Last month I saw the writer/activist Yossi Gurvitz at a Tel Aviv cafe, and in seeking to explain to me how much influence rightwing extremists have inside the Israeli power structure, he described the conspiracy to kill Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995.
“This story rarely gets told,” he said.
We all know that Yigal Amir killed Rabin. But we don’t know much about the broader conspiracy. And while other conspirators were charged and convicted, Gurvitz said that the investigation was incomplete and feeble. If it had been vigorous, he said, it would have inflamed tensions inside Israeli society, and risked wider violence.
Above is a video. Gurvitz later wrote me a pithy summary of the points. First read this summary, then I’ll summarize the video. Gurvitz:
Three people were convicted of direct involvement in Rabin’s assassination: Yigal Amir, his brother Hagai Amir, and Dror ‘Adani, all former Hesder [religious] troops. Three other Hesder soldiers, known to the Amirs, were part of a second part of the Amir’s conspiracy, intended to murder Palestinians: Arik Schwartz, Michael Epstein and Ohad Skornik. They were involved in stealing weapons and explosives from the IDF for this purpose. Schwartz’s father, Dr. Naftali Schwartz, was arrested while trying to get rid of explosives his son has stolen.
A seventh person, Margalit Har-Sheffi, was trying to get Yigal Amir halachaic permission to murder Rabin; the rabbi she turned to, Shlomo Aviner, refused to provide it and was so alarmed – turns out he received several such requests – he wrote a public article titled “The Prime Minister is not an Erev Rav.” [a Jewish leader working against Jewish interests] Har-Sheffi also provided Amir with information about the armory in her settlement, Beit El if memory serves, since he wanted to break in and steal arms. Har-Sheffi was convicted of knowing about Amir’s plans to murder Rabin and keeping silent – the only person in Israel’s history indicted and convicted of failing to report a conspiracy to commit a crime. She claimed she didn’t know he was in earnest, but couldn’t explain her visit to Aviner. She was sentenced for a year and received a hero’s welcome when she was released.
None of the members of the second part of the ring were ever indicted – or, as far as I know, even drummed out of the army. Nobody wanted to know too much. One gunmen could be described as a lone nut; six, coming from the same yeshivas, could not. So the public preferred not to look to deeply. People were seriously concerned about the possibility of a civil war at the time.
For documentation: Gurvitz can only link to one of his own texts. “Israeli history prior to 1997-1998 pretty much does not exist on the net. I had to look at newspaper archives from the period.” Max Blumenthal tells some of this story in Goliath.
Now more, from the video. Gurvitz describes the outer group of conspirators, and Har-Sheffi’s attempts to get a rabbinical blessing. At least one rabbi granted it, but the three she went to were never investigated.
As to the official indifference: “A group of three hesder guys is one thing. Six hesder guys, it’s a completely different… When it comes to Jewish terrorism, the Israeli establishment is afraid. It will act onlywhen it has to, it will not investigate deeply, it will let people go off.
I asked, but if they crack down, what would happen?
“At the time I think they were afraid… doing a crackdown on the entire network would have led to either more assassinations, which was possible, or a widespread civil war.
It’s been forgotten. No one speaks about it, it’s gone.”
Nobody wants to speak about rightwing Jewish terrorism, he adds. Today the pricetag attacks, for demands made upon settlers, are isolated incidents. But the pricetag campaign is financed by a subdivision of the Yesha council of settlers, and has been going on for eight years. The victims are mostly Palestinian, though pricetag has also targeted Israeli left. These attacks could become deadly, if there were a crackdown on the rightwing.