In a recent survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, one fourth of all respondents said they believe it is legitimate to use violence for political purposes. The percentage of those who oppose the use of violence dropped from 87.5% last year to 70% in 2013. Some 28% of respondents said halachic laws supersede the principles of democracy in case they contradict one another. In general, the survey reflects a continuous departure from the democratic ethos of Israeli society.
Over the weekend we marked the 18th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin during a rally that was titled: "Yes to peace – no to violence." During the event, the late prime minister said "Violence is undermining the very foundations of Israeli democracy." It is terrifying to think that this call is as relevant as ever, as though we've learned nothing since then.
Reminiscing about Rabin and praising this special man are not the most important aspects of keeping his memory alive. The main thing is the effort to fully understand what happened to us and do everything so that such a despicable act will not be repeated here.
Rabin's murder was political. It was a deliberate attempt to reverse a democratic decision of the people. The goal was not only to murder the man and his way, but to destroy the democratic process itself. The Rabin murder and the 9/11 terror attack by Osama bin Laden's people share a root cause – fanatical religious fundamentalism and the blind obedience to insane, hateful preachers.
Rabin's murderer admitted during his interrogation that "without a halachic ruling or din rodef (provision allowing extrajudicial killings) rulings on Rabin by a few rabbis whom I knew, I would have found it difﬁcult to murder. Such murder needs to be authorized. If I did not have backing, if behind me were not many people, I would not have acted."
Rabin was the victim of religious-nationalist Jewish fundamentalism whose hatred of the "other" pushes it over the edge. Many religious Jews who hold the principles of democracy dear to their heart also fear the rise of zealous fundamentalism, which distorts Judaism and endangers democracy. The hatred for a member of another nation quickly turns into even more intense hatred for one's own people, especially towards those who do not share this hatred for the foreigner and call for reconciliation with other nations. These people are immediately branded as traitors. This is not our invention.
Rabin was murdered because inciting extremists said he was willing to sell the homeland to the Palestinians. He was murdered because he was called the prime minister of the Arabs. Shortly before the murder I warned the Knesset of the possible results of this murderous incitement. At the time I mentioned the assassination in 1922 of Polish president Gabriel Narutowicz, who was supported by the majority of the country's Jews. The slogan of the horrific incitement against him was: "Narutowicz – president of the Jews."
One of the most important lessons from the Rabin murder is that we must block the wave of anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset and embolden the parliament members and human rights groups that are leading this effort. Most importantly, we must build bridges of common and equal citizenship for the State of Israel's Palestinians.
Former minister Yair Tzaban spoke at the main ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of Rabin's death
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