to fly the thing into the side of a mountain.

Avner... First of all, read my reply to matlabfreak (above). You are correct that I have oversimplified Rabin's role in Oslo. But the captain of the ship is responsible for what happens on his watch. Kacha zeh. If Oslo had worked he would have certainly taken the lion's share of the credit... so it has to work the other way around as well. As to the whole 'the right created an environment where a murder was possible' I need to be careful here because you are one of the few admitted lefties that I haven't inadvertently chased away and I would sorely hate to lose you. Let me begin by repeating what I said above. Both the right and left are guilty of terrible incitement and hateful speech. My mentioning of the Altalena affair was also quite deliberate as that was the sanctioned murder of right wing Jews by Left wing Jews over political differences. There have also been countless incidents of organized violence by police against right wing and religious demonstrators that has later been proved to have been both excessive and illegal. To understand why I bring these up you need to think about the 'environment' within which the violence occurred. I firmly believe that the police would not feel empowered to beat up right wing and religious demonstrators if the prevailing rhetoric from the left (including a left-leaning government) had not already demonized them extensively. The examples you bring are perfectly valid, but represent such a tiny portion of the right wing and religious community as to be statistically insignificant. It would be akin to my saying that the entire secular-liberal lifestyle leads to drug addiction and murder simply because there is the rare drug related stabbing in a Tel Aviv night club. My point being that Amir, Goldstein et al may be right wing religious but you can't reasonably draw cause and effect between who they are, what they heard and how they acted... and THEN draw a broad conslusion about how right wing rhetoric leads to violence and murder.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 7, 2007 11:23:09 AM

One thing people forget about Rabin is that before he became PM, he was the general in charge of the territories. He was widely regarded as very supportive of the settlers (if not necessarily the settlements per se), and was not particularly liked by the Palestinians. Of course, as PM he started the Oslo debacle, but that doesn't mean he was clueless about the Palis' ultimate intentions. (One thinks of the incredibly uncomfortable expression on his face as he was forced to shake hands with Arafat on the White House lawn.) I think you're right - I can't imagine Rabin going half as far as the present clowns-in-charge. And as for Yigal Amir - I had conversations with some of those "isolated loonies" after the assassination. I told them that nothing good comes of murder, and it would only make things worse. Guess I was right (sigh).

Posted by: psachya | Nov 7, 2007 12:21:43 PM

Picture this scenario: The Hevron performance is about to start at the Habima Theater in Tel-Aviv.

An announcement rings out; "Would everyone please rise -- we would like to have a moment of silence in the memory of an Israeli politician who murdered for his political views by an extremist. Please join us as we honor the memory of Member of Knesset, Rabbi Meir Kahana, may G-d avenge his death."

What do you think the reaction would be? Deafening Silence?

Posted by: Jameel @ The Muqata | Nov 7, 2007 2:13:15 PM

Well, one should mention the Ma'a'riv poll, which found that about a quarter of the country supports Amir's release, and this includes 42 percent of the populationthat defines themselves as religious.

This is not good, and no less a scholar than Michael Oren has characterized the politics of Rabin the left using his memorials to display power and the right calling for Amir's clemency or extolling him as a hero.

There is no question that Yigal Amir deserves the life sentence he got. There is also no question that the left has hurt itself by being so quick to release terrorists in prisoner swaps.

There is also no question that the Right has been far too slow to condemn those who extol Amir as a hero, and this poll appears to suggest that a substantial number of Israelis, too many to be characterized as "out of the mainstream", if not extolling Amir as a hero, don't believe he's a villain either.

Posted by: Michael Brenner | Nov 7, 2007 4:36:51 PM

Well, it took you long enough! I've been waiting for this post for awhile! I guess it took a threat to a sports team to get you really riled up...;)

Excellent as usual.

