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I wish to remember Rabin too

Reuven Rivlin, November 14, 2008

Portrait of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on a state visit to Paris, July 7, 1994. (Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM – Thirteen years since Israel’s Prime Minister was assassinated by a Jewish murderer, the assassination should have become a national, moral watershed, and should have been etched in our consciousness as such. The personal shake-up that each one of us experienced was supposed to develop into a national milestone shared by all parts of the nation.

However, what are we marking today? And more importantly perhaps: What will our children mark on the 30th and 40th anniversary of the murder? What should be the essence: The memory of Rabin the man, or the actual murder?

As other members of his generation, Yitzhak Rabin lived the intensive and stormy years of Israel’s inception not as a witness who happened to live during such a fascinating era, but rather, as one of the creators of this history. However, ever since he was murdered, there are those who seek to turn Rabin the man into a myth. And as a myth, it is only natural that he will be enlisted for specific causes and be used for political gains: "What would Rabin say," and "what would Rabin do," and "Rabin would not let this happen," and so on and so forth.

After years of attempts to enforce on us a package deal of commemoration and ideology, of myth and political conclusions, it appears that we are allowed to wonder aloud, "Did Rabin’s memory get a hold on people’s hearts as a myth enlisted for a specific cause?"

Indeed, Rabin was assassinated because of his political way. Because of Oslo. This should not be blurred or forgotten. However, in the same breath, we need to add that this does not grant his political views added moral weight. Back then, and at this time too, many good people object to these views and continue to strongly object to them.

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I’ve shared a long political path with Rabin as a Knesset member. We met many years before that, when I was a young officer under his command. We deeply disagreed on our political views, the ideological one vis-à-vis the pragmatic one, yet we were able to discuss anything. I appreciated and cherished him when he was still alive—a fearless fighter, admired chief-of-staff, and a person who left a deep mark on Israel’s public service history.

I appreciated and I still appreciate and cherish him. Not because he was murdered, but rather, because of his personality as a commander, parliamentarian, leader, political rival, friend, and conversation partner. I disagreed with him, but I loved him.

Today, 13 years after he was murdered, instead of the assassination turning into an all-Israeli symbol, it has remained the exclusive possession of a specific political camp. Today, it appears that taking part in the mourning, shock, and disgust with the murder is a privilege reserved to Oslo loyalists, while my memory of Rabin the man has been completely marginalised.

Just like me, there are many who on this day wish to mourn Rabin the leader. Like me, there are many who wish to reconnect to the shock that hit us as a society and nation, and to revisit the lesson of the terrible murder. However, year after year, there are those who insist on monopolising the mourning and the memory, while keeping whole sectors out of it.

At this time we are facing a hopeless situation in respect to the moral lessons and values that should be shared by everyone. We should honestly ask ourselves: What are we in fact marking on the assassination’s 13th anniversary? What will our children mark, and what would be appropriate for them to mark?

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*Reuven Rivlin is a Likud Knesset member. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from YNet News.

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