Slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin
’s grandchildren blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during services marking the 23rd anniversary of Rabin’s assassination on Sunday, in one case falsely accusing Netanyahu’s spokesperson of a tweet referring TO Rabin as a traitor.
Noa Rotman, speaking at a ceremony on Mount Herzl, harshly criticized the country’s political leadership and said that people in positions of authority were taking part in incitement.
“If you don’t stop the journey of incitement, blood will be spilled here,” she said, as Netanyahu sat in the front row alongside President Reuven Rivlin.
“Our media should be independent and strong, not just measured in economic profit,” she continued. “The problem is that in our country these days, doubt is likened to treachery, criticism is seen as pettiness, and a demand to set a personal example is viewed as political persecution.”
“Only recently a pashkevil, a tweet on Twitter, was published on behalf of the spokesperson in the Prime Minister’s Office, which included a picture of Rabin with Arafat under the title ‘traitor.’” Rotman said that none of those sitting in the front row distanced themselves from the tweet. She also said the “spokeswoman” still receives a salary from the PMO.
Netanyahu cast a quizzical look at Rivlin, who also signaled that he did not know what Rotman was talking about.
At the Knesset two hours later, Netanyahu referenced Rotman’s statement, and said he was “astonished” by the accusation, and that it was completely baseless. The tweet in question was posted by Caroline Glick of a satirical poster before Yom Kippur showing pictures of various left-wing figures and organizations under terms used in the traditional confession Jews say on Yom Kippur.
Over a picture of Rabin shaking Yasser Arafat’s hands on the White House lawn was the caption, “we sinned.”
“I was shocked, because I did not believe for a minute that someone in the Prime Minister’s Office did such a thing,” Netanyahu said. “But I immediately asked to look into it – and it turned out that it really did not exist. This is a tweet from a journalist who has nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s Office.”
He said he knew nothing about the tweet, and distanced himself from it.
“This is unfortunately an example of how, sometimes, while talking about the moderation of speech and the fight against incitement, things are said that are offensive and baseless, not only about me, but also about an entire public,” he said.
Earlier in the day, at a ceremony at Beit Hanassi, another Rabin grandson, Yonatan Ben-Artzi, in a barely-veiled reference to Netanyahu, said “leadership that encourages division and violent attacks against others, he who incites and pushes to the fence and catalogues anyone who thinks different as ‘sour’ or a ‘leftist,’ continues to divide us and will bring destruction to this house.”
It’s not customary to applaud at memorial events, but Ben-Artzi received applause when he called on Rivlin to use his influence to bring about legislation that will limit the period of time that a prime minister of Israel can serve.
Ben-Artzi, speaking on behalf of the family, reviewed the history of his grandfather with that of the state to illustrate how they were intertwined. Recalling his grandfather as a valiant soldier who triumphed in war but who sought peace, Ben-Artzi quoted from Rabin’s address on the occasion of Israel’s 40th anniversary in which he said that the Zionist dream of the return to the homeland had been realized, and there was a desire by people who came from countries such as Russia and Yemen who had never known democracy much less dreamed of it, to create a Jewish and democratic state. Much time had been spent in battle and much blood had been shed, and Rabin had decided that it was time to start a new innovative chapter in the nation’s history. Ben-Artzi repeated several times that democracy is inherent in Jewish tradition, and implied that under the present administration democracy is at risk.
Rivlin in his address quoted a woman who as a new immigrant from Argentina had written a week after the assassination that in the beginning she felt pain, anger, impotence and the inability to comprehend . Everything was black, and the feeling didn’t pass. “I can no longer cry, speak or listen…fear has won the day,” she wrote.
From the perspective of time, Rivlin said he had begun to grasp the fear that had engulfed the writer. What was the fear that overtook not only the new immigrant but lingered in the hearts of all Israelis? Rivlin reached the conclusion that it was the fear we have of ourselves. “It was the first time that we understood how easy it was to destroy all that we, our fathers and brothers had built.”
Since the assassination, Israel has been through difficult times, through wars and controversial political issues, yet despite extreme polarization of views, nothing of this horrific magnitude had recurred.
While conscious that his own generation fought alongside and under the command of Rabin, and had witnessed the native son of Jerusalem become the first sabra prime minister of Israel, it would never forget or forgive the heinous crime. Rivlin was concerned about future generations, who have not been challenged by incitement, hatred and bloodshed.
He queried how much of Rabin’s legacy could be relayed via the torch of memory.
For people who have annually attended the Ner Yitzhak (Candle for Yitzhak) ceremony at the President’s Residence, this was a question that becomes more worrying from year to year.
There were so many empty seats that the Master of Ceremonies asked the people sitting in the rear to come forward and fill the vacancies in the front rows. Hardly anyone from Rabin’s government was present, and of the Labor Party members past and present, the one that stood out most was Amir Peretz
, who embraced each member of the Rabin family including Rabin’s 94-year-old sister Rachel, who came from her home on Kibbutz Manara in the north of the country as she does each year.