Posted by: westbankmama | Nov 7, 2007 5:50:37 PM

Hi, I work for an international discussion programe on BBC World Service radio, called World Have Your Say. On Thursday 8th November we are planning to discuss whether you can legislate against the radicalisation. I saw your blog post and was wondering whether you would be interested in taking part in the discussion, which is on air from 6pm to 7pm London Time. Please send me your phone numbers and I will call you.
[email protected]

Many thanks

Martin Vennard

Posted by: Martin Vennard | Nov 7, 2007 5:58:44 PM

David: Although I will not try to change your position on Amir, my own thoughts are that children are removed from homes only in the cases of abuse/severe neglect, or where the parents have endangered the lives of their children. Normally, courts do not take away children from divorced families, despite the lack of stable environment and other issues. Furthermore, the courts do not take away the right to procreate from people before the fact of neglect/abuse/irresponsible behavior occurs. If people choose to live separately and raise their child, that is perfectly legal. Of course a household with both parents present is best for the child, no question about it. But if we're looking at it from the social/legal perspective, the situation with Amir is no different than if he and his wife were permanently separated and divorced and lived in different areas. Unlike many situations of abuse, Amir appears to have wanted that child, and so far has not shown any signs that he would endanger his child's life or be abusive in any way. Perhaps he will be accorded visits with the child, and in that case the situation will be much more like a divorced home than anything else. But if he is not allowed to play any role at all in the child's upbringing, his wife will be raising the child - and again that is not any different from any other single-parent household. From a legal standpoint, depriving Amir of the right to procreate to begin with based on the assumption that it's an irresponsible environment for raising the child would be discriminatory, considering how people outside the prison system are treated. (And what about households where both parents work 16-18 hours a day and don't really see their children much? Should their right to procreate be also taken away because of the lifestyle they chose?)

Posted by: Irina | Nov 7, 2007 5:59:54 PM

trep- not so surprising, unfortunately. It still is slightly puzzling to me, given that the terrorists have killed Jews from accross the spectrum. I do wonder about the mental health of the extreme left. Do they honestly want to cause more death and destruction? Yes, let's play nice with our neighbors...

Posted by: tnspr569 | Nov 7, 2007 6:05:56 PM

Irina - I still think I disagree with you. Deprivation of conjugal visits is something the state is allowed to do as a routine part of incarceration. David's cogent arguments aside (as well as your blog post), we have to realize that some crimes are bad enough that we should not exercise our 'discretion' to make their stays in prison more manageable. This includes premeditated murder (though I won't get into the thorny issue of whether assassination should be treated as separate from murder). That being said, I understand your point more after reading your blog post. Thanks for the clarification.

David - I'm not enough of an expert on the early Oslo process to disagree with you (I was 8 when it was signed, and 10 when Rabin was assassinated; I'm afraid my knowledge of details surrounding Oslo is mostly historical). Perhaps you're referring to the "Interim Agreement" in mid-1995 where they handed over control of a bunch of WB cities to the PA, despite ongoing terrorism (IIRC, there were five or so suicide bombings in 1995). While I agree that I would probably not have done the same as Rabin, I don't believe that he was deluded into thinking that Oslo was running just fine. I suspect a lot of careful thought went into his decisions in continuing the Oslo process in '94 and '95, carefully balancing security needs vs. a perceived need to keep the momentum of the peace process going.

I don't want to bring up that old canard about 'everything was going to be fine until Rabin was assassinated, Netanyahu was elected, and Oslo was effectively shelved' because it isn't true. In hindsight, it's clear that the PA had no intention of honoring its commitments under Oslo, and that Arafat was unsurprisingly a man who was unwilling to make the compromises necessary for a final status solution. But in '94 and '95, Rabin honestly felt there was a decent chance that things could be worked out, and if the 5 subsequent years (under Peres', Netanyahu's and Barak's stewardship) could have been managed better, it's at least possible that things would have worked out differently. I sincerely doubt Oslo would have succeeded completely, but it's at least possible that an intifada of the scale we've seen could have been averted.

