AFTER THE BULLETS
By Marion D.S. Dreyfus
The Jewish Post asked a selection of community leaders and opinion-molders in New York City and elsewhere for their opinion of recent events following the slaying of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin by gunshot on Saturday, 4 November 1995. The site polled was Manhattan's Hudson Hotel, at the Annual Recognition Awards reception of the Jewish Action Alliance. The JAA is the leading grassroots organization dedicated to spearheading various pro-active efforts for the protection and assertion of Jewish and diverse ethnic civil and human rights. Their focus is unmasking and identifying instances of race hatred and bigotry and the struggle against anti-Semitism.
This sampler in part serves as a helpful reminder that mainstream media often failed to convey the full spectrum of sentiment during this turbulent moment in time. In reflecting more of a realistic picture, the sentiments expressed here will serve as a partial corrective.
Question: From your perspective, what is the impact of the recent murder of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin on the current peace process, Oslo I and -II, the future of the current Israeli government, and possible ramifications on upcoming elections.
Dr. Joseph Frager, M.D. (Chairman of the Jerusalem Reclamation Project):
"It's a terrible tragedy that it happened, first of all. Since I heard about it, I've been miserable ever since. The worry in my head is that the [political] left will now stigmatize the right in a way that's inappropriate. For instance, Colette Avital [Consul-General of Israel in New York], by saying it was because of our rhetoric, or because of our rallies and our opposition, essentially, we are accused of being the cause of this lone man's actions. And as we know, this was the act of one individual. As a physician, I can say, if his remarks were quoted properly, that "G-d ordered [him] to do this," then that would in my head make him psychotic. We don't believe in murder. As a matter of fact, I think this is going to set us back. We had a number of things planned. We had a full-page ad planned for the Times; we had a trip to Israel--all that had to be cancelled because we can't have any kind of criticism now because the man is being laid to rest. It's not appropriate. We don't want to have any disparaging remarks about Rabin. All I can say is the left is accusing the right, but I could just as easily finger-point at the left--and I don't believe in finger-pointing. The right could point at the left and say they created the problem by not listening. Not creating a dialogue that needed to be created. They were more interested in Arafat than in uniting our own people."
(Addressing the Labor party) "If you had only united the right behind and with you as you made your agreements, instead of dividing them further and separating them, and distancing them further and further, perhaps this wouldn't have happened."
"So if the left wants to accuse us, we can push it right back at them. I'd rather no one finger-point, no one blame the situation. (It was a lone individual, and we're better off from a political perspective if it had never happened. I'm m more fearful now than ever because Shimon Peres--the only check, the only brake for Peres was Rabin. So once you remove Rabin as a brake Shimon Peres I am fearful of will go like a locomotive: He'll remove the settlers from Hebron, remove the settlers from every settlement--and if that were to happen, civil war is likely to break out. That is my feeling."
Professor Ephraim Isaac (Yemenite and Ethiopian Jew, Princeton, NJ):
"I believe in peace. It is said that HaShem (G-d) is more pleased that Israel live in peace and worships idolatry, than being at war with each other and worshipping Me."
Ron Duchanov (Karnei Shomron and Eshel, Administered Territories, Israel):
"What happened [in Israel] was a very tragic situation. It will do us no good. It actually did a tremendous amount of damage. It will take years to recuperate. The only way the situation right now will change is for (Likud Chairman Benjamin) Netanyahu to take the whole right. He's smart; playing his cards right. Not running too fast. Thank G-d I believe he's doing that, letting things die down a drop, and then unite--getting the right in Israel and the right in America get together, and not having that split, not having a million conversations. That's the key. And I believe he could do it."
[About the accused and skewed media reportage:] "The media always jump to conclusions, because that's what sells newspapers. Just to show you why they shouldn't, a year or two years ago, in Herzliya itself, two boys killed a taxi driver. But does that mean we can say that everybody in Herzliya is a murderer? If I wanted to twist the cards around, I could say right now that everybody in Herzliya is a murderer. Are we supposed to say everybody in Herzliya is a murderer? Just like they're trying to report that just because someone is a settler, that means they're all guilty. This man is crazy, for some reason... I personally don't know the gentleman; but he's not 100 percent. He for one second went crazy. But he has a family, and everybody else, they cannot all be blamed for the actions of one individual."
Jay Diamond (acerbic WABC talk-show host):
"This man, Yitzchak Rabin, paid the price for his opinions and actions--and I think it's a disgrace. The accused thinks he got the message from G-d, but, really, he thinks he is G-d."
