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The Rabin assassination– and the immunity of rightwing Jewish terrorists

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments


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.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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19 Responses

  1. just
    just
    October 12, 2013, 11:58 am

    Well, that’s pretty telling.

    Some Israelis are terrorists, and other Zionists and their supporters don’t want to speak about it or even recognize or REMEMBER the truth.

    Nasty. It appears that the “rightwing” in in power. Sorta like right here at home.

    (thanks, Phil.)

  2. amigo
    amigo
    October 12, 2013, 12:09 pm

    “QA seventh person, Margalit Har-Sheffi, was trying to get Yigal Amir halachaic permission to murder Rabin;”

    Huh, I thought Israel was a democrisy.

    Next thing will be Rabbis deciding who gets citizenship.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      October 12, 2013, 2:40 pm

      Israel is such a ghetto. Thugs run the joint. Don’t annoy the right wing or they’ll turn violent. And Lapid says he lives an idea. The idea is that violence pays.

    • Mike_Konrad
      Mike_Konrad
      October 12, 2013, 6:43 pm

      Next thing will be Rabbis deciding who gets citizenship.

      In a way they do. They can decide who is Jewish under the law of return.

      • amigo
        amigo
        October 13, 2013, 8:23 am

        Mike , I am well aware they do.I was being pejorative.

  3. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    October 12, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Not to forget that Israelis are also free to murder Americans with impunity: USS Liberty, Rachael Corrie, Furkan Dogan, Alex Odeh…

    The FBI knows the names of the Israeli Jews who murdered Alex Odeh in Los Angeles, 1985. They live in a West Bank settlement but the Zionist juggernaut has stood in the way of their extradition for 28 years.

    • just
      just
      October 12, 2013, 4:08 pm

      What murdering. miscreant, fervent zionist has ever been held to account?

      None.

  4. Keith
    Keith
    October 12, 2013, 4:52 pm

    What wasn’t discussed, and what I would like to emphasize, is how unpopular Rabin was with US Jewish Zionists when it appeared that he was taking baby steps for peace. Make no mistake, US Jewish Zionists support Israel to the extent that it conforms to their desires for a militarized Jewish state. I seriously doubt that an Israel seeking peace and justice would receive much US Zionist support. Israel’s rightward drift, expansionary policies, and abuse of the Palestinians has been aided and abetted by US Zionist Jews. Below is a comment I made several months ago to that effect.

    “Why you and other Mondoweissers tend to belittle US Zionist influence on Israel is a bit of a mystery. The notion that the people who effectively lobby on Israel’s behalf and fund settlements, think tanks, birthright tours and campaign funding have little or no influence on Israeli policy is illogical. Everyone talks about the power of the Israel Lobby, which is based upon organization and money. A lukewarm Lobby ain’t going to be effective. Their opinions carry weight. Additionally, if American Jewish money is so effective buying US support for Israel, why would it not be equally effective influencing Israeli politicians? Why make a big to-do about Jewish Democratic campaign financing and ignore the 96.8% campaign financing Netanyahu got from foreign sources? http://mondoweiss.net/2012/10/step-aside-sheldon-adelson-one-florida-family-responsible-for-half-of-netanyahu-campaign-contributions.html It is virtually inconceivable that this type of support would be provided unless those providing it approved of Israel’s expansionist, militaristic policies and actions. How much US Zionist funding is the Israeli peace camp getting? He who pays the piper doesn’t have to call the tune. Successful pipers share their patron’s taste in music and automatically play mutually pleasing music.”
    http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/fayyad-warns-leftovers.html#comment-561055

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      October 13, 2013, 5:43 am

      Keith- “how unpopular Rabin was with US Jewish Zionists”.

      Would it be so difficult for you to put qualifiers on this statement. Like would it be so bad to be a bit more accurate and write “Rabin was unpopular with most US Jewish Zionists” or to refine it to an even a greater degree of accuracy: “Rabin was unpopular with the activist core of US Jewish Zionists.” Or based upon the campaign financing issue you raise in your 2nd paragraph, “Rabin was unpopular with the financial bigshots of the US Jewish Zionist movement.” Is there any reason (other than brevity or an attempt to paint with a broad stroke) why you spoke in generalities rather than with greater accuracy?

      • annie
        annie
        October 13, 2013, 5:03 pm

        yonah, he did qualify it somewhat: “unpopular Rabin was with US Jewish Zionists when it appeared that he was taking baby steps for peace.

        iow, he wasn’t always unpopular.

      • Keith
        Keith
        October 13, 2013, 5:48 pm

        YONAH FREDMAN- “Would it be so difficult for you to put qualifiers on this statement.”

        Yonah, the entire second paragraph quote adds considerable qualification to the initial statement. I am referring to those American Zionist Jews who provide the bulk of the support for Israel, both financially and politically, and who, as a consequence, have considerable influence on Israeli society and policies. If you are aware of significant numbers of American Jewish Zionist organizations which supported Rabin during this time, please inform us. My entire point is that Israel is to a significant degree the way it is because of American Jewish Zionist support for Israeli militarism and expansionism, and opposition to Israeli/Arab accommodation. You disagree?