Yes, we can fault Rabin's optimism and his reluctant trusting of Arafat. But to lay the intifada at his feet is effectively doing the same thing the left does - distorting his memory and actions for a political purpose.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Nov 7, 2007 6:14:10 PM

A few comments

1) Regarding the rights (conjugal visits, etc) granted to Amir, it's the consequence of the way his trial was handled. At the time, it was decided that in the interest of equality before the law, Amir would be tried just like any other murderer - the fact that his crime was political and the victim happened to be the Prime Minister was deemphasized by the prosecution. That decision can be argued either way, but the result is it made it more difficult to deny Amir the rights any other prisoner gets.

2) Regarding Beitar, I believe it's not unknown for sports teams to be held accountable for the behaviour of their fans (ISTR other teams being fined for their fans' unruly conduct)

3) Michael Brenner - regarding the Ma'ariv poll, it seems quite damning on its surface. However, IIRC the "fine print" showed a rather different picture. Only 3% thought he should be released now - the rest believed he should be released in 25 years or so. Again, this is rather par for the course for murderers.

4) matlabfreak - a major reason that Oslo failed and collapsed into the second intifada was that everyone was afraid of rocking the boat by pointing out the flaws in it. This wasn't just true during Rabin's tenure, BTW - it continued until 2000, including during Netanyahu's administration*. For instance, it was well-known that the Palestinians weren't fulfilling their security obligations under the agreement - it was constantly in the news - yet no-one in the government did anything.

*for example, I was a soldier posted near Jericho during the Tunnel Riots in 1996 - we were given instructions (initially, at least) not to return fire even when fired upon

Posted by: Eyal | Nov 7, 2007 11:09:44 PM


I looked it up and it says the 26% believe he should be released by 2015 and that 38% of the religious public (Israel National News's term) say he should be released immediately. This is in the context of an article that repeats conspiracy theories about how Amir was not responsible for the murder. This is on a website that caters to the religious right. It is consistent with the drivel one sees in similar sources.

As much as I would like to say that this the stuff of the lunatic fringe, I am afraid that there are too many people who believe this kind of stuff for it to be pooh-poohed. I live in Woodmere. I'm surrounding by people on the religious right. It is simply not unusual now, and nor was it unusual ten years ago when I was in Day School, to hear people say very nasty things about left-of-center Jews and talk about killing Arabs.

As far as Rabin goes, Treppenwitz is apparently one of those people who believes that it is appropriate to blame left-wing Israeli politicians for the deaths of Israelis during Oslo and since Oslo because there is no peace. Here Treppenwitz says Oslo is directly reponsible for the death of over a thousand people. This is one step removed from what I see on a regular basis in the Jewish Press, namely that those involved in Oslo should be arrested and imprisoned. Oslo is a failed policy. But to place this blame on people like Rabin and Peres (Bibi Netanyahu is almost always excluded) is political opportunism at its worst.

It is moreover, a myopically bad argument in the extreme to blame Oslo for what happened post-Oslo. One could just as easily blame right-wing governments from 1977 to 1992 for not annexing the West Bank when they clearly could have, or every Israeli government since 1967 for failing to attract enough people to the settlements to make them a fait accompli, or perhaps those who set up the settlement enterprise in the first place instead of giving back the territories after 1967. Any of these could be described as causes leading to Intifada I and II. But what is most politically convenient for the right is to place blame on the left, so it is routinely done in terms which approach incitement, and when the line is crossed by the rabbeim into pure incitement, little condemnation is heard from the mainstream right.

Posted by: Michael Brenner | Nov 8, 2007 2:30:52 AM

And, by the way, it bothers me that you mention the Altalena as an example of Rabin's maliciousness against those with a different political opinion. No one disputes that the Altalena is an unfortunate part of Israeli history. But in retrospect, particularly given contemporary examples of what happens when the state loses its monopoly on the use of force, along with Begin's own statement that his greatest act was not retaliating, Ben-Gurion's decision to fire on the Altalena and disabuse the Irgun of the notion that they could disobey orders whenever they felt like it looks better and better every year. One could even argue that without Ben-Gurion laying down the law and showing that he was willing to fight his own if necessary (which is exactly what the Palestinians will NOT do and are now paying the price for not doing, as are the Lebanese), there would be no Israel today.

Posted by: Michael Brenner | Nov 8, 2007 2:57:46 AM

psachya... Good points.