Col. Moshe Leshen (Israel Defense Forces [Ret.]:
"Leader, Officers for National Strength; President, GAMLA Won't Fall A Second Time [military officers to save the Golan]): Rabin started the demonization process.* There was a death in Kalkul. (Then-Foreign Minister) Shimon Peres and Yossi Sarid jumped to say it was "extremists from Hebron" who were responsible. They accused and almost tried all Jewish residents of Hebron. Later it was found he was slain by Arab criminals! Peres and Sarid didn't even apologize. Another example: Colette Avital and Yossi Sarid last night accused the Likud Party and Bibi Netanyahu. When I was on the Zev Brenner program ("Talk Line Communications" NYC radio program, Saturday evenings), I told [Ambassador Colette] Avital to stay quiet: 'Don't deepen the split that's there. At least respect the seven days of shiva (mourning)."
"Ahad Ha-Am (seminal early 20th century literateur) described something called "Hascamah Klalit" (generalized broadening), exampled by how the nonJew looked at Jews in the shtetls. If one Jew was caught as a thief, the crime was broadened to mean all Jews were thieves. It became a reason for a pogrom. No one knows the whole story of the event, so don't jump to condemn a whole population. Don't be judge, jury and executioner of this man. That can bring more bloodshed. Already, in Israel, in the square where[the murder] happened, there's a graffito that says "Bibi Rotzeyach"-- (Bibi is a murderer). Why is Bibi involved in this? It was one guy. But exaggeration is already creating this kind of graffiti. Bibi (Benjamin) Netanyahu showed grace. He said he'd continue to oppose the peace process as it is now. But he doesn't want to benefit from the death of Rabin."
"Don't pull a word or two out of context. Working out the motive or affiliation of the killer should be left for the police to work out. Don't jump to conclusions."
"Even Eagleberg, on CNN, also accused the right wing--without proof. They fall into the hands of the media. "Crushing groups" doesn't have a place in a democracy. You don't "crush" Farrakhan in the U.S. for calling us bloodsuckers.If the leadership takes advantgage and try to "crush groups," it may cause a civil war. That will be real destruction. If we don't unite under one flag, we'll go down the election tubes."
"The national camp must be united under one leader who can unite. If the Arabs unite, if they get one or two parties, they'll get as many as 12 seats in the Knesset. Maybe get three or four ministry slots. That means they might be able to sit in on secret meetings, be privy to our military plans. Do we want that?"
(On Peres as prime minister): "My fear is that people like Peres will accelerate the process instead of letting it die. This may lead to Big Problems. everyonew knows that the architect for this peace process is was (acting prime minister) Shimon Peres and (minister of economics) Yossi Beilin. He's ready to give away everything. If he uses his power to accelerate while people are in grief, we will all be shocked. It crosses the line."
"This is the time to do as (President of Israel Weizman) Ezer recommends: Take time out. "
"There is a split in the Jewish people all over the world. I don't remember anything like it, not even in history; maybe during the Second Temple. Except the 'Dark Days,' before independence."
William Ochan Ajjugo (President, Operation Nehemiah for the South Sudan):
"Even the Christians pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
Curtis Sliwa (Founder, Guardian Angels; popular nightly radio talk-show host on WABC):
I've been over in Israel, as well as Judea and Samaria. Hearing the emotionalism, following an election in which the Labor candidates promised they would not give back any part of the Golan Heights, Jerusalem or obviously negotiate with Arafat. Unfortunately violence will take place on some level. If not from Islamic fundamentalism, then with the people who disagree with Rabin. But it's very important that the Jews not allow a split to take place, because their enemies will certainly seize upon it, because I'm sure they're all remeasuring what they perceive to be the strength of Israel in the aftermath of this assassination."
Sara Lee Kessler (TV newscaster; former Channel 9 anchorwoman):
"We must fight Amalek (biblical enemy of the Hebrews) wherever we find them."
Eric Breindel (Editorial page writer, New York Post):
"I think it would be a terrible thing to let the events of the past day alter the conditions we have been working toward. But in the last analysis not much will actually change with the advent of Shimon Peres."
Barry Farber (Southern-accented radio talk-show host; Master of Ceremonies for the JAA Awards tribute):
"Obviously There is no dissent from the universal sense of tragedy about the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. There is no need to dwell on that. No decent person in the world feels differently. We are all united in grief and outrage and all that. As for the JAA, you know, once upon a time, we Jews were many-splendored and multifarious. We were Orthodox, Conservative, Reform. Bite-your-lip. Gallitzianer, Chassidic, Sephardic, Ashkenazic, forget-it. There's no record of any nazi or any Arab terrorist stopping to do the research necessary to find out if the Jew he's about to kill happens to be Orthodox or Conservative or Reform. There's two kinds of Jews left: There's the Jews of combat and the Jews of comfort. That has a way of animating the Jews of comfort to the cause of to the Jews of Combat. And that's where we work."
