Analyze This: The assassin's voice

How much attention should Yigal Amir get, the media has been asking itself.

October 23, 2007 00:19
3 minute read.
Analyze This: The assassin's voice

yigal amir 298 88 AP. (photo credit: )


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As the 12th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's death approaches, it's clear that this year we will be talking much more about his killer than about the late prime minister himself. Exactly how much we should be paying attention to Yigal Amir has been the source of some soul-searching in the media this past week. This ordinary concern has become even more urgent this year, due to the public campaign launched by far-right activists, including Amir's pregnant wife Larissa Trimbobler, to free the assassin. In the 15-minute video distributed by the ironically named "Committee For Democracy," Trimbobler specifically cites its purpose of spreading its message without the "filters of the media." By broadcasting sections of the video, by interviewing far-right activists such as Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who produced it, is the media simply playing into their hands? Ben-Gvir certainly thinks so, taunting his journalistic interlocutors by telling Ynet: "I'm always happy to teach those leftists who consider themselves liberal and pluralistic something about freedom of speech." The reaction was journalistic hand-wringing in columns and such programs as Communications File and Emanuel Rozen's Bottom Line, in which the issue was earnestly debated - thus inadvertently providing even more exposure to the efforts of Amir's advocates. One can only shudder to think how much more exposure will come their way if Trimbobler is really planning, as rumored, to induce the birth of her child on the anniversary of its father's murder of Rabin. But yesterday a different voice intruded on the coverage of the campaign to free Amir - the voice of the assassin himself. The timing of the long-overdue release of the tape yesterday of the police interrogation of Amir on the very night he slew the prime minister proved to be more than just fortuitous. It helped clarify the larger stakes and issues involved in the Rabin assassination, and the discussion, such as it is, on Amir's fate. Most of the initial reactions in the media to the tape of Amir's confession have focused on his total lack of remorse. "God forbid," he declares, after being asked by his police interrogator, Moti Naftali, if he has any regrets. Amir's calm, cold-blooded and unwavering admission to the act also puts a lie to the various conspiracy theories that have been floated over the past dozen years. But there is one striking moment when Amir is asked by Naftali, "Did you know [that night] where you were going and what your purpose was?" "To kill Rabin," Amir says without noticeable emotion. "To kill Rabin?" asks Naftali. "Not to kill him - to silence him, politically," Amir replies. That moment, the only time during the interrogation when Amir tries to qualify an earlier answer, is a striking illustration of the dissociative state of mind of the ideologically motivated assassin and terrorist. Such a killer must first dehumanize his targets to the point of reducing their humanity - and the act of murdering them - into a political abstraction. It is also telling that Amir expressed his aim as "silencing" Rabin. Taking the prime minister's voice out of the political debate, trying to sabotage the workings of democracy through violence rather than allowing it to run its course in open discussion and at the voting booth, was foremost on Amir's mind that night. No wonder that earlier yesterday when Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen gave the tape to Dalia Rabin-Pelosof, he described Amir's action that night as "trying to kill democracy." The fact that a dozen years later, Amir's pregnant wife and the Committee for Democracy feel free to push for his release with a wide public campaign, only proves that while his bullets that night may have killed a democratically elected leader, they only wounded the fabric of free thought and expression in this society. And as the anniversary of Rabin's death approaches, the voice of his assassin is perhaps a disturbing but necessary reminder of the vigilance needed to ensure that the crucial decisions this nation must make in the years ahead are decided by its majority through the democratic process, and not the threats and actions of its violent extremists.

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