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'Murder In The Name Of God' by Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman
Peace was the target in Rabin assassination
Sunday, March 14, 1999
By Rona Kobell, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Ask Americans where they were when President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963, and they’ll likely remember.
Ask Israelis where they were in 1995 when Yitzhak Rabin was shot, and the reaction will probably be the same. But ask them what they thought about it and the answer will be quite different, whether you’re in Haifa or in Hebron.
Time was when Israelis hung together on such issues. That was in the early years, when they brought their dreams of statehood from war-torn Europe to swamp-infested Palestine and resolutely determined to make it home despite threats from surrounding Arab armies.
It wasn’t until a 25-year-old Jewish law student named Yigal Amir ducked behind a flower pot during a Tel Aviv peace rally and shot the prime minister that Israelis realized the enemy among them was at least as threatening as the enemy outside.
Subtitled “The Plot to Kill Yitzak Rabin” and written by two Israeli journalists, the book makes the case that the rise of Jewish militants was no sneak attack.
Through extensive research, including interviews with the assassin, the authors describe how Orthodox rabbis in America and Israel nurtured Amir’s ambitions to kill Rabin and cultivated a climate where the murder is still toasted with champagne.
Much of the book details the rise of the radical Jewish right, an ever-growing group of militants who take up arms to defend “Greater Israel” — territory Israel reclaimed in the 1967 war and referred to in secular circles as the West Bank.
Most religious Jews ardently oppose giving up land for peace. They represent only 10 percent of the population but have always commanded enormous influence over the government, particularly the Likud Party, as swing votes in a coalition system.
Rabin’s election in June of 1992 changed that.
A decorated general whose nickname was “Mr. Security,” Rabin was a political maverick. Instead of courting the religious, he allied himself with peacenik leftist and Arab parties.
Rabin told Palestinians: “You will not get everything you want. Neither will we. So once and for all, take your destination into your hands. Do not lose this opportunity that will never return.”
The opportunity became known as the Oslo Accords, a peace pact between Rabin and Yasser Arafat. On Sept. 13, 1993, the decorated general and the former terrorist shook on it; there would be peace in the Middle East.
But there was no peace among the so-called religious right, particularly settlers living in the West Bank. United by their goal of cleaving to territory, they mounted a campaign to discredit Rabin and crush his spirit.
Neither the prime minister nor the media paid much attention at first. Soon, placards calling Rabin a traitor popped up at demonstrations. Rabin was hung in effigy at some protests, dressed like Arafat or Hitler at others. Even respected Israelis denigrated the prime minister.
Amid the heated rhetoric was floated the obsolete 12th-century biblical concept of din rodef, which says killing a Jew is one’s duty if that person imperils the life or property of another Jew.
Yigal Amir said rabbis sanctioned the murder of Rabin under din rodef. He wouldn’t say which rabbis, but the book cites several who supported the concept.
Since the Rabin assassination, the political climate in Israel has become even more vitriolic. In January, prime minister candidate Amnon Lipkin-Shahak was campaigning in a Tel Aviv market when merchants hurled fruit at him and made death threats. More recently, candidate Ehud Barak was booed off stage at a debate.
“Murder in the Name of God” makes its case that zealots hijacked Israel’s government and killed its leader. It offers plenty of nostalgia for Rabin’s administration and reverence for the man who will be remembered as a warrior for peace. But Israel can’t rest on Rabin’s memory.
Instead of talking about where they were when Rabin was shot, maybe Israelis should ask themselves where they’re going now.147
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