ISSUES of the American Council for Judaism - Spring 1999

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Murder in the Name of God: Where Religious Extremism Can Lead

by Allan C. Brownfeld

The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel on November 4, 1995 by an ultra-Orthodox religious zealot, Yigal Amir, brought the largely unknown and unreported world of Israel’s religious extremists under public scrutiny.

The assassin was not a lone psychotic gunman but, instead, was a young man nurtured within Israel’s far-right religious institutions. After the murder, he was hailed as a hero by many, not only in Israel but among kindred spirits in the United States.

In this well-researched book, which includes an exclusive interview with Amir, authors Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman, present the full story of the people whose words and deeds made Rabin’s assassination possible: the rabbis who condemned Rabin by invoking an arcane talmudic ruling; the politicians who joined in a sophisticated campaign of incitement against him; the militant West Bank settlers for whom the Oslo peace agreement spelled betrayal; and the security agents who saw what was coming but failed to prevent it.

Michael Karpin is one of Israel’s leading journalists and served for many years as editor in chief of Mabat, Israeli television’s prime-time news broadcast. Ina Friedman, an American-born editor, journalist and translator is a correspondent in Israel, where she has lived since 1968, for the Dutch daily Trouw. In this book, they have provided us with more than the story of an assassination. It is a powerful indictment of Israeli society’s failure to look at itself honestly and its unwillingness to bring its own worst enemies to justice. For all of us, it is a lesson in where the dangerous combination of religious fundamentalism, ultra-nationalism and ethno-centrism can lead.

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Eerie Ceremony

Two weeks before the assassination, Victor Cygielman, the correspondent of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, sat down at his computer in Tel Aviv to sum up the developments of the past months. He began by describing the eerie ceremony in which a small group of religious fanatics had stood before Rabin’s house on the eve of Yom Kippur and intoned the mystical Pulsa da-Nura, a kabbalistic curse of death. He wrote of the explicit "contract" put out on Rabin’s life by rabbis who invoked the talmudic concept din rodef, the sentence pronounced on a Jewish traitor. Cygielman cited the handbill passed out at a mass demonstration in Jerusalem on October 5 showing Rabin in an SS uniform. "The stage was set for the murder of the prime minister," he said. A technical problem caused a week’s delay in the publication of Cygielman’s piece, and it didn’t appear until Thursday, November 2. Two days later Yitzhak Rabin was dead.

Authors Karpin and Friedman note that assassin Yigal Amir "believed that there is only one guideline for fixing the borders of the Land of Israel: the Divine Promise made to the Patriarch Abraham, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates’ (Genesis 15:17). Today these borders embrace a large part of the Middle East, from Egypt to Iraq . . . zealots read this passage as God’s Will and God’s Will must be obeyed, whatever the cost. No mortal has the right to settle for borders any narrower than these. Thus, negotiating a peace settlement with Israel’s neighbors is unthinkable. After all, the manifest destiny of the Jewish people has not been realized, say the zealots, so what is the basis for making peace? The order of action must be reversed: First the territorial conquests must be completed, so as to bring the Divine Promise to fruition. Yet even after their territorial demands are satisfied, the zealots doubt whether it will be possible to reconcile with the Arabs. ‘Esau hates Jacob,’ says the Talmud, and you cannot make peace with those that hate you."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Hard Core Zealots

The hard core zealots are roughly divided into two groups, the authors point out: vigilantes and ideologues, those who believe in direct action and those who devote themselves to philosophizing. Among the vigilantes Amir holds in high esteem is Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the physician from the settlement of Kiryat Arba, adjoining Hebron, who gunned down twenty-nine Palestinians at morning prayer in the cave of the Patriarchs on February 25, 1994. Among the ideologues he especially admires is Noam Livnat of the Joseph Still Lives yeshiva (Od Yosef Chai) in Nablus. "Gathered there each day are among the most fanatic religious settlers in the West Bank," the authors write. So rabid are the students in this yeshiva that at the beginning of 1996, Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, himself a religious settler, warned his colleagues: "There’s a potential for murder in the yeshiva . . . Do not accord it your protection."

