Leonard Fein Takes an LSD Trip Through the Middle East
In an opinion piece for one of our favorite left-leaning Jewish newspapers (“What Bibi Could Learn From Rabin’s Wisdom”, The Forward, 9/30/11), columnist Leonard Fein shows how easily history can be turned upside down and inside out, when filtered through the mediums of nostalgia, wishful thinking, and the shameless desire to advance one’s ideological agenda.
Fein laments the fact that the yearly rally commemorating the assassination of Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, will not be held this year. Dalia Rabin, the late prime minister’s daughter explained that “public interest is waning, and the costs of the rally have become prohibitive.” What caught my attention was the observation by Fein that Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is “among those who delight in the dwindling interest in remembering Rabin.” Fein even goes so far as to say that if he could have, Netanyahu would “surely have scuttled the commemoration himself.” He goes on to explain the motivation behind Bibi’s attitude: “Because one cannot commemorate the Rabin assassination on November 4, 1995, without remembering Rabin’s wisdom that Netanyahu rejects.”
Fein conveniently shifts our focus from the fact that it is the Israeli public that has lost interest in the commemoration and obviously has little regard for the “wisdom” of the late, Yitzhak Rabin. A greater indicator of that annoying reality is that Rabin’s once mighty Labor party has dwindled to eight seats in the current Knesset. Worse yet for Fein and his ilk, almost no one in Israel ever talks about the “Rabin Legacy” anymore, a phrase once uttered with almost religious reverence. The 1993 Oslo “Peace” Agreement which was the centerpiece of Rabin’s legacy has proved to be an unmitigated disaster for the people of Israel. Murderous Palestinian suicide bombings and terrorist attacks that have left hundreds dead, along with bloody intifadas and an endless barrage of missiles fired at Israel’s civilian population, long ago eclipsed the giddiness that swept over so many naive Jews and non-Jews alike after the September, 1993, White House-lawn signing ceremony which featured Rabin, Arafat, and President Clinton.
In June, 1992, during the Israeli election campaign, Rabin promised voters, “We will not leave the Golan Heights, even in exchange for a peace treaty. We are ready for a limited compromise that does not have to include territorial terms.” As late as September of 1992 – after defeating the Likud party in the election – Rabin stated explicitly “that he would not return all of the Golan Heights to Syria under any circumstances.” By mid-1993, however, it was crystal clear that he was seriously contemplating a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights back to the June 5, 1967 borders. Huge protests erupted in Israel. Rabin could not possibly have emerged victorious in the previous year’s election if he had taken such a position. What “wisdom” did Rabin have to offer his people, who not only were terrified at the security threat implicit in such a decision, but who felt personally betrayed by this complete reversal? In what was to become an historic statement, Rabin declared in early June, 1993: “Let them spin like propellers, for all the good it will do them.” Not only did he display a complete lack of remorse for lying to the Israeli public, but this remark revealed aloofness and utter contempt for those who disagreed with him.
When the Oslo agreements were announced in August of 1993, fully half the people of Israel did not believe that peace was going to break out in the Middle East, but rather saw the Oslo accords as a new “peace in our time.” They shuddered when Rabin shook hands with Yasser Arafat, the greatest murderer of Jews in the latter part of the 20th century. Again, huge protests broke out all over Israel. What “wisdom” did Rabin now offer his people at this crucial moment in Jewish history? He made Leonard Fein proud and did what any “wise” leader would have done; he ordered the police to brutally suppress any type of protest. A high ranking police officer, with whom I was friendly, told me he was present when police had been given explicit instruction to use brutality when breaking up the protests. I was living in Jerusalem at the time and personally witnessed the merciless beatings of protesters by gangs of Druze policemen. Mounted police charged into the crowds at full gallop. After the first protest, I forbade my teenage children from attending; after a couple more, I stayed home; I was afraid for my safety. Rabin’s tactics were effective. People soon realized that they would either have to engage in violent confrontations with the police or give up. The protests eventually died down.