Jameel @ The Muqata... As I told you off-line, the flaw in your analogy is that Kahana (and his party) was kicked out of the Knesset for being racist and he was killed by an Arab, not a fellow Jew.

Michael Brenner... I'm going to need a link to the poll you quote because it sounds way off. Awaiting that let me just address your last point. When the left starts protesting the travesty of how the Israeli media has deliberately soft pedalled reporting of inconvenient truths in order to advance their own agenda, I will personally arrange for the right to act more responsibly and start speaking out against the nuts who think of Amir as a hero. Deal?

westbankmama... Like I said, I've written and rewritten this post dozens of times. Oh, and I don't consider Soccer a sport. :-)

Martin Vennard... Happy to. Please se my email with my contact numbers. thanks.

Irina... Yeah, I think we are too far apart on this one to find any reall common ground. I am also in favor of the death penalty, but in cases where it isn't used I would also be in favor of some pretty medieval practices including forced castration. And I wouldn't be that particular about hygiene either. The surgical tools needn't be sterilized... only the prisoner. :-)

tnspr569... There is an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. While this is pretty much what the left has been doing, I don't think it is really an issue of mental health. I think it is more a syndrome of eternal optimism. Because to admit that we have no partner for peace and will likely be fighting the war of Independence forever is too depressing for many to consider.

matlabfreak ... The old expression 'success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan' applies here. Oslo was a dismal failure so nobody involved in bringing about its implementation will accept responsibility. But it was a failure that was widely predicted by many... both before and during the implementation. The architects and implementers of Oslo bear responsibility for the results. Rabin was operating from the mindset of 'let's call the Palestinians bluff and offer them pretty much everything they are asking for. If they comply we all win. If they refuse to play along the world will finally see that we have no partner'. The problem is that he failed to take into consideration the danger of calling such a dangerous bluff. To save face the Palis were pretty much required to manufacture an armed conflict to cover their inability to accept the terms they say they wanted. You would be hard pressed to convince me that the second Intifada was not a direct result of Oslo.

Eyal... Regarding sports teams being held accountable for their fan's behavior, that would apply to hooliganism and acts that lead to loss of life or property (i.e. breaking the law). No laws were broken here so I am baffled how anyone can reasonably try to enact punishment - collective or otherwise. Also, as I have said to Michael, I need to see a link to the statistics you are quoting at this point. Because as everyone knows, 77.8 percent of statistics quoted on the web are made up on the spot. :-)

Michael Brenner... [sigh] You are seriously wearing me out. "Treppenwitz is apparently one of those people who believes that it is appropriate to blame left-wing Israeli politicians for the deaths of Israelis during Oslo" And your point would be...? You can't have it both ways. something caused the second intifada... it didn't happen in a vacuum and it certainly didn't erupt 'spontaneously' (as has been proven by statements from Palestinian sources). So if not Oslo (and its leftist architects) what, in your opinion, did is to blame for the second intifada? One can obviously lay the blame for WWII firmly at the feet of Hitler and the Nazi party... but the history has pretty much made up its mind about Chamberlain's appeasement having been the trigger that enabled the Nazi's to kick off the war. Rabin and his cohorts on the left are our Neville Chamberlains and must be judged as such. As to the Altalena affair, your comment reveals that you have only the shakiest knowledge of what transpired than... and since. You make it sound as though the Irgun was firmly under IDF command and was in open armed rebellion. This is not the case. The agreement between the fledgling IDF and the Irgun (among other groups) was hours, or at best days old when the Altalena was being loaded... and the boat set sail with Ben Gurion's blessing. There was little or no communication to or from the ship before it set sail or during its voyage. Once it was on its way Begin made several requests. One was to be able to keep 20% of the weapons on the Altalena for his group's use. This was agreed to by Ben Guiron. The second was that the remaining weapons be distributed only to Irgun soldiers in the IDF... an unreasonable request that would have made the Irgun a distinct fighting force within the IDF (and army within an army) and that request was rightly (IMHO) refused. But here is where it becomes very important to learn your history. While the Altalena was incommunicado, Ben Gurion convened the government's weekly meeting and inexplicably authorized the IDF to fire on the ship and seize the entire cargo (a breach of his agreement with Begin). He also sent a message to Begin requiring an answer to his demands within 10 minutes... a deliberately insulting and entirely unreasonable demand gien the shaky truce that had existed for only a few days between the two groups and the unreliability of communication. Finally, many of the people from the Altalena who were killed by IDF fire (under orders from Rabin)were unarmed and swimming ashore, a fact that Rabin bragged about many times during his life. Such was the level of hate he held for anyone/everything that challenged the grip he and his small group of Mapai insiders held on the new state's power structure. I know that another holdover from the Mapai era; Shimon Peres has publicly stated that there is no need to study history since there is nothing we can learn from it, but you should really learn your history before spouting off.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 8, 2007 10:55:23 AM