Sam Domb (Holocaust survivor; Philanthropist):
"I couldn't tell you what the impact is going to be, but it'a terrible and a sad day when they kill the prime minister of Israel. As to what is going to be the political outcome, I am not one to judge that."
Vickie Glassman (Karnei Shomron, Administered Territories, Israel):
"We've got to stop and unite. We've got to do a lot of soul-searching. I work to protect many Arabs that are working with us. They have been threatened and many people I know of have been killed. Nobody talks about this. Nobody is helping them. I'll tell you something else: They are terrified, terrified. I spend all my time trying to smuggle them out of their villages. So many of them have been killed by their own Arab brethren."
Dr. Paul A. Riebenfeld (Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky Distinguished Zionist Scholar; Observar, Balfour Declaration, 1922 British Mandate; consultant, Zionist World Executive; originator of Jordan is Palestine concept; ZOA ):
"Of course you know that Netanyahu and Likud is supporting of Peres for prime minister, so that means continuation, and that Peres will be the real prime minister, not just the acting prime minister. Because an acting prime minister is not a real prime m inister, and he would not have been able to run the government. It would have been mixed. As a matter of fact, one reason of course that Netanyahu is doing it, aside from wanting to distance himself from what happened--which of course was a terrible thing to have happened--we are really not interested in an election immediately, because this election probably would have been fought on the basis of the matter of Rabin, instead of on the political issues that really count. That's number one."
"Number two, what is important in the present situation is this: A democracy, in order to exist properly, and in order to function properly, demands that people have certain basic things in common and basic things... there have to be rules of how they being discussed. When you decide such national issues as national territory, you cannot decide such issues on the basis of two votes in the Knesset. Especially when the majority is based on five Arab votes. So the Israelis have to learn--when we deal, and the territorial issue is not a typical issue where you discuss, for instance, environment belongs to the Ministry of the Interior. Or whether there should be a separate ministry, a separate office in Washington. Or you discuss whether the budget should be reduced by another two percent, so that the budget should be balanced in another seven years or 10 years, or whether seven and ten years years: When the Jewish people returns to its country, we're dealing with issues that are l,000 years, or 2,000 years, so it shouldn't be decided by two or three votes. The Israel government has been and is too arrogant altogether on these issues, so there's no probable date on these issues. And this is something that will now perhaps be straightened out between the two partners. That they understand how these issues have to be handled. I, by the way, am quite willing to blame Begin for having started a certain movement that has not been properly explained, between local autonomy and autonomy in the Arab cities, and giving away territory. It's not understood properly by the Israel people. On the other hand, the expectations of the Arabs have been allowed to escalate to a degree where there has to be a terrible disappointment, and then we'll really see. The fat will be in the fire."
Edward C. Stepan, Jr. ( R-C, sculptor):
"Premier Yitzchak Rabin, be assured that you have not given your life in vain. All Americans of every faith abhor terrorism, and through prayer and dialogue we will eventually help destroy this madness. (Stepan's sculpture, called "Heritage of Faith," dedicated to the memory of Yitzchak Rabin was installed on Saturday, 4 November 1995, in the lobby of a prominent Manhattan building on East 75th Street. Other Stepan works are currently being exhibited at the Cornell School of Medicine Fifth Annual Medical Exhibit, and in the Lobby of the UN Secretariat.)"
Notes: *After the February 1994 massacre of 29 Arabs by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, an American oleh (immigrant) from Brooklyn, New York, in the Cave of the Patriarchs, I was present in the audience when Prime Minister Rabin addressed 150 correspondents assembled from Jewish periodicals from around the world. At that first statement by the prime minister to the public following the shooting, Prime Minister Rabin expostulated: "To him and to those like him, we say, 'You did not emerge from us, you are not part of the community of Israael....You are a foreign implant, an errant seed. Sensible Judaism spits you out."
Former Israeli president Chaim Herzog, widely regarded for his consensus-building skills, on March 18, 1994, added to this demonization when he told the mainstream Jerusalem Post that "the U.S. is a breeding ground for Jewish extremists.[...] All of those groups, right-wing and religious, collect money from naive Jews for their own purposes."
Finally, in discussing the "Brooklyn Jews" who chose to make aliya, Israel Minister of Absorption Yair Tzaban, former leader of the Young Communist League, in this decade, suggested that perhaps these unwelcome olim should be barred from the "Law of Return" automatically extended to all Jews the world over who choose to emigrate to Israel. This law extends citizenship to all Jewish claimants. Tzaban's concern was that all "Brooklyn Jews" are, since Rabbi Kahane's aliya in 1971, somehow identified with assertive reformers or the fiery ideology of slain orator-religionist Meir Kahane-stripe.
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