Violence

Thomas Friedman: Trump’s rhetoric is reminiscent of the kind that led to Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination

Donald Trump‘s insinuation that “maybe the second amendment people can do something about Hillary Clinton” was proof for many of how dangerous, reckless, and unfit to lead the Republican presidential nominee is. According to a New York Times op-ed by Thomas Friedman, similar remarks are exactly what led to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

In the wake of signing historic peace accords with the Palestinians and Jordan, the Israeli right wing attacked Rabin and slandered him with poisonous rhetoric, accusing him of treason in order to turn the public against him. Some agree that then-Likud leader (and future prime minister) Benjamin Netanyahu was complicit in fanning the outrage, accusing Rabin of being “removed from Jewish tradition… and Jewish values.”

Eventually, Jewish extremist Yigar Amir took the rhetoric a step further. On November 4, 1995, he shot Rabin in the back as the Prime Minister was walking to his car after participating in a peace rally. As Friedman says, Amir felt “he had permission from a whole segment of Israel’s political class.”

In September, I wrote a column warning that Donald Trump’s language toward immigrants could end up inciting just this kind of violence. I never in my wildest dreams, though, thought he’d actually — in his usual coy, twisted way — suggest that Hillary Clinton was so intent on taking away the Second Amendment right to bear arms