The Murder in the Name of God
by Gad Nahshon
In October 1994, during a visit to Tel Aviv in the morning, suddenly two buses with many riders were attacked by a Hamas terrorist. It happened in the heart of this city. Many civilians were killed or wounded. Israel was in a state of shock. First, it happened in Tel Aviv for the first time. Second, the terrorist killed himself. A wave of Hamas terrorism, of suicidal terrorists, became part of Israel's daily life. 1995-1996 were terrible years for the Israelis since their leaders told them in media interviews that there was no proper answer to this kind of terrorism. It was also clear that the Hamas and the Palestinians targeted females and children especially! The country reached a point in which mothers were afraid to let their children ride a bus to school. Sad to say, Michael Karpin and Ira Friedman, ignored this shock. Of course, our memory is short. Karpin, an excellent journalist and media person, decided to write a book about the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's famous military hero and Prime Minister. Rabin was murdered on November 4, 1995. Karpin also produced a documentary called "The Road to Rabin Square."
Karpin decided to research the plot to kill Rabin. He said that he also managed to interview the murderer himself, Yigal Amir. Karpin's work on this topic was published in 1998 in a book entitled: "Murder in the Name of God" (together with Ira Friedman). (The publisher is Metropolitan Books-Henry Holt and Company, New York).
Karpin omitted the issue of terrorism. He did not even dedicate one page to discuss this issue. Karpin did a good job of investigative reporting. He has, as a veteran Israeli journalist, a great knowledge of Israeli politics but he also has his own agenda. Karpin essentially tried to develop a linkage between the murderer, Yigal Amir, and the Israeli Right. He tried to link Bibi Netanyahu, indirectly, of course, to the terrible tragedy that change Israel forever.
As in the case of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one should expect to find new books which discuss all kinds of conspiracies. There are many writers who are looking for sensational revelations. Karpin, like many other contemporaries who write on the "Rabin murder syndrome," do not have as yet the proper historical perspective. Today, we are not objective observers of current events. One can argue that Amir, who was punished by a life sentence in prison, is a sick person. He has a criminal mind. He is a murderer. Period.
The other story is the emergence of an extreme Israeli Right since 1967. Karpin has done a superb exposure of this phenomenon in his book, "Murder in the Name of God The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin." But one must not exaggerate its political power. Essentially, Karpin discussed the attitudes of the Israeli public to the Oslo Accords. He argued that the majority in Israel supported these agreements with the P.L.O. Indeed, they supported the policies of Mr. Rabin and Shimon Peres. But we know, today, that the issue has been much more controversial and problematic. On page 79, Karpin quoted Rabin, who argued that there was an unseen agreement between the Hamas and the Israeli Right to dismantle the Oslo agreement. Rabin and Peres, confronting the waves of Hamas terrorism all over Israel, kept claiming: "We should not let the Hamas win," while mothers and children were bombed to death by explosions in a Tel Aviv coffee shop. It was certainly the act of the theater of the absurd. And the P.L.O. probably mocked the Israelis behind their backs. Peace? How could you negotiate peace when Israeli children were being targeted by your enemies?
Karpin ignored this terrible Israeli fear from the Hamas terrorists. However, he deserves much credit for exploring the issue that a strong well-organized extreme Right grew up in Israel. Ecologically in the West Bank, in certain "Yeshivots" and in Jerusalem, we were faced with an emergence of a "zealous community" in Israel. It viewed Rabin as a traitor and even as a "Nazi." The propaganda against Rabin was too much even from the vantage point of the freedom of the press. Rabin was depicted as a twin of Arafat and even as an S.S. officer. His "coffin" was seen in a few anti-Oslo rallies. Karpin indeed documented the hatred towards Rabin. However, one can doubt the existence of a crystal clear linkage between this hate and non-stop incitements against Rabin's personality and Amir's decision to murder Rabin with three shots from his Beretta. There is a missing link. And this missing link has been created with all kinds of crazy theories of a "conspiracy."
Indeed, Mr. Amir and his brother, Haggai Amir (jailed for 12 years), together with a friend, Dror Adani (jailed for 5 years), plotted this assassination. Amir committed a murder. He is insane. Amir said about his own activities in his own "organization" at the Bar Ilan University: "I would say: Rabin has to be killed and then I would smile."
Geula Amir, the mother of Yigal Amir, has refused to accept the notion that her son is a murderer. She believes that he was a passive victim of a plot. Although Karpin forgot to point out that in an interview with George magazine, she said that one day people will say about her "here is the mother of a hero."
Recently, there has been a rise in the "conspiracy theories." Their main star if an ex-Shabab agent, Avishai Raviv. There are people in the Israeli Right and the Religious Right who believe that the Shabab, or some of its officers, were involved in Rabin's murder. They even tend to believe that Shimon Peres was among the conspirators! Of course, they have sick, crazy mind. Their idea is to push the blame from Yigal Amir to others. Some even express the idea that Rabib ordered Amir to kill Rabin!