The yeshiva’s patron, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg, repeatedly expressed a doctrine of racism. He declared that, ‘Jewish blood and gentile blood are not the same." He defended the act of one of the yeshiva’s students who opened indiscriminate fire on Arab laborers standing alongside a highway near Tel Aviv in 1993, and he subsequently lauded Baruch Goldstein for massacring Arabs in Hebron. He explains that he differentiates between the murder of a gentile and that of a Jew because the Torah places a "light prohibition" on the former and a "grave" one on the latter.

It was Baruch Goldstein’s assault upon Arab worshipers in Hebron that galvanized Yigal Amir: "The Hebron massacre was a milestone for Yigal Amir. From that morning he concentrated his efforts on achieving the ‘spiritual readiness’ that Goldstein had displayed. He too aspired to be an agent of God, an emissary of his people."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Goldstein’s Funeral

Amir told the authors that he traveled to Kiryat Arba to attend Goldstein’s funeral and meet the community in which he had lived, "I wanted first of all to get to know them . . . So I went there and saw all the thousands who were at the funeral. I saw the love they had for him, and I understood that this is no simple matter. I spoke with the people and began to understand that they were not simply fanatic extremists. They are people who are fighting very hard for the nation, for whom values are very important . . . It began after Goldstein. That’s when I had the idea that it’s necessary to take Rabin down."

Amir came to know the zealots in Kiryat Arba and Hebron. He grew close to Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a leader of the settler movement who had been convicted of killing a Palestinian and who had pronounced Rabin responsible for the Goldstein massacre. When the Oslo Agreement was signed in Washington on September 13, 1993, Amir, watching the proceedings on television, thought to himself, "If there’s no choice, it will be necessary to take Rabin down."

For years, the authors show, the Israeli government turned a blind eye to religious extremism, even when it led to violence. In the middle of 1984, a number of covert cells dubbed the Jewish Underground were discovered. Composed of 27 people, including prominent figures in Gush Emunim, the settler movement, the Underground had planned to execute a number of terrorist actions against Palestinians. The first of these operations targeted the mayors of three West Bank cities. Bombs that exploded in their booby-trapped cars severely maimed two of the mayors; one, Bassam Shaka of Nablus, had both legs blown off. The second operation was a "raid" on the campus of the Islamic University in Hebron, during which indiscriminate gunfire resulted in the deaths of three Palestinian students. The third operation, in which members of the Underground planted bombs on Arab buses in Jerusalem, was thwarted as the devices were being set. Under interrogation some of the terrorists confessed to the most ambitious plan of all: a plot to blow up the Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to clear the way for building the Third Temple.

 

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"Fine Young Men"

Yitzhak Shamir lamented the excessive zeal of "these fine young men." Knesset members from the Likud and the National Religious Party dissociated themselves from the terrorists’ actions but formed a lobby to have them pardoned. In return for expressing remorse, half the members of the Underground were granted pardons by President Chaim Herzog. "The double standard thus tacitly established applied not only to Jews and Arabs but to Jews living on opposite sides of the Green Line, which divided Israel from the territories," write the authors.

The ultra-Orthodox world from which Yigal Amir came, in which he was educated and nurtured, has contempt for the idea of Israel as a secular democratic state with equal rights for all of its citizens. Karpin and Friedman report that the Orthodox view on the dichotomy between Israel’s self-definition as both a Jewish and democratic state "has consistently been that a Jewish state must, by definition, be ruled by Jewish religious law as interpreted by rabbinical scholars. Israel’s secular founders had never even entertained that idea. They established the state as a democracy governed by civil law and undertook, in the Declaration of Independence, to ‘ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’ and to ‘guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language education and culture.’ But as a concession to the religious parties, they agreed to a certain blurring of the formal division between the authority of ‘church’ and state. Thus in the early 1950s an arrangement was reached whereby matters affecting a citizen’s ‘personal status’ — essentially meaning marriage, divorce and burial — was controlled exclusively by clerics. For Israel’s Jews this means they are controlled by the Orthodox religious establishment, and over the years this arrangement has played havoc with the civil rights of countless citizens."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Religious or Civil Law

During the past decade the division over which system of law — religious or civil — should prevail has grown, with the religious right demanding that democratic values be subordinated to Jewish law and the secular left demanding that a bill of rights be legislated. On the right there are also calls for an end to equal political rights for non-Jews. Since the signing of the Oslo Agreement, some have demanded that any government decision fateful to the country’s future should require a "Jewish majority" to be ratified by the Knesset. The implication is that votes cast in the Knesset by parties representing Israel’s Arab citizens should simply be disqualified.

Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, an historian and leading intellectual in Israel’s Labor Party, describes the gravity of Israel’s cultural divide: "The ties that hold Israel together as a united society have long been in a tragic process of disintegration. What we have here is not a society but cells inimical to one another in a state of potential civil war. Israel will not be able to stand this way before an enemy or confront the difficult challenge of peace."

When a Gallup Poll done by the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv on the second anniversary of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin asked whether the country was closer to unity or civil war, more than twice as many respondents, 56 percent compared with 21 percent, answered the latter. Four months later the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research asked Israelis to rate the issues on which there is "a high chance of violence breaking out. Almost four-fifths (79 percent) of the respondents cited relations between the secular and the religious camps, with friction between left and right coming in a close second (70 percent). Noting that the messianic strain in Israeli life is growing increasingly militant, many see little room for compromise. Hebrew University sociologist Moshe Lissak has gone so far as to characterize the secular Jewish state established in 1948 as "largely a fleeting episode."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Death A Legitimate Goal

The rhetoric of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox political groups preceding the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the authors declare, "made it clear that Rabin’s death was a legitimate, even a religious goal."

Eyakim Ha’etzni, a 67 year old lawyer, founder of the Yesha Council, the voice of the West Bank settler movement, a former Knesset member from the defunct radical right Tehiya Party, was one of three former Knesset members who signed an open letter in November 1993 calling upon soldiers and police to defy orders to evacuate settlements and warning that relinquishing any territory to the Palestinians would spark a civil war. In March 1995 he again tried to spur the army to revolt by telling the head of the Israel Defense Force’s Central Command, during a heated meeting with settlers in Hebron: "In Hitler’s Germany there were officers who understood that their government was leading the German people to oblivion, and they stood up and threw down their insignia and paid for it with their lives. Here the government is leading the people to oblivion."

Ha’Etzni also harped on the alleged parallel between Rabin’s government and the collaborationist Vichy regime in France during World War II: "Those loyal to the Greater Land of Israel have the right to declare a government that gives up territory is an illegal one, just as De Gaulle declared the Vichy Government illegal." He even drew a direct parallel between Rabin and Vichy leader Marshal Henri-Philippe Pétain, saying: "We will treat (the signing of the Oslo Agreement) as collaboration with the Nazis was treated in occupied France . . . This is an act of treason, and it’s unavoidable that the day will come when Rabin is tried for this act as Pétain was."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Vicious Crusade

The ultra-Orthodox weekly Hashavna ("The Week") was used by its publisher, Asher Zuckerman, to wage a vicious crusade against Rabin. The magazine regularly called the prime minister "a Kapo," "an anti-Semite," "ruthless," and "a pathological liar." The weekly, which is read by close to 20 percent of the ultra-Orthodox community, published a symposium on the question of whether Rabin deserved to die and the appropriate means of executing him. It also described the prime minister as mentally ill and suffering from alcoholism. "Senior figures," a lead article stated in March 1993, "report signs of deterioration in the emotional condition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin."

Members of the Likud establishment expressed similar views. Hashavna published an interview with Ariel Sharon, who spoke of the Oslo peace policy as "graver than what Pétain did," adding, "It’s hard to use the word ‘treason’ when speaking of Jews, but there’s no substantive difference. They’re sitting with Arafat and planning how to deceive the citizens of Israel." In March 1995, Zuckerman wrote of a talk he had with Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. He quotes Netanyahu as saying: "Rabin charges that he’s called a terrible word ‘murderer.’ But with all the unpleasantness (implied by that term) he has no reason to complain. Whoever is aware of the fetters he placed on soldiers’ hands have led directly to the murder of a large number of Jews has difficulty refraining from use of the terrible word ‘murder.’"

