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It can happen again: Nine years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin


We must admit that nine years since the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin, we have not yet laid his ghost to rest.

It is necessary to explain for those who do not know, that Yitzhak Rabin dedicated his life to the service of his country. He fought for the liberation of Jerusalem of Jerusalem in 1948. As Chief of Staff, he was responsible for Israel's victory in 1967. He served Israel as Prime Minister in the 70s and was responsible for the brilliant rescue operation in Entebbe. It is necessary to repeat that Rabin chose to give up territory not because he hated settlers or Jews, but because he hated war, and he understood that there could be no Israel and no Zionism without peace, and no Jewish state without a territorial compromise.

It is necessary to explain, because unfortunately there are too many in Israel who really imagine that Yitzhak Rabin was a traitor, some sort of "leftist" anti-Zionist. They do not understand that a father of the Zionist movement was murdered. It took an Arab commentator, Fuad Ajami, to understand that the assassination of Rabin was Israeli national patricide.

The assassination should have been a watershed event in Israeli society, but it was not. Nothing fundamental changed. While many individuals were deeply shocked and re-evaluated their views of Zionism and of our society, society and politics continued to drift in the dangerous direction dictated by the assassin, Yigal Amir, and his small but stubborn group of supporters, and the much larger group that "understood the motives" of Yigal Amir without approving of the method.

The pragmatic Zionism of the founders was coopted by religious Zionism, a contradiction in terms. Zionism is based on the premise that the Jews are a people, and therefore need their own nation-state. Orthodox Jews were originally opposed to Zionism, and insisted that the relation between the land and the Jews was a religious one, a theoretical one, that would be fulfilled in the Heavenly City of Jerusalem brought about by a miraculous Messiah, rather than in an earthbound state made by flesh and blood people like David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin.

There could be Zionists who are also religious Jews, and those who are Zionists because of their faith, but religious Zionism as an ideology is an oxymoron, and it leads to practical dangers. A religious state has no sanction in the international community. The only salient examples are Iran and Saudi Arabia, neither of which are worthy of emulation A flesh and blood state, unlike a heavenly Messianic one, must make compromises to exist in the real world. World opinion, military feasibility and economics must be taken into consideration when making real-world policy decisions. A messianic state need only follow the dictates of the Messiah or his stand-ins. A state that relies only on God's protection, and on God's word as interpreted by rabbis, is headed for disaster. As the Israeli Knesset headed for a vote on disengagement, orthodox and ultraorthodox parties went to consult their rabbis, like ancient Romans consulting the augurs before a battle. Alas, the omens were unfavorable. The goat had a bad liver, as ascertained by the Rabbis for Greater Israel of the National Religious Party, by Ovadia Yosef of the Shas party and the Council of Torah Sages of United Torah Judaism.

Because we have not laid the ghost of Rabin to rest, the dangers brought home by his murder are still with us and have grown. This time the target is not Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor movement, but the ex-arch-hawk Ariel Sharon. The clash between Sharon and the Frankenstein of fanatic religious Zionism that he and his colleagues have nurtured is inevitable. Any sane politician, no matter what his beliefs, must be a pragmatist in the final analysis. Pragmatism and divine dictates must inevitably clash at some point, and they have. Now, as in 1995, rabbis insist that those who follow the policy of the Israeli government are traitors. One rabbi offered to conduct a medieval Pulsa Di Nura ceremony on PM Ariel Sharon, to cause his demise by magic means. Security experts including GSS (Shabak) chiefs, warn that we are only one step away from an actual planned assassination attempt, and perhaps worse, that there are Jewish groups planning to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount in order to bring about the last messianic war and the establishment of the third temple.

The question before us is not, unfortunately, whether or not we have continued the legacy of Rabin or respected his memory. We have not. It may well be that we could not have made peace with the Palestinians through no fault of our own, but it is certainly true that we have not made an honest effort. The 100,000 settlers who have accumulated in the West Bank since the assassination of Rabin are proof that we have not chosen the path of peace. The question is not whether or not we have eradicated the pernicious core of the ideology represented by Yigal Amir. We have not Amir prospers in jail. He has a girl friend or wife, Larissa Trimbobler, bride of Frankenstein come to life, and a not inconsiderable following.

In the middle ages people fought and won battles because they had visions. Soldiers marched off to save the Holy Land from the Saracens. The Maid of Orleans fought at the command of the Lord. In some countries in the Middle East, such considerations still prevail. A word from an Iranian Mullah can start a war or build an atom bomb because God wills it. A word from a Hamas Mullah can send a suicide bomber to blow himself and thirty other people to kingdom come. The question is, whetherr we are building a society like Iran or the Hamas, or whether we are building a modern state. That is, whether Zionism is to remain a modern nationalist movement like those that created the USA, Italy, Germany and modern France, or lapse into a Jewish version of Islamism. That question is being tried right now in the Israeli Knesset, in the vote on Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, and it will be tried in its implementation. The problem is not to determine whether the policy is correct or not, but whether the policy of our government and the actions of our army will be based on pragmatic considerations, however mistaken, or whether they will be dictated by the word of God as interpreted by rabbis and religious fanatics.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000305.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 7 comments