"Rabin and his cohorts on the left are our Neville Chamberlains and must be judged as such."

Here you go again. Now you're comparing Rabin with Neville Chamberlain. No one claims Chamberlain was directly responsible for killing six million Jews. It is routinely claimed that Rabin is responsible for killing a thousand Jews.

I blame Arafat for the Second Intifada. I blame Rabin and Peres for allowing Arafat back into the picture; they picked a bad guy to negotiate with. I do not blame Oslo, which was a good deal for Israel, was the right move at the time given the international situation, and is more or less the kind of thing we are going to have go through unless we want to be at war forever.

Nothing you have said about the Altalena negates the points I have made, all based on the article you cited. My main point is that you wrongly present it as a left-right thing, which it was not. If history teaches us anything, Peres's inane comments aside, it is that the state must have a monopoly on the use of force to survive.

Posted by: Michael Brenner | Nov 8, 2007 5:12:00 PM

I think this is the poll in question. It's not the one I referenced above - which is older - but paints a bleaker picture - 14% of those questioned beleive Amir should be released now.

Posted by: Eyal | Nov 8, 2007 6:41:17 PM

No two articles on this poll seem to say exactly the same thing. The one I saw was this one:


Posted by: Michael Brenner | Nov 8, 2007 8:45:45 PM

Ah, Trepp, you won't scare this lefty away. Actually I consider myself center (everyone else is either to the left of me or to the right of me). As usual most labels aren't very accurate. I think most normal humans who have a mind of their own and think for themselves try to form an opinion using common sense rather than knee jerk party line responses. But perhaps I'm giving too much credit to humankind.

Posted by: Avner | Nov 8, 2007 10:32:18 PM

Michael Brenner - if you read David's response to you carefully, you'll notice that he agrees with you about the state's right to monopolize the use of force. He said that, IHHO, Ben-Gurion was right to refuse Begin's request to distribute most of the weapons to former Irgun fighters in the IDF. He saw the dangers inherent in an "army-within-an-army". I think his issue here (and certainly mine) was not in the objectives, but in the execution. It was not necessary to fire on the Altalena, and certainly unnecessary (and abhorrent) to fire on survivors swimming to shore. The situation could have been handled politically, without a shot being fired. That, to me, is the main point here. Menachem Begin, for all his reputation as a "former terrorist", would not retaliate - to him, Jewish lives were precious. To Ben-Gurion, Eshkol, and Rabin, Jewish lives meant nothing - and this barely three years after the Holocaust ended! Sorry - to me, the future Labor leadership had, and still has, a lot to answer for over here.

(Actually, the idea that ideology can trump even the lives of your ideological opponents does much to explain the apparent apathy of the present government for the well-being of the citizens of Sderot. But that's for another day.)

Posted by: psachya | Nov 9, 2007 6:28:38 AM

good post. but one point. you can't say that rabin would have been aghast at the contemporary situation and the movement to give the palestinians a state. politicians change their minds all the time, including (especially?) israeli politians. who, for example, would have predicted ten years ago that olmert would today be willing to do what is doing?

from what i have seen over the past 20 or years since i have been following the israel-arab conflict is that the vast majority of israeli politicians (excepting only some parties to the left of likud) have generally moved to the left on the issue. my assumption is that had rabin lived he could have been pushing olmert's agenda, if not something even more leftist.

