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Rabin’s Assassin Departs Solitary

Gets a taste for the rule of law he so despised

Liel Leibovitz
July 05, 2012
Yigal Amir in 2004.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Yigal Amir in 2004.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Yesterday was Independence Day. Today, we ought to toast freedom of another sort, the release from solitary confinement of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir.

Let there be no mistake: Amir is murderous scum, an unrepentant zealot deserving of the sternest punishment. In Israel, that punishment is life in prison, to which Amir was sentenced after shooting the prime minister in 1995. That was 17 years ago. Since then, Amir has been locked up alone in his cell, not permitted to walk the yard or talk to fellow inmates. Allow him these basic minimal rights, argued many, and he might incite other prisoners.

It’s a preposterous argument. Amir is a lone gunman, a fanatic who was driven to act by some heady combination of hormones and religion and rage. Arguing that he poses any further threat when behind bars is like arguing that Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s assassin, might, if allowed to associate with other prisoners, influence a murderous killing spree targeting the world’s rock stars.

And yet, Amir spent nearly two decades in seclusion. Unless a prisoner is highly violent and poses a threat to others, such punishment atop punishment is reprehensible. In his actions, Yigal Amir sought to gun down not only Rabin but also the democratic state of Israel. There’s no more fitting response than to show this lowlife that, to his chagrin, respect for civil rights and the rule of law, however embattled these days, still prevails.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.