By the critical summer of 1995 Hashavna went so far as to charge that Rabin and Peres "are leading the state and its citizens to annihilation and must be placed before a firing squad." In the issue published on Friday, November 3, 1995, the day before the assassination, Zuckerman (under the pen name A. Barak) offered his readers the forecast that, "The day will come when the Israeli public will bring Rabin and Peres into court with the alternatives being the gallows or the insane asylum. This nefarious duo has either lost its mind or is flagrantly treasonous."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Sanction To Murder

The authors show how a group of Orthodox rabbis gave religious sanction to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. These rabbis, both in Israel and abroad, revived two obsolete precepts — din rodef (the duty to kill a Jew who imperils the life or property of another Jew) and din moser (the duty to eliminate a Jew who intends to turn another Jew in to non-Jewish authorities.)

By relinquishing rule over parts of the Land of Israel to the Palestinian Authority, these rabbis argued, the head of the Israeli government had become a moser. And by branding Rabin, they effectively declared open season on his life. Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, an Orthodox rabbi critical of those who embarked upon this enterprise, declared that, "Hundreds of people heard the word rodef in connection with the late prime minister months before and around the time of the murder. The fact that these discussions leaked out and inspired a heated public debate in the religious community turned the obsolete notions of rodef and moser into household words."

From the beginning of 1995 onward, the popularization of the words rodef and moser nourished the belief in religious circles that a consideration of whether or not they should be applied to Rabin was legitimate. Orthodox rabbis in Israel — and the U.S. — were consulting one another about whether Rabin fell into the category of a rodef or a moser. In the U.S. hundreds of Orthodox rabbis signed a statement declaring that he did.

 

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Permissible To Kill

Two students of Rabbi Shmuel Dvir, a teacher in the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion, subsequently reported that he told them it was definitely permissible to kill Rabin under the provision of din rodef. A third described Dvir’s desire to execute the act personally. "If Rabin comes to visit Gush Etzion, I myself will climb on a roof and shoot him with a rifle’," Dvir boasted.

It was not only obscure militant rabbis who engaged in such agitation, the authors point out. They cite the case of Rabbi Nachum Rabinovich, one of the most respected halachic authorities in the occupied territories. The 64-year-old Canadian-born scholar holds a doctorate in mathematics, has served in rabbinical posts in Canada and the U.S., and headed the Orthodox rabbinical seminary in London before immigrating to Israel. In an article published in the Jerusalem Post in July 1993, two months before the signing of the Oslo accord, Rabinovitch compared the position of the Rabin Government with those of the Judenrate in Nazi-occupied Europe. He also exploited the concept of moser, introducing it not as a direct charge against Rabin but as a warning to his government against trying to force the Israeli people into becoming collaborators in its designs. In a column entitled "Generals, Jews and Justice," published in the Jerusalem Post in December 1993, Rabinovitch quoted Maimonides’s definition of a moser as "he who delivers his fellow into the hands of gentiles to kill him or beat him; and he who delivers his fellow’s property into the hands of goyim . . ." He recommended that settlers plant explosive devices along the paths of their communities to deter Israeli soldiers from entering them. He justified the suggestion by comparing the Israeli Government to the Nazis.

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Agitation in U.S.

Within Orthodox circles in the U.S. the same agitation against Yitzhak Rabin followed the signing of the Oslo Agreement. "Soon after Oslo," the authors write, "Rabin’s opponents in the American Jewish community began branding him a traitor and a rodef; it was not long before they advanced to calling him a Nazi. By the summer of 1995 the invective showered on the prime minister and his government had become so savage that Israel’s consul general in New York, Colette Avital, could restrain herself no longer. Avital knew that right-wing and Orthodox Jews were providing the extremists in Israel with inspiration and a great deal of money . . . She felt it was her duty to warn the prime minister what was going on . . . Supporters of peace in New York seemed unable to utter more than a murmur of protest as Orthodox rabbis and right-wing radicals called for the disposal of the prime minister of Israel. Avital was appalled."

The World Likud (an extension of the Israeli party) swamped Orthodox synagogues in the U.S. with leaflets assailing the Israeli government. Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, head of the Orthodox American Board of Rabbis, took up the banner by charging in radio and t.v. interviews that, "Rabin’s democracy is persecuting the settlers" and that, "The Israeli Army has been transformed into the ultra radical left wing Rabin/Peres militia." Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a professor at Yeshiva University and respected authority on the halacha, informed the media that according to Jewish religious law anyone perceived as a rodef should be killed.

