Rabin was sincere


David Barnett

written 5 November 1995

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered last night; gunned down by a determined opponent with a vision of changing the course of history. Yet for all that Yigal Amir wishes for a change, and for all the shock we experience at his crime, the world is not different. The forces which led to this murder are still at work. Most of us sincerely wish for peace but disagree passionately about the means. Clearly, sincerity is not enough.

Yitzhak Rabin sincerely pursued his policy for peace. He was passionate about it. In this he was very Jewish, for we Jews are a very passionate and gutsy people. Our passions are both a strength and a weakness. They drive us on, against the odds, to heroic feats; but they can also push us into destructive foolishness.

Yitzhak Rabin was pursuing a vision which he called peace. But Rabin was not a visionary. A visionary sees true possibilities which are not obvious to many. By contrast, Rabin's vision was the conventional wisdom about the road to peace as held by much of the world. But, sincerely and passionately, he held it was a true vision, and those who opposed him were dangerous fools, or worse. Rabin felt sincerely justified in using government force to suppress expressions of opposition to his policies. He felt justified in pushing through his policy without seeking a mandate for them, because he was privy to a truer vision of reality than his opponents.

Strangely, in the last couple of years I warmed more to Rabin than in the past. This, in spite of my disagreeing with his policies more than ever and in spite of his inflammatory invective against his opponents. Somehow he called out the sympathy of a little boy lost - swept up in events much bigger than himself. His speeches were cries for help and frustration that his good intentions were not understood.

Israel is divided on how to achieve a peace which is not the peace of the grave. There are those who decry the heated debate as divisive. They are wrong. Even hot debate is healthy. Trying to suppress it would give an illusion of unity only. If one view only is to be heard then others who hold strong views will seethe with resentment. If only those with the reins of force can be heard, then expect eruptions of violence. Ironically, Rabin's own willingness to use force to back his views may have caused his death. There is a strange symmetry between the high-handedness of his government and the high-handedness of his murderer.

Already, supporters of the Rabin-Peres-Arafat policy are branding their opponents with complicity with Yigal Amir - guilt by commonality of some ideas. This demonisation of a whole section of the population by those in power is far more dangerous than the hyperbole used by some on the right who called Rabin "traitor". Did this "traitor" language cause Amir to murder Rabin? No. It may have echoed what he thought, but he is responsible for his own actions. Rabin was sincere but misguided. It may be argued that his policies have the same effect as a treachery, but he was not a traitor.

So nothing has changed. Peres will go full ahead with his policy in an attempt to make it irreversible before the election. He will say that he owes it to the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, that he should not have died in vain. Peres and his supporters will continue to demonise their opponents and, if possible, ban them and suppress expressions of dissent. Resentment at the policy will continue to seethe. If the folly of high-handed government is not heeded then Yitzhak Rabin will, indeed, have died in vain.

© David M. Barnett


This page revised 6 July 1999