Perhaps we should be looking more to Christian Fundamentalist USA with its obsession with messianic apocalytic ambitions that perceives that might is right. It occurs to me that as Christianity and Judaism have resolved the historic barriers between them, the right wing have forged an unholy alliance. To me at least this alliance seems to have corrupted Jewish fundamentalists with the same arrogant and aggressive stance. The right wing of both religions seem to be girding themselves up to be modern day Crusaders. And as with the erstwhile Crusaders they will destroy the communities they claim to be defending long before they reach their identified enemy.
The swaggering arrogance of the "settlers" reminds me nothing more than the swagger of the gentiles that preyed upon the shtetls. Perhaps these settlers need to be shown their own image and it be compared with their former oppressors.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 10/26/2004 09:16 PM CST

In the begining of the XXth century it was thought that the elimination of feelings from public life will improve society. The Holocaust and so many horrible things that happened during the century have led to a rehabilitation of feelings as something necessary. Nationalism and religion have been the two that have been put again on scene.Now we must wait until it is understood that the excess of these feellings is so dangerous as its absence. In Europe we are suffering heavily from nationalism (religion here is more under control) but in MO you are suffering from the new rising of all religions. Externally with the presure of muslims and internally with what you say in your text. We must understand that ALL religions are becoming intolerant with civil laws and are coming back to their roots (or what they think are their roots) and it is important that all of them are put under control ASAP.

Posted by Aleph @ 10/28/2004 02:17 PM CST

my comments on for the israls i think that probley that the safest
thing you could do is either stay inside your homes or move to a safer place or if you fell safe enough maby move to the us but if i was in your position i would move to the u.s but dont tell no one what you are at first like be to your slef dont get involved in maney activeties if you dont feel safe but if any one puts go back to your countries or call you a terrioust dont feel disgarted just stick it out dont be scard if you have too put a gate around your house if you still feel that safe
then i dont know what to tell you

Posted by stephanie frady @ 10/28/2004 09:54 PM CST

thanks rod....
well I don't know in what sense after all the crimes Rabin was taking part in he is now called a man of peace...anyway that's not the point....it would be interesting to note that the nationalistic movements you were comparing Zionism to, have later on developped Nazism and Fachism, and similair nationalistic movements from the second half of the 19th century, Israel jewish nature of a state is nothing more than a racist nature of a state similair to the apahrtaid regime in south Africa,what really shocks me about Israel is that there are people who find Sharon a sissy, who wants to trait Israel, Sharon is the same man who during his several years as minister and prime minister encouraged settelements, and his disengagement plan has nothing to do with peaceful intentions, it is merely a shift of settelement activity from gaza and to the less populated more stratigic west bank,I would just like to know what does the people who are to the right of Sharon think(and they are not at all a minority, proof Sharon's Goverenement is holding up in the Knesset with a minority

Posted by Im @ 11/02/2004 09:50 PM CST

Dear Im,
Nazism and fascism in general did not arise out of the nation state. It arose out of failed imperialism. The states that chose the route of fascism were largely states that had failed to obtain the world status they desired and sought easy explanations for that failure.
Germany lost WW1 but could not accept that the militarism and imperialism that preceded WW1 had led them to their own demise. As they could or would not learn from history they were condemned to repeat it in 1939 and again they faced in catastrophe in 1945.

To accuse Israel of being a fascist or apartheid regime is nonsensical. It remains the only regional state with democracy and an independent judiciary. In terms of racism, while racism dioes exist amongst Israelis, Israel criteria for citizenship and right of abode do not differ from those of China, Ireland, UK, Germany and a large number of other states which afford preference to fellow nationals.

Yes Sharon is a sissy compared with other notable leaders in the region. If he was made of sterner stuff he might have slaughtered tens of thousands of Palestinians over a long weekend like the Syrians did in Hama, or gassed the opposition like Nasser and Saddam Hussein. Certainly there are some in Israel who call for extreme violence against the Palestinians, and it would be surprising if there weren't. The Israelis and Palestinians have been at war since the 1920's. However compared to the utterances of Hamas and at various times other Palestinian groups, the Jewish extremists are also "sissies" for the most part.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/02/2004 11:25 PM CST

Rod, Apartheid South Africa was also "the only regional state with democracy and an independent judiciary" as its supporters never tired of telling us. While two historical situations are never identical, the parallels are certainly very evident to the Black South Africans, as their tributes to Arafat show.

I'm not absolutely clear about the criteria for Israeli citizenship but the whole notion of a "Jewish State" seems to me to conflate religion and politics from the start - the clue is in the name! Perhaps it's not so surprising that more literal-minded citizens start to take such ideas to their logical conclusions?

As we're looking for parallels, perhaps we should look at the original American colonists - refugees from religious persecution who wanted to build a state on what they regarded as unoccupied land. The question is whether the Palestinians will be prepared to play the role of the Native Americans.

Posted by Chris @ 11/18/2004 06:27 PM CST

It's to my amazement that every voice out in the world makes the current and future events seem so painfully confusing. If the Bible is truly Gods letter to humanity then we can be assured that we have all the information we need to understand current and future events! Godspeed...

Posted by Petro @ 12/12/2004 01:57 AM CST

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