Truth be told, the heartless and arrogant declaration, “Let them spin like propellers” and the brutal suppression of protests, were not totally out of character for the prime minister and former army chief-of-staff. In the Israel War of Independence in 1948, Rabin himself participated in the officially sanctioned murders of his fellow Jews off the beaches of Tel Aviv. 16 members of the Irgun, (political rivals of Ben-Gurion’s socialist Labor party) were machine-gunned by a unit of the Palmach (the military wing of the party) as they struggled in the water after abandoning their arms-bearing ship, the Altalena. The Altalena had been shelled and sunk by that same Palmach unit that included Rabin, and whose commanding officer, Yigal Allon, was Rabin’s mentor. One cannot help but wonder about the tragic irony; Rabin murdered fellow Jews for ideological/political motives and he himself was murdered by a fellow Jew for ideological/political motives. Do I mean to imply that Rabin was evil incarnate? Do I mean to say that Yitzhak Rabin did not really want to bring peace to his country and people? Certainly not. What I do mean to say is that due to his stubbornness and enthrallment with a form of secular messianism, he was unable to recognize that Oslo was an abject failure. Upon being elected prime minister in 1992, Rabin displayed an abrasive confidence, the ability to take risks, and determination; but what was consistently and conspicuously missing was wisdom.
At the peak of its popularity, the Oslo accords only had support of half the Jewish population of Israel. 10 years later only 18% of Israelis still believed that Oslo would bring peace in the near future. The so-called “Rabin Legacy,” along with the Nobel Peace Prizes handed out to Rabin and the godfather of Islamic terrorism, Yasser Arafat, have become embarrassing skeletons-in-the-closet for all except the hard core left in Israel (and certain columnists for The Forward). As far as Fein is concerned, none of this really matters; Rabin must be the hero and Netanyahu must be the villain.
In order to paint Netanyahu as a man who has no interest in peace, Fein cites two impeccable sources: “The new wind which is blowing throughout the world regarding its relationship with the State of Israel is an ill wind, bluntly summarized by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey: ‘Israel is the West’s spoiled child’ – a characterization pointedly used a year earlier by the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman.“ Gee, who would dare argue with the analysis of the megalomaniac leader of Turkey who is tirelessly working to transform Turkey into another Islamo-Fascist state, especially when he is quoting a left-wing writer for the always fair and balanced New York Times?!
Fein continues: “Surely Netanyahu does not want to be reminded of Oslo, which he energetically sought to undermine, less still of the startling fact that even before Oslo, Rabin sought to move his fellow citizens beyond their disfiguring traumas.” If what Fein states is true, I have something in common with Bibi Netanyahu; I also don’t want to be reminded of the grotesque debacle called Oslo and neither do most Israelis. The only “disfiguring traumas” in Israel today are the traumas suffered by those who have been physically and emotionally devastated by the terror attacks of a vicious and evil enemy and the trauma of living with neighbors who have been attempting to destroy the State of Israel for the past 65 years. In 2011, the children who were born the year the Oslo accords were signed were drafted into the Israeli Army. They face thousands of Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon, a Jew-hating tyrant in Syria, and a Hamas ruled terror-state in Gaza. If that isn’t enough, Israel also faces a highly volatile post-“Arab spring” Egypt and a soon-to-be nuclear Iran (perhaps Fein should “wisely” offer Nobel Peace Prizes to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, President Ahmadinejad of Iran, and the aforementioned Prime Minister of Turkey). There is only one thing that Fein and I agree on: Netanyahu has, thank God, rejected the so-called “wisdom” of Yitzhak Rabin. One thing comes to mind…You go, Bibi!
If you wish to be notified when Rabbi Averick’s new columns appear, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and simply write the word Subscribe in the subject bar. Rabbi Moshe Averick is an orthodox rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order: The Confused and Illusory World of the Atheist. It is available on Amazon.com and Kindle. Rabbi Averick can be reached via his website.