On June 19, 1995, addressing a convention of the International Rabbinical Coalition for Israel, an organization of Orthodox rabbis dedicated to saving the occupied territories for Israel, Rabbi Abraham Hecht, head of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, declared that surrendering any part of the biblical Land of Israel is a violation of Jewish religious law and, thus, assassinating Rabin, and all who assist him, is both permissible and necessary. The authors note that, "Some of the rabbis supported Hecht and actually signed a statement that in their view Rabin was a rodef. Others were stunned by his pronouncement of such a dictum in public, visited his Brooklyn office and implored him to retract the statement. But Hecht was adamant. ‘I do not represent myself but the Jewish law,’ he told them, ‘and the concession of territory is a grave crime in Judaism.’"

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Extreme Action

Rabbi Hecht would not be silenced. In August 1995 he used the platform of the Jewish Press to publish an open letter "to all the Rabbis in the U.S.A." confirming that, "The Torah permits the most extreme action against those who would harm fellow Jews." He also issued a declaration that the Israeli officers sent to the U.S. to explain the Oslo peace plan "are not wanted here and we must be prepared to expose them for what they are: enemies of the Jewish state and the Jewish people." On October 9, 1995, New York Magazine asked Hecht how he would feel if someone were to conclude from his June statement that he was entitled to murder Rabin, Hecht replied: "I wouldn’t feel at all . . . Rabin is not a Jew any longer . . . All I said was that according to Jewish law, any person ... who willfully, consciously, intentionally hands over human bodies or human property or the human wealth of the Jewish people to an alien people is guilty of the sin for which the penalty is death. And . . . it says very clearly, if a man kills him, he has done a good deed."

After Yigal Amir acted upon the ultra-Orthodox agitation to remove Yitzhak Rabin from the scene and thereby bring the peace process to an end, he was hailed as a hero in many quarters. A resident of the ultra-Orthodox stronghold of Bnei Brak stood before t.v. cameras and declared: "There is no mourning here. Yitzhak Rabin was not one of us." In Tapuach and Yishar, two West Bank settlements, pictures of Amir were hung on the walls at parties celebrating the "miracle." When word of the assassination reached the large West Bank settlement of Ariel, participants at a political assembly stood up and applauded. In the Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea in Jerusalem, young men embraced one another on hearing the news. In the Orthodox study group at Bar-Ilan University, in which Amir had been a participant, students called him "a saint."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Support For Amir

A question in the 1996 high school matriculation examination in citizenship prompted many essays indicating support for Yigal Amir and his motives. Two of the teachers grading these exams spoke out about the answers of students from religious high schools and sought to publish them. But the Ministry of Education and Culture, then headed by Minister Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party, forbade them to do so. Bar-Ilan University sociologist Nissan Rubin, himself of moderate political views, declared: "There’s a feeling among the religious public that Rabin’s death was a miracle. Citing ancient Jewish myths of miraculous rescue . . . Just as the Jews were always saved from destruction at the last minute — an allusion to the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus and to the 11th hour rescue of the Jews from Persia from the wicked Haman, so now people are saying a miracle has occurred."

The depth of Israel’s cultural divide may be seen in the fact that Yigal Amir and those who embraced his act of murder are not a small, isolated fringe, but a large segment of Israeli society. Hebrew University sociologist Moshe Lissak states that, "Yigal Amir grew out of the mainstream, not the margins. What is referred to as the ‘ideological fringe’ is actually very broad. We’re speaking of a variety of groups — social networks — some of which speak and write on a high level. They share a good degree of common ground, and they live and act in contiguous circles. They are not isolated or reclusive elements, and there is a big difference between them and the Kahanist thugs."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Murderer Came From Among Us

Rabbi Yehudah Amital, the founder of Meimad, a small movement of politically moderate religious nationalists, said that, "The murderer came from among us, out of religious Zionism and Judaism, and we cannot say that ‘our hands have not shed this blood.’ Rather than be a tempering influence, many of our rabbis have been a radicalizing one, creating a political dogma and a public mood that made the murder possible. Political extremism has been dressed up as religion. Not only did the Prime Minister’s murderer come from among us, but Baruch Goldstein, the murderer in the Cave of the Patriarchs, did too. That the religious community brushed off that slaughter . . . shows that its moral sensibility is flawed . . . The decline began when the rabbis chose to turn a blind eye to the attacks on Arabs that eventually led to acts of murder . . ."