Indeed, since 1967, a new extreme Right has emerged in Israeli politics. It originated from, among other things, the preaching of Rabbi Meir Kahane. This Right was developed inside the womb of the movement of settlers to the West Bank. This Right managed to influence the traditional Israeli religious camp. The "Religious Block," since 1967, had a tendency to move to the Right and to more militant attitudes toward the Arabs and the Palestinians. From August 13, 1993, after Rabin signed the Oslo Accords with Arafat in the White House, the extremists inside the West Bank and inside its Yeshivot, such as "Joseph Chai," declared a political war against these agreements and against Rabin personally. These militants declared that all means justify the goals. "Oslo," from their point of view, was treason and a sell-out of Israel. In reality, they were afraid that Rabin would evacuate them from their settlements and also would give the Arabs back holy places such as the "Cave of the Patriarchs." It is clear that for many extremists, the Talmud, the Jewish Laws (Halacha), is always superior to the Israeli secular laws. They are believers in messianism and redemption. And their kind of modern democracy is different from the democracy of the majority of the Israelis who do not support Meir Kahane's dream of establishing a new "Halacha State" in Israel. Have these believers increased their political power in Israel? The answer is yes.
Karpin's contribution is impressive when he tells the reader how the extremists managed to organize their campaign against Rabin and "Oslo." On page 63, he explained: The extremists established an "Action Headquarters" whose director was Jacob Novick. Other officers were Baruch Marzel, a well-known Kahanist, Gadi Ben Zimra and Meir Indor. They had a direct liaison to a second organization called "Political Guidance Headquarters." The leaders there were Bibi Netanyahu, Tshi Hanegbi, Michael Eitan, Hanan Porat and the "Gandi" Zeevi, the leader of "Moledet" in the Knesset. Karpin wants to prove that Bibi had a direct involvement in the anti-Rabin crusade. These two organizations were linked to the Settlers Council or "Yesha Council." This is the Council which represents 130,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Its leaders were: Uri Ariel, Ahron Domb, Uri Elitzur and the veteran, non-religious fighter for "Greater Israel" Elyakim Ha'etzni.
Karpin argued that the campaign against Rabin was well- organized and coordinated by these leaders and activists. These leaders managed, according to Karpin, to mobilize some rabbis. The idea was to find a religious justification to get rid of Rabin. Karpin, for example, identified Yitzhak Ginzburg, an American-born rabbi, as a "racist rabbi," but the most important issue was: "Din Rodef" (chapter 4). There was an attempt to justify Rabin's murder by using religious Jewish sources. "Din Rodef" is when the rabbis decided to kill a Jew because he endangered the well-being of the community. Also, some wanted to use "Din Mos'er" (page 107) against Rabin. "Din Mos'er is the need to kill a Jew who helps a non-Jew against the interests of the community. The Israeli public, suddenly, learned about these religious issues. They also learned about the term "Pulsa De Nora," a religious curse. These discussions inside the Israeli extreme religious community were in relation to Rabin's own life.
The extremists even used Dr. Neta Shuv, a clinical psychologist, to show that Rabin was a mentally sick person. Dr. Shuv said that Rabin is a schizoid who can easily dismantle his own country. Dr. Shuv never met Rabin but her assessment served the powerful anti- Rabin propaganda.
Rabin was blasted day and night by activists such as Rabbi Benny Alon: "The traitor is inside our land. He is the one that should be arrested," and in the Knesset, a member of the Likud Yehoskua Matza cried out: "You (Rabin) are giving the land of Israel to the murderers of children. He had too much whiskey. The Prime Minister is drunk." (Page 98.)
Yigal Amir, the murderer, admired many extremists such as Yehuda Etzion. But he built his own little "faction" with friends such as Ohad Skurnik or Abshalom Weinberg. And he loved his ex- girlfriend, Margalit Har-Shefi, whose activities inside or within this "faction" is not clear. Amir himself never expressed regrets. In his trial and letters he kept saying: "I do not regret a thing and if I could do it again I would." (Page 179.) He was sure that his girlfriend, the one that he trusted, a settler from Blit-El in the West Bank, would support his terrible act of murder but she declined saying: "I did not realize that Yigal Amir was serious." When Amir heard this sentence, he shouted to her: "Liar. You are lying!"
Karpin believes that Amir was a disciple of those extremists and rabbis who according to their political conviction or according to the Jewish Halacha (their own interpretations), believed that someone must stop Rabin who was going to push Israel into the abyss. But from a legal point of view, it is not easy to prove. It is easier to believe that Amir came to his conclusions as a result of his own thinking and then committed the crime which shocked Israel.
There is no doubt that there is a segment inside the settlers community in the West Bank which does not recognize democracy to be Israel's legitimate regime. This segment has been dangerous and should be contained. Its extremism is even detrimental to the idea of a "Greater Israel" and to the basic security needs of Israel. Only the moderates can mobilize, today, the Israeli public opinion to support the settlers and the "Yeska Council," as well.
"On one side. . . stands a community that sees clericalism, messianism and ethnocentrism as the continuation of the Zionist revolution toward purer expression of "authentic" Jewish values. On the other stands a community that sees the rejection of modernism, pluralism and pragmatism as a throwback to the ills that Zionism emerged to cure. These were the two worlds that collided on November 4, 1995 when one young man deluded himself that by a single act of violence, he could settle the struggle between them once and for all," concluded Michael Karpin in his important account: "Murder in the Name of God The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin."
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