Anniversary of Rabin Assassination Shows How Divided Israel Remains

Rather than bring Israelis together, memorials to slain former prime minister are exploited to attack political opponents

By Israel Today | | Topics: Rabin, Civil War

Israel on Sunday marked the 23rd anniversary of former-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Memorial ceremonies took place at Mount Herzl Cemetery, the President’s Residence and at the Knesset. Israel has made considerable effort to commemorate this tragedy in a dignified and apolitical way, but it has grown increasingly divisive as a defiant Left continues to view the assassination as the outworking of standard right-wing incitement.

This year’s memorial events were anything but stately. It all started a few days earlier, when Zionist Camp (Labor) leader Avi Gabbai announced that this year, Rabin’s memorial would be a political event. Things escalated further when leading journalist Sima Kadmon indicted the entire right-wing constituency for the murder of Rabin. On the day of the anniversary itself, two of Rabin’s grandchildren openly accused current-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of continuing to foster the kind of incitement they said would lead the country to civil war.

Speaking at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Rabin’s grandson Yonatan Ben Artzi said that “a leadership that encourages separation and violent attacks against different opinions, the one [Netanyahu] who pushes and diverts toward defining and categorizing anyone who thinks different than him as ‘sour’ or leftist, continues to dismantle us and will cause the next destruction [of the Jewish state].”

At the Mount Herzl ceremony, Rabin’s granddaughter Noa Rotman made similar remarks. “If you [the government] will not stop the incitement and the smear campaign against anyone who does not line up with you, blood is going to be spilled here,” she warned. This synchronized attack against Netanyahu, who had little choice but to remain mum in the face of it, is what’s going to be remembered from this year’s Rabin memorial, which is increasingly being exploited as a launching pad for outrageous accusations against political rivals.

But this cynical political capitalization on Rabin’s murder is backfiring according to a new survey of how average Israelis are today relating to the assassination. The study found that a mere 15 percent of Israelis participate in any kind of memorial event, while 53 percent say the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination is just “another day.”

As expected, the way Israelis feel about this day depends on their overall political views. Even so, a full third of respondents who identified themselves as center-left on the political spectrum still see it as no different than any other day on the calendar. The study also found that those identifying themselves as further to the right of the political spectrum actively avoid the main memorial event at Rabin Square because they feel unwelcome there.

When the study looked at how religious people feel about the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, it found that the Orthodox are the most indifferent – 82 percent attribute it no particular significance. Excluding the Orthodox, a surprisingly high 42 percent of religious Israeli said they mourn to one degree or another on this day.

The conclusion one can draw from this study is that rather than being a unifying national event, the anniversary of Rabin’s murder, 23 years on from that fateful day, serves only to highlight the bitter divide between a Left that nourishes the legacy of a peace-loving Rabin, and a Right that still holds him responsible for the “Oslo catastrophe.”

And, sadly, Rabin’s grandchildren, for all their legitimate pain and concern, are only widening the gap.

PHOTO: Dalia Rabin participates in a remembrance ceremony marking 23 years since the assasination of her father, late Prime Minsiter Yitzhak Rabin, held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. The event was as much an anti-Right political rally as it was a genuine memorial. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)


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