(on a lighter note, anyone remember the "what if" comic book series?)

Posted by: Lion of Zion | Nov 11, 2007 9:27:11 AM

Michael Brenner... I have never been able to nudge you so much as a millimeter from one of your opinions... so I shouldn't be too surprised at your petulant "Nothing you have said about ... negates the points I have made". What puzzles me though is why you continue to read someone you neither respect nor agree with. At least one of those is usually necessary for me to continue going back to a particular source. Strange.

Eyal... Thanks. I did some digging myself and have found wildly varying numbers that ostensibly came from the same poll. The point is that even the most carefully framed questions and scientific mining of data can be abused by anyone with an agenda and a decent grasp of statistics. Thank you for making the effort to find a source, though.

psachya... I'm sure you know the old adage about the futility of trying to teach a pig to sing: "It wastes your time... and it annoys the pig. Please don't bother trying to teach Mr. Brenner anything. His opinion collection is complete and he doesn't need any new ones just now.

Lion of Zion... actually, "You can't say..." might be a little strong. I can say it and I have. My assumptions are at least based on things Rabin actually said on the record to the Knesset. Your assumptions (which, admittedly are reasonable) are based on what might have happened had he lived and been exposed to the current trends. That having been said, unlike Olmert and Peres, Rabin was first and foremost a military man. I don't think Sharon would have actually gone through with disengagement had he lived... and he certainly wouldn't be planning more concessions to a hostile entity that continues to try to fire rockets over our borders.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 11, 2007 9:47:35 AM

"actually, "You can't say..." might be a little strong. I can say it and I have."

that was a figure of speech. obviously it is your blog and you can write what you please.

"I don't think Sharon would have actually gone through with disengagement had he lived"

based on what? and 10 years ago i (and you?) never would have thought that the steamroller would leave likud. or if he would, it be for the far right, not to form a party with the express intent of making concessions.

"Rabin was first and foremost a military man."

so what?

1) it's had been decades since he was a "military man" (minister of defense, a political position, does not count); he was a politician almost as long as he was a military man.

2) barak, mitzna and tens of thousands of other left-of-center israelis were military men (and of more recent vintage); so are member's of olmert's own kadimah, such as mofaz, and dichter. mofaz, barak and dicher (and netanyahu) were even members of sayeret matkal. but then again, it was a group of sayeret matkalniks who made a big public stink about refusing to serve in the territories. i don't know what the situation is today, but from what i remember from the early 90s, israel's military elite was generally left-of-center.

Posted by: Lion of Zion | Nov 11, 2007 11:33:29 AM

B"H I would like to suggest that there are many acts which take place in this world which "feel" dispicable, and yet ARE in line with Torah, and even the fulfillment of a misswah.

(I am not saying that Rabin's YSh"W was one of them, though. It was a powerful event, which had an effect on a great many people, no doubt.) Even for one who is obligated to the death penalty (and I am NOT saying that Rabin fits into this category), it is permissible to grieve, even though it is forbidden to mourn publicly (Mishnah Torah, Hil. Avel 1)

This is where 1,700 plus ears of mixing with non-Jewish cultures comes into play. It has confused the heck out of us,...or at least those of us who ended up in the west. It is VERY common to confuse "enlightened" Western sensibilities with Torah morality.

The Torah is not politically-correct; it is absolutely correct.

Before casting final judgment on what is despicable. Ask yourself, despicable according to whom, according to what?

Then review the halachoth related to "rodfim," such as in Hil. rotze'ah veshmirath nefesh 1 and Hil. Hovel u'Meziq 8.

Of course, any study of the Ramba"m in these araes is only for theoretical discussion of hypothetical case scenarios, which of course do not exist in our reality.

Whether you agree or are repulsed by the suggestions of this Rishon), is irrelevant. My intention is only to remind you of the existence of at least one valid halachic opinion which may surprise you.


Posted by: Ben-Yehudah | Nov 12, 2007 4:19:13 AM

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