There’s something of a tug-of-war developing over the annual anniversary rally for assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night for the event, 14 years and a week after he was killed (it was delayed because of the rain last Saturday).
Attended by politicians from three of the five biggest Knesset factions, Labor, Kadima, and Likud, it was seen by some as the coming-of-age of an event that was once a show of strength of the traditional peace camp. Likud lawmaker and education minister Gideon Saar declared from the podium that rightists have been “pushed out of the mourning tent for too long” and said that the time has come for everybody to mourn Rabin together.
Saar sees the county, and the event, as nationalizing Rabin’s memory, some see this as a cop out. Voices from the left are claiming that making the rally less political may make it more inclusive, but say that it’s coming at a cost of Rabin’s legacy.
The veteran peace activist Uri Avnery, who passed messages between Rabin and Yasser Arafat before contacts were out in the open, wrote ahead of the rally that Rabin will “turn in his grave.”
He wrote: “The main speakers will be two of the gravediggers of the Oslo agreement, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, as well as Tzipi Livni and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who belonged to the forces that created the climate for the murder.”
Avnery’s closing line was: “Will I be there? Not me, thank you very much.”
Unlike Avnery Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy went along and was deeply unimpressed. He penned this highly critical article, in which he asked:
Whose speech was emptier, that of Shimon Peres or Ehud Barak? Maybe Tzipi Livni’s? It’s hard to tell. It was a tight match, in which the winner will have to be determined on points. Finally, the president won. “Those who despair do not win and those who win do not despair,” Peres said, adding that an imperfect peace is better than perfect war. He also said that peace is made when there is no peace. Finally, he said the next year will be the year of decision, like they say every year.
Ynet published a similarly biting piece about the rally by Ziv Lenchner, in which he writes that:
The rally at Rabin square deserves the following definition: A public show of support for the commandment “thou shalt not murder.” It is indeed a matter of some public importance, but nothing beyond it. The rally is no more than a slogan-filled ceremony with little significance espousing obvious values that any sane person would endorse, sort of like a similar ceremony at school.