Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Noa Rothman (granddaughter of Yitzhak Rabin) as they stand by the grave of the late prime minister during a memorial ceremony marking the 17th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination.Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images
Navigate to News section

Yitzhak Rabin’s Annual Memorial Service Turns Ugly

The slain prime minister’s granddaughter lashes out at Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government

Liel Leibovitz
October 22, 2018
Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Noa Rothman (granddaughter of Yitzhak Rabin) as they stand by the grave of the late prime minister during a memorial ceremony marking the 17th anniversary of Rabin's assassination.Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO via Getty Images

What are we to learn from the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin? Speaking at the 23rd anniversary of her grandfather’s death yesterday, Noa Rothman, now a 41-year-old screenwriter, left little room for doubt: Israel, she said in her bitter and much-publicized speech, has turned into a benighted nation where dissent is not tolerated and criticism not possible, a sorry state of affairs orchestrated, of course, by the Dark One himself, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Just what are Bibi’s sins? I’ll let Rothman herself tell you. “The problem is that in our country, these days, doubting is akin to treason, criticism is taken as pettiness, and a demand for setting an example is construed as political persecution,” she said. “When did one of the nation’s leaders in these times give legitimacy to a dissenting voice, God forbid, not as part of a cynical political debate but honestly, in the name of pluralism, which is so vital to democracy, to our very existence, to our future.”

Sing it, sister! Never mind that Israel’s Supreme Court recently reversed a government decision and allowed an activist of a movement strongly affiliated with convicted terrorists to enter the country and enroll in its universities. Never mind that radical left-wing organizations, enjoying millions in aid from European governments and other foreign groups, continue to operate freely, lecture school children, and enjoy the veneration of the media. Never mind that the prime minister himself was scrutinized by law enforcement officials on at least 19 separate occasions, each of which failed to lead to a conviction. In Rothman’s feverish imagination, these examples—there are many, many more—of a robust democracy welcoming dissent and celebrating criticism don’t count.

It should come as no surprise, perhaps, from a woman who had written a column in Haaretz several years ago arguing that “Israel has been leaderless for the last 20 years,” meaning that the men who had enjoyed a plurality of votes since her grandfather’s death were somehow illegitimate. But Rothman wasn’t content merely portraying Israel as a close cousin of Enver Hoxha’s Albania; looking straight at Netanyahu, she accused an unnamed spokeswoman at his office of recently tweeting a photograph of Rabin shaking Yasser Arafat’s hand with a caption accusing the slain statesman of treason.

It’s a common theme among the Virtuous Vanguards of Tel Aviv. Ask any Israeli journalist, academic, or intellectual who killed Rabin, and they’ll tell you that while Yigal Amir pulled the trigger, it was Netanyahu who made the murder possible by inciting his followers to see Rabin as a traitor. That Netanyahu himself was caught on camera on one well-documented occasion beseeching the crowd at a large demonstration in Jerusalem to refrain from using the T word, or that he had asked Rabin, shortly before the assassination, to issue a joint statement calling for civility—an offer Rabin refused—hardly matters. Nor did it matter to Rothman that her alleged spokeswoman was not a federal employee but an independent journalist, or that her tweet was a clearly marked bit of satire. But, again, why let facts get in a way of a really good story?

Not to be outdone, Rabin’s other grandson, Yonatan Ben-Artzi, gave an equally fiery speech, calling for setting term limits that would bar Netanyahu from serving in office much longer.

Contempt for the will of the majority of their fellow citizens; salacious fake news; utter disregard for observable reality; a cynical and cruel worldview that sees anyone who disagrees with their worldview as a thug and a brute; blatant attempts to weaken the institutions of democracy the moment they are voted out of power—is it any wonder that the left, in Israel and in the United States alike, is losing ground?

Rabin’s assassination is one of very few national symbols most Israelis still cherish, irrespective of their political opinion. It is seen as a perpetual call for national unity, a legacy that helped keep Israeli society cohesive even as his successors, including Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Ariel Sharon, continued to make painful territorial concessions in the face of rising Palestinian violence. In their ugly, divisive, and vicious comments yesterday, Rabin’s grandchildren sacrificed all that for the sake of settling cheap partisan scores. What a blessing it is that most Israelis know better.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

Support Our Podcasts

In addition to Unorthodox, the world’s No. 1 Jewish podcast, and Take One, our daily Talmud meditation, we’re hard at work on exciting new Jewish audio series.