  5. OlegR
    OlegR
    October 12, 2013, 7:45 pm

    /We all know that Yigal Amir killed Rabin. But we don’t know much about the broader conspiracy/

    Strange i don’t seem to see any broader conspiracy here .
    Nothing most Israelis don;t know already.
    Har Shefi was a famous case in which in the opinion of many people
    she was wrongly convicted in shaky case only because of the public outrage for the murder of Rabin and the hunger for “blood” so to speak.

    The three guys Gurvitz mentioned had no involvement in the Rabin murder,(which he admits)
    or they would have been arrested and probably convicted as well Har Shefi is a good example as to why.

    for some reason Gurvitz does not mention another important name if you want to talk conspiracies around Rabin’s murder.
    Avishay Raviv code name “Shampania” an agent (a provocateur) in the Jewish department of Shin Bet that knew Igal Amir and his brother and was tried
    and acquitted for the same crime Har Shefi was convicted.

  6. OlegR
    OlegR
    October 12, 2013, 7:56 pm

    “A group of three hesder guys is one thing. Six hesder guys, it’s a completely different”

    In 1995 after Rabin’s murder, what is Yossi talking about.
    The public was screaming
    for blood ,all of the security agencies and the legal apparatus were under immense pressure to bring results.The settler movement especially literally felt that they were blamed for the murder as a collective , and they were by the media and the intellectual left elite.(Still are btw)
    They would have arrested a 100 guys if they thought that they were involved let alone six.
    Just like in the case of the jewish underground in the 80’s.

  7. Hostage
    Hostage
    October 13, 2013, 4:08 am

    I had heard about the open conspiracy of incitement by Netanyahu and the Pulsa diNura ceremonial curse of death performed by the fanatical settler rabbis. But I never knew anyone else had been arrested and charged for aiding and betting or being accomplices of the shooter until I read this article. It is interesting that this information hasn’t been widely published, since the press is usually poring over the smallest details whenever a head of state gets murdered.

    • wondering jew
      wondering jew
      October 13, 2013, 5:13 am

      Hostage- “Open conspiracy of incitement by Netanyahu.” Please, let’s be clear. The idea that Amir killed Rabin because of something Netanyahu said is absurd.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        October 14, 2013, 1:13 am

        Hostage- “Open conspiracy of incitement by Netanyahu.” Please, let’s be clear. The idea that Amir killed Rabin because of something Netanyahu said is absurd.

        I didn’t say Netanyahu was part of a conspiracy with Amir. Netanyahu was heading up anti-Oslo events, including the parade at Raanana Junction. There were coffins which proclaimed that Rabin was responsible for murdering Israel or killing Zionism and protesters comparing him to a Nazi who deserved to be murdered or killed instead.

    • just
      just
      October 13, 2013, 5:52 am

      All of the “hush… hush” will come out. The dirty, filthy laundry will finally be aired.

      (Thanks to MW and so many voices for justice!)

  8. Henry Norr
    Henry Norr
    October 14, 2013, 2:00 am

    >>Max Blumenthal tells some of this story in Goliath.

    Max’s book is terrific – it’s the first book I’ve read that really gives some sense of the depth and breadth of Israeli Jewish racism – but as far as I can see, it has almost nothing about the Rabin assassination. I wonder why Gurvitz (or Phil?) doesn’t mention Israel Shahak’s “Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel,” which, if I’m remembering it correctly, focuses heavily on the assassination and the context that produced it.

    There’s also an interesting 2009 book called Jewish Terrorism in Israel, by Avi Pedahzur (now a professor at UT Austin) and Arie Perliger (who teaches at West Point!). They’re both Israelis – liberal Zionists, at best, I’d guess – and the book tends to focus on small groups and conspiracies, without paying much attention to the broader political culture in which they develop. It also has a certain amount of social-sciency BS I didn’t pay too much attention to. Still, for anyone interested in this topic, it’s got some choice info, not only about the Rabin assassination, but also about Kahane and the Kach movement, the “Beit Ayin group,” and other elements of the ultra-right racist underground.

    When I googled that book, I discovered that Pedahzur has written a couple of other books that might also be interesting: one called “The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism” (a revealing title – in my book the Israeli secret services are themselves terrorists!) and one from last year called “The triumph of Israel’s Radical Right.” The Amazon blurb for the latter suggests that the guy might be sharper than I’ve been giving him credit for:

    After analyzing what, exactly they [the Israeli right] believe in, he explains how mainstream Israeli policies like “the law of return” have nurtued their nativism and authoritarian tendencies. He then traces the right’s steady expansion and mutation, from the early days of the state to these days. Throughout, he focuses on the radical right’s institutional networks and how the movement has been able to expand its influence over policy making process. His closing chapter is grim yet realistic: he contends that a two state solution is no longer viable and that the vision of the radical rabbi Meir Kahane, who was a fringe figure while alive, has triumphed.

    • Henry Norr
      Henry Norr
      October 14, 2013, 6:05 pm

      Just for the record: I looked back at Shahak’s “Jesish Fundamentalism in Israel,” and I now have the answer to the question I posed in the first paragraph of my previous comment: the reason that Gurvitz (and Phil) didn’t mention that book as a source on the Rabin assassination is that, contrary to what I thought I remembered, that book doesn’t actually say much about the conspiracy. Sorry I didn’t check before posting that! It does have some chilling stuff, though, about assassination in Jewish history and about the rabbis who did so much to create the climate in which the Rabin murder plot was hatched.

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