What are we talking about when we talk about Yitzhak Rabin?
On this day, November 4th, 1995, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and now we mark 25 years since that day. As the years go by it becomes increasingly difficult to produce different ceremonies about Rabin’s assassination. After all, what can be renewed every single year? For this reason we decided to share a debate that has been held in the Kvutzot (Hebrew for groups) shnat of HaBonim Dror Olami in recent years at the Rabin Seminar that takes place every year on this date.
During all these years, Rabin’s assassination anniversary took different forms, meanings and objectives. In the beginning, in the anniversaries closer to the assassination, the ceremonies in the square where Rabin was assassinated applied to the defense and the fight for the continuity of the process that the leader had begun. The main objective of the hafghanot (protests) was to bring Israel back to the negotiation table. In the public opinion, the need was of a PEACE agreement with the Palestinians and of the continuity of the Oslo accords. The first years were characterized by a continuity in the struggle for what was demanded in that tragic night in that same square. The discourse in defense of democracy and the fight against incitement to violence were present, but it did not leave aside the ideological bias of the protest.
With time and with the loss of political power of the Avoda party, the tekes began to take on new nuances. The later years were characterized by ceremonies that recalled the memory and character of Yitzhak Rabin. His life, his achievements, his speeches - were all remembered as a wish that would never be back. Yitzchak Rabin’ persona became the center, putting aside the political struggle for the ideology that he was leading. This process led many of us to get to know the person as well as the politician and to develop a melancholy for something that was lost and won’t return.
Over the years, the maturity of Israeli society, accompanied by a generational change, made the ceremonies to become spaces for defense of democracy. An annual sphere to discuss tolerance, democracy and respect for the ideologies of others. Rabin, and his murder, became a symbol of the place where Israeli society does not want to be again. The tekes became an inclusive space including members of the right wing and young people from the Bnei Akiva or Betar youth movements, for example. It is no longer about politics or about a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, much less about PEACE. It is about Israeli society and the internal dialogue that it has or should have. That way, it became a habit in recent years for most of the Israeli Tnuot Noar to come to the square before the tekes and hold a round table to talk about the subject, to debate and to listen to different ideas. Young people gathered in the square to say no to hatred among Jews and to defend democracy. At the same time, on stage, you could see politicians from the Israeli right wing speaking about Rabin and about democracy.
So here is the question - what happened and where have we lost the space to an ideological struggle, the same one that Rabin fought for and that thousands of people were gathered on that fateful night when Rabin was assassinated? The question is very simple, it is the question we ask in Shant and the question we ask you today. If tekes Rabin tekes has to be an ideological sphere of fight for a solution to the conflict with our Palestinian neighbors, a sphere in which we’re not ashamed to say the word peace, even if it means leaving out those who do not think this the way? Or does it have to be a tekes about democracy and about the importance of the community’s unity and respect for the ideologies of others? This is a big question that everyone organizing a Tekes Rabin in Israel and in the diaspora should ask themselves. That is, because your answer is going to define the fight we are fighting. Is it possible to unite the two things?
The dilemma becomes even stronger when we look at the moment we are going through:
This year, more than in recent years, Israeli society is engulfed by very strong hate speech. Coronavirus, the political crisis and the economic crisis, which initially appealed to the fraternity, are today generating clashes between various social groups. Right wing, left wing, only-Bibi, just-not-Bibi, secular, haredim… These groups are fighting each other and the hatred on the streets of Israel is highly dominant. Protests against the prime minister that have been going on for more than 3 months led part of the extreme right to physically attack the protesters. We saw posters of "good leftist is a dead leftist", among others. Incitement to violence is present, and we don’t know how it will end, and, of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t see himself responsible to condemn or stop this, quite the opposite. This doesn’t surprise us, since it’s the same Bibi netanyahu who was part of the incitement to violence that led Rabin’s assasssination, and the same Netanyahu who never took the blame for it.
At the same time, there is no progress in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. There’s no process of dialogue happening or at sight. The cities in the south of the country live and coexist constantly with missiles on their houses, coming from Gaza. An entire generation of children who were born throughout Netanyahu’s governments grew up in fear, traumatized and with psychological assistance from the state that is never enough. At the same time, there are terrorist attacks that occur sporadically. Not to mention the image of Israel in the world, which is constantly declining in the progressive countries and receives support from many extremist regimes in the world.
It is here that the question arises - what should we talk about when we talk about Rabin and what path should we choose for each moment. This will determine who will want to participate in our ceremonies. This question reduces to what is our main challenge today and what do we want to use this opportunity of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination for. This task is up to you in the diaspora, up to the tnua and its leaders who are in charge of planning and providing the content to the ceremonies.
Made Walter – Director of development contents of Habonim Dror Olami