Political correspondents don't have a life, but on November 4, 1995, I was supposed to enjoy a Saturday night off. A colleague went to the Left's rally in Kikar Malchei Yisrael. Being an incurable news junkie, however, I listened to live coverage with one ear, while the other was semi-tuned to my 11-year-old daughter's chatter as I was putting her to bed.
The assassination interrupted our cozy quality time.
"Another Arlosoroff affair," I exclaimed. My daughter quizzically chirped: "who's Arlosoroff?" I rushed to the phone, called the news desk, reported for duty, set Arlosoroff aside and switched into autopilot. I remember working intensely, racing against the deadline. By the time we put the paper to bed, I was out of breath.
At daylight Arlosoroff was back with a vengeance. Sixty-two years after the libel that ostracized the Revisionists - then a rising force with prospects of leading the Zionist movement - everything was disturbingly reminiscent of my mother's stories of 1933 Yishuv politics, when discrimination and vilification were the lot of anyone with even remote Revisionist associations.
Overnight posters materialized everywhere exhorting us to adhere to "Rabin's legacy." Anyone who dared voice dissent was instantly sullied. Allusions to the assassination not preceded by the obligatory adjective "repugnant" put you beyond the pale. Repeated mea culpas were required of those suspected of undesirable political persuasions.
I could see how in days of yore imperfect human beings - as Rabin undoubtedly was - were deified. A decade ago, in secular post-modern Israel, Rabin was all but canonized. It became heresy to refuse to subscribe to the new hagiography, remain avowedly and conscientiously unconverted to the incipient Rabin cult and resist revering him as a martyred saint. It was sacrilege to continue warning against the Oslo folly and its inevitable bloody consequences. It was imprudent to argue aloud that Rabin wasn't more right dead than alive.
FOR A while the chorus of condemnation's cacophony of uninhibited incitement and cynical kitsch indeed intimidated the Right. True grief was perceived as the staked claim of an exclusionist self-righteous minority. National trauma was hijacked to serve an inglorious agenda. Remembrance was equated with vindicating the ultimately discredited Oslo pipedream.
Rabin Memorial Day instantly became Blame Day. It furnished an annual pretext to malign en masse veteran Oslo-nonconformists and those who realized belatedly what an abysmal fiasco Oslo was. In fact, there's no certainty Rabin himself wouldn't have changed his mind. If Sharon could perform an about-face, why not Rabin? Nobody today can speak for him or insist his views couldn't have evolved - not even his children.
Yet, even assuming that Rabin would have been unmoved by the PA's treacherous launching of the 2000 intifada and subsequent slaughter of over 1,500 Israelis, there's nothing untoward in disagreeing with him.
Political assassinations aren't unheard of in democracies, but nowhere are they similarly exploited to muzzle opposition and foment discord. The "we won't forget, we won't forgive" slogan catalogs anyone who doesn't toe the imposed ideological line as the enemy. It's a curious sentiment coming from those who counsel us to turn the other cheek to implacable external foes.
The inescapable impression is that while genocidal Arabs deserve compassion and exoneration, no breaks are due in-house rivals tarnished by the likes of Shin-Bet agent-provocateur Avishai Raviv.
He conducted (at Lehi leader Yair's graveside) a televised mock swearing-in ceremony for a nonexistent rightist underground, then assumed responsibility in its name for the murder of a Halhoul Arab killed by fellow Arabs. Raviv circulated the infamous photomontage of Rabin in SS uniform at Jerusalem's giant anti-Oslo rally. Finally, on the night of the assassination, minutes after his disciple Yigal Amir pulled the trigger - before Rabin even reached the hospital - Raviv already claimed credit for the "termination" on behalf of his fictitious subversive network.
Raviv served masters whose aim was to collectively taint all heirs of yesteryear's Revisionists as inimical to the very notion of peace. It wasn't deemed objectionable to unleash the most inflammatory rhetoric against besmirched political adversaries, as was frequently done to the late Rehavam Ze'evi, the fourth anniversary of whose assassination recently passed unnoticed.
Outrage is undeniably selective. Had Arab terrorists murdered a Labor minister, it's safe to assume that the assault on a symbol of Israeli sovereignty wouldn't have been ignored. At the very least a great hue and cry would have been raised over the travesty of the perpetrators enjoying the good life in Jericho.
Against this background, it was no surprise to learn that the Discover Tel Aviv Walking Tours Center is today organizing a pilgrimage to "political assassination sites" around town. Its designated culmination is Kikar Rabin, but the spurious starting point is the beach where Haim Arlosoroff was shot.
The center's promo tendentiously defines that homicide as political. It mentions that "suspicion fell on those who were Arlosoroff's greatest opponents - the Revisionists."
Absent are the facts that in 1934 all three Revisionist defendants were acquitted (one, Avraham Stavsky, would 14 years later be slain on the Altalena by Rabin's unit); that in 1942 two Arab bandits confessed to the crime; that the 1973 publication of late police inspector Yehuda Arazi's 1933 investigation documents disproved all residual innuendo and that in 1982 a judicial inquiry commission cited evidence that the accused were framed.
The antiquated Arlosoroff libel remains a viable vehicle for the politics of incriminating insinuations. I wasn't the only one to identify the connection between one wrenching calumny and the other.