Israel's far right advances conspiracy theory on Rabin’s murder

The statement by professor Mordechai Kedar about Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin not being assassinated by Yigal Amir should sound the alarm over the radicalization of the Israeli right wing and the proliferation of conspiracy theories.

al-monitor Israeli scholar Mordechai Kedar, seen in a photo taken Aug. 21, 2015. Photo by Wikipedia.
Shlomi Eldar

Shlomi Eldar


Topics covered

shin bet, benjamin netanyahu, right wing, assassination, yitzhak rabin, conspiracy theories

Oct 31, 2019

Conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin have been around almost since the night of the assassination on November 4, 1995. They have increased and expanded, however, as the “weeds” — the radical right elements — gained legitimacy under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successive governments. The conspiracy theory was heard again this week, and it was not from disciples of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a group that even the far right has considered marginal for the past two decades. This time, it was voiced by a well-known professor, Orientalist Mordechai Kedar.

Kedar is a senior lecturer at Bar Ilan University and has accumulated quite a following over the past few years. He is admired by the radical right not only for his extensive knowledge but mainly because he uses that knowledge and his title to interpret certain facts in a way that is in accordance with his extreme right-wing views.

These days, even Netanyahu’s most ardent supporters — the ones who see him as a victim of the left, the media and the justice system, all of which supposedly want to eliminate him politically — find a common language with Kedar. That is why he was invited to deliver a speech at a demonstration that took place Oct. 29 near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit — the man who will ultimately decide whether Netanyahu will be indicted.

It is probably worth noting that at almost the exact same time as Netanyahu's speech, Justice Minister Amir Ohana delivered a speech of his own, lashing out against the State Prosecution’s Office and breathing new life into the conspiracy theory of a deep state that is plotting all sorts of devious schemes. He called it "a prosecutor’s office within the State Prosecutor’s Office."

“The person who murdered Rabin is a man with the initials ‘Yud Resh.’ The person behind this thing was apparently a leading politician who wanted to eliminate Yitzhak Rabin because he wanted to exit the Oslo Accord. From here, I call to remove the deceitful ‘top secret’ title from the documents that don’t line up with the theory that the right murdered Rabin. It is about time. For 24 years the right has been tarnished, my Bar-Ilan University has been tarnished, we have all been tarnished because of something that, perhaps, Yigal Amir didn’t do. And he is sitting in solitary confinement. Why solitary? So that he won’t tell the truth to anyone,’’ Kedar said.

Hundreds of demonstrators cheered, proving there are still quite a few people who believe this ridiculous conspiracy theory. But now it is being voiced by the well-known Orientalist with an international reputation and who appears regularly on Al Jazeera because of his fluent Arabic. And so, the many hundreds of people who came to demonstrate on behalf of acquitting Netanyahu of all the charges against him were also treated to a speech demanding the right be acquitted for its incitement leading up to Rabin’s assassination. According to Kedar, the assassination was not the result of incitement but of a plot by a well-known politician on the left — could he mean late President Shimon Peres? — who wanted to prevent Israel from withdrawing from the Oslo Accord. It is also worth mentioning that the initials Y.R. that he mentioned explicitly refer to a member of Rabin’s security detail named Yoram Rubin, who tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the prime minister on the way to the hospital. This conspiracy theory about Rubin has been evoked before, which is why the reference to Y.R. is unambiguous. The same is true for the unmasked hint about Peres.

A long list of people and institutions condemned Kedar. This included condemnations from his own Bar Ilan University, which summoned him to a hearing, and even condemnation from Netanyahu himself. On the other hand, it is worth noting that Netanyahu is also responsible for efforts to weaken and harm official state institutions, giving rise to the delusional conspiracy theories like the one espoused by Kedar. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, one effective tool in his struggle to maintain power and keep the Prime Minister’s Office for himself in order to avoid criminal prosecution is to rail against anyone who does not support him and his position as prime minister. Based on this approach, all of his opponents are enemies of the state who want to harm its security and collaborate with an enemy that wants to destroy it. The left is plotting against him, the police and the courts are taking action to depose him even though he did nothing wrong, and the “hostile” media is cooperating with his persecutors in order to bring him down. A conspiracy theory claiming that the right is not responsible for the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin would fit right in to this stew. It wasn’t someone on the right who killed Rabin. It was a member of the Shin Bet acting on orders from a left-wing politician in order to move ahead with the Oslo Accord.

The fear that a movement will rise one day to demand the assassin’s release is what caused the Knesset to pass the Yigal Amir Law (2001), initiated by former Knesset member Avshalom Vilan of the Meretz Party. The law, which passed with an overwhelming majority, determines that the parole board cannot recommend clemency or a reduced sentence for the assassin of a prime minister. Knesset member Michael Kleiner of the Herut party (forerunner of the Likud), who opposed the law, claimed that its intent was to present the right as wanting to grant clemency to Amir and this was “a direct continuation of their attempt to accuse the entire right of assassinating Rabin.”

Back then, Kleiner could not imagine there would ever be people in Israel whose goal it is to obtain the assassin’s release. He was wrong. There have been two efforts in the past year alone, which underscores how right Vilan and everyone else who supported the law really was.

The first move was an attempt to form a right-wing political party before the September election to run on the platform of releasing Amir from prison. The party even had a name, Nura DiLiba (“Fire of the Heart” in Aramaic, corresponding with Pulsa DiNura, or “Lashes of Fire,” the name of the mystical curse that certain extremist rabbis placed on Rabin’s head). Amir even managed to call right-wing activist and rapper Yoav Eliasi (known as “the Shadow”) to try to convince him to support the new party. The Shadow turned down the request in disgust, and the party ended up not running.

The second move occurred before the April election when Netanyahu whitewashed and exonerated the students of Rabbi Meir Kahane and pushed their Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party into the arms of HaBayit HaYehudi in an effort to unite the right. One candidate on that list, Itamar Ben Gvir, had boasted when he was younger that, despite security, he was able to rip the emblem off Rabin’s car, adding a promise that he would also reach the prime minister himself one day.

This week marks 24 years since the assassination of Rabin. In the campaign to shape the image of the State of Israel, it seems as if quite a few “weeds” have been allowed to grow wild.

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