Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Memorials for Yitzchak Rabin

Among the many well known episodes found in parshat vayeira is the lesser known episode when Avraham made peace with the Plishti king, Avimelech.  

At first glance the passage looks like Avraham is doing a good thing by making a peace treaty with the other people living in the land, I was surprised to find that the sages where very critical of Avraham for doing so.

Midrash Rabbah 54:4 contends that Avraham's overtures of peace with the Plishtim of his day eventually caused true peace for his own descendants to be delayed for hundreds of years, it caused the future deaths of many of his descendants including seven illustrious leaders, and it eventually lead to the destruction of every sanctuary to be built in the future - including the first and second temples!

While this may have been hyperbole, it is clear that when the midrash was written, hundred of years after the actions of Avraham, with historic hindsight the sages felt that Avraham made an enormous historic blunder that ultimately lead to further suffering.

On this day in 1995 Israeli Prime minster Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated.  Every year on this day there are memorials held for him in Israel and in Jewish communities all over the world, and every year myself and many other religious Jews are made to feel uncomfortable. 

One reason is because  many memorial programs overtly or by implication suggest that rabin's death was caused by Jewish religious extremism.  The anniversary of his death is used as a way to foment hatred directed against all religious Jews.  Ironically, those who hold the religious community responsible for Rabin's death tend to be the same people who cry foul the moment someone suggests that Islam may be responsible for terror.  

Rabin's murderer acted for political reasons not religious reasons.  The so-called "religous" reason that is given for his motives were that Rabin was a "rodef", someone whose actions would cause the death of others and therefore had to be stopped.  Calling him a religious fanatic for that reason is like saying that everyone who gives charity is doing so out of religious convictions.  

The fact that Rabin's murderer happened to wear a kipah and spent time at a Yeshiva and may have kept shabbat are all incidental to the murder and I take great offense to programs that try to make any implications otherwise and that lead to baseless hatred against others.

But in a more general sense, I am offended by any Rabin memorial that uses his tragic and senseless death as a club to beat down those who disagree with left wing Israeli politics.  

I think the Oslo Accords were an epic failure.  Countless books have been written that reasonably demonstrate what a mistake it was to deal with Yassir Arafat and arm the PA.  There are many sensible arguments that demonstrate that Rabin's actions actually prolonged the conflict rather than end it.  It can be easily demonstrated that the Oslo Accords lead to the deaths of many Israelis and Arabs, and that the effects of Oslo continue to endanger the security of the state of Israel.  

On the other side there are many people who still contend that Rabin did the right thing just as there are those commentators who argue with the midrash and feel that Avraham was justified.  Different opinions.  That is the Jewish way.

Unfortunately the Rabin memorials use Rabin's memory to silence any opposition and label those who disagree with Rabin's actions as being disrespectful to Rabin's memory.

Ironically, those who politicize Rabin's memory are really the ones who dishonor Rabin.  Because of them, unlike other past prime ministers who are memorialized by all of the Jewish people - Rabin's legacy is limited only to those who agreed with him politically.  That is a true shame.