Authors Karpin and Friedman report that, "Historians are likely to characterize the post-Rabin period as a time of deep anxiety. There are many indications that racist and separatist philosophies are gaining ground, especially among . . . the national religious population. One particularly troubling development is the recent waves of verbal assaults on the High Court of Justice by religious circles . . . Knesset Member Aharon Cohen of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which in the past decade has grown from a marginal political force to a major power, characterized the court’s justices as ‘foreign priests of modern primitive idolatry.’ Shas’s spiritual mentor, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, went a step further in urging all Israelis to boycott secular courts ‘which are not for Jews,’ and agree to be judged only before rabbinical tribunals."

In the wake of the assassination, the authors argue, Israeli society refused to properly confront the forces which brought it about. The commission headed by Meir Shamgar to investigate Rabin’s murder "held back from scrutinizing the factors responsible . . . In effect, the report reduced the murder of the prime minister from a complex historical event to a simple lapse in security arrangements . . . Justice Shamgar had taken a similarly restrictive approach to circumstances two years earlier when he had chaired the commission investigating Baruch Goldstein’s massacre . . . In that instance too the panel confined itself to a strict elucidation of the facts and performance of the security personnel, rather than an examination of the religious, social and political conditions that had fueled the attack."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Security Failure

Israeli security, the authors point out, is indeed a subject of legitimate criticism. They write of its "failure to acknowledge the new circumstances triggered by the Oslo Agreement: the possibility that the nationalist and messianist indoctrination of Orthodox youth, for more than twenty years, would lead at least some of them to reject the principle of democratic rule and resort to the use of force."

Shabak, Israel’s security agency, concentrated on a potential threat to Rabin from Arab extremists, not their Jewish counterparts. In fact, the authors write, "Shabak misread the climate of violence. It did not know, for example, that there was talk of murdering the prime minister at the Sabbath conclaves organized for Bar-Ilan students by Yigal Amir. It was unaware that rabbis had issued judgments of din moser and din rodef. It did not maintain surveillance over most of the groups of zealots that were known to be gathering in settlements and yeshivas . . . The media, no less than the Shabak subscribed to the axiom that no Jew would go to the lengths of murdering another Jew for political or ideological ends. The notion was too grotesque to contemplate. Throughout the summer the media had routinely covered the wave of right-wing demonstrations but barely noticed the indictment against Rabin personally had reached intolerable proportions. Most of the vitriolic statements were unearthed only after the assassination . . ."

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those

Silence of Those In Authority

The silence of those in positions of authority in Israel about the gathering storm of religious fanaticism preceding the assassination helped to create the atmosphere in which such an event could occur. Similarly, the silence of major Jewish organizations and prominent spokesmen in the United States in the face of the promotion of hatred and violence on the part of those in the Orthodox community who were willing to go to any lengths to bring the peace process to a halt tells us a great deal about the lack of moral courage which masquerades as leadership.

Much of the research for this important book was done in connection with the documentary film "The Road To Rabin Square," which was the first attempt to present an in-depth picture of the campaign of incitement that preceded the assassination.

Discussing the achievement of authors Karpin and Friedman, the respected Israeli author Amos Elon writes that, "Murder In The Name Of God does two things: It offers an excellent account of the sinister cabal staged by reckless politicians, bogus rabbis and other mystagogues on both sides of the Atlantic that led to the ‘religious’ murder of Yitzhak Rabin. At the same time, Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman draw a frightening picture of a sick society (and a deeply flawed political system) that allowed this cabal to mature, and today sits by in equanimity as Israel is pushed back from the brink of peace to the black hole of history." •

ISSUES of the American Council for Judaism - Spring 1999

 

Eerie Ceremony Hard Core Zealots Goldstein’s Funeral "Fine Young Men" Religious or Civil Death A Legitimate Vicious Crusade Sanction To Murder Permissible To Kill Agitation in U.S. Extreme Action Support For Amir Murderer Came From Security Failure Silence of Those