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VIEWPOINT : ASSASSINATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST : The Soul of Israel Is Now Darkened by Rabin’s Blood

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

By claiming that he was prompted to act by God, the gunman accused of cutting down Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin not only defied the democratic tradition of the state of Israel, he went against the soul of what it means to be a Jew. To see a Jewish person claiming moral and spiritual justification for such an act is insulting.

Once the state of Israel was formed by David Ben Gurion in 1948, it was a given that it would be a society that would not tolerate terrorism. It would be a democracy where people would disagree through the ballot box and not bullets.

There has always been an agreement among Jews that because we waited 2,000 years for a state, the state would be based on respect.

The prediction of the Prophet Isaiah was that when Israel became a nation it would emanate light unto the nations of the world. This act renders darkness on the world. It isn’t what Israel is about. It isn’t what Judaism is about.

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The first act of violence in the Bible was when Cain slew his brother Abel. God asked, “Where is Abel thy brother?” To which Abel replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God answered that “the blood of your brother crieth to me from the ground.”

I interpret this to mean that no excuse can alter the fact of killing your brother. To load a gun, attend a peace rally and shoot an unarmed man who has just sung a peace song, then claim it as an act of God, defies the teachings of Judaism.

Your brother crieth to me from the ground.

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The Talmud states that he who sustains a human being sustains an entire world. And he who destroys a human being destroys an entire world.

The great medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides implored us to take the Golden Path of moderation. Jews have lived with that motto.

The Jews have always been an optimistic people. People ask me all the time why we did not rebel against the Nazis. The answer I often give is that Jews refused to believe that others could postulate such violence against other human beings, because we are people brought up along the Golden Path.

In their psyche, it was impossible for the concentration camp prisoners to believe someone was prepared to execute them in a gas chamber.

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The founders of Israel believed it would be the ultimate response to the Holocaust that the free Jewish state would renounce violence.

Menachem Begin was a leader of the underground, but he recognized that when Israel became a state he would have to give it all up. Begin exchanged the clothes of an underground leader to become a parliamentary leader of the opposition party, and remained in that mode through his entire career.

Israelis must talk to each other, maybe in town meetings, to find out what it is that is tearing at their soul. They must discover what produces citizens willing to kill a prime minister over a matter of national policy.

No democracy can afford to remain silent in the face of such extremists. A society has to ask what is giving birth to such thinking. In Israel, one must ask who made the false claims that there is a place in Judaism for such extremism.

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Hier is dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, an international organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry.


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