25,000 religious Israeli citizens gathered on Saturday night, September 11th in the public square of a major city in Israel chanting slogans that called for the death of Israel’s police minister and for the violent overthrow of the Israeli government. Their goal? To replace the government with one closer to their religious ideology.
The most vociferous moments of incitement during that rally were telecast that evening on both major Israeli TV by newsreels on Israel’s Public Channel One and on Israel’s Commercial Channel Two.
Yet there was no public outcry to indict the organizers of this event, and there was no response of senior Israel law enforcement officials in reaction to the rally.
Calls placed to the Israeli police to ask if they would prosecute the organizers for incitement did not even receive the courtesy of a returned phone call.
The rally on September 11th had been organized by the Israeli Islamic Movement and took place in the largest Israeli Arab city, Um El Facham.
The next evening, on September 12th, 100,000 Israeli citizens gathered in Zion Square in Jerusalem to protest Ariel Sharon’s plan that calls for Israel to demolish 19 prosperous Israeli farming communities near Gaza, and for Israel to once again assist in the training of the Palestinian security forces that are now at war with Israel. Among those security forces are known terrorists. 8,000 Jews are to be deported from their homes and businesses they built on unoccupied sand dunes.
At that event I stood on the press podium to the side, translating songs, speeches, and prayers for the foreign press into English. There were grade school children singing patriotic tunes about Israel and rabbis uttering prayers. And Israeli citizens from all walks of life pleaded with the Israeli government not to uproot the homes and farms of Jews and hand them over to an entity at war with Israel.
In this day and age, to spend several hours watching thousands of teenagers come to join a mass demonstration that was devoid of drugs, alcohol, and MTV is quite an unusual experience, even in Israel.
Without being corny, you might call it a wholesome experience.
This contrasted with the previous night’s demo, when thousands of other Israeli Arab teenagers chanted, “With Blood and Fire, We Will Redeem You Palestine!” And their chants were telecast on Israeli TV News.
Monday morning, September 13th , following the two weekend demonstrations, not one Israeli politician was ready to comment on the September 11th demonstration in Um El Facham.
Yet at least twenty Israeli politicians, including four senior Israeli cabinet members, went on record condemning the reported incitement that went on during the September 12th demo in Jerusalem, where every single speaker went out of his way to denounce any kind of violence. All of a sudden, posters that called Sharon a “dictator” were defined by Israeli police officials as “incitement.”
Israel’s Government Radio and Israel’s Armed Forces Radio blared out every hour on the hour that the Prime Minister’s life had been threatened. However, spokesmen in the Israeli government offices said that they knew of no threats on the life of the Prime Minister . On the evening of Tuesday, September 14th, 2004 the General Security Services of Israeli intelligence, also known as the “Shabak,” issued a statement that they knew of no threat on the life of Israel’s prime minister.
Former senior “Shabak” officials who had served under the late Yitzhak Rabin recalled that the atmosphere was very similar to the environment that preceded the murder of Rabin. They were correct. At that time, the amorphous “Eyal” organization issued daily warnings to the media it would kill Prime Minister Rabin if he proceeded with the Oslo Process.
After Rabin’s assassination, the Shamgar Commission that investigated Rabin’s murder reported that the “Eyal” Organization had been set up by Israeli intelligence. Yigal Amir, who shot Rabin, was a member of “Eyal.”
Following Rabin’s assassination, it was much easier to implement the Oslo process. Rabin, in life, had no consensus of public opinion to implement his policy of unilateral withdrawal. But in death, Rabin was able to do so. Sympathy over his death created the necessary momentum for those who wanted to complete Oslo.
Sharon currently enjoys no consensus in public opinion to implement his policy of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
Has a new “Eyal” organization emerged in Israel? If so, what are the implications for Sharon and the desperation of those who want to see the implementation of his policy? What are the lessons to be drawn from the Rabin Assassination?
Israel’s survivability this Jewish New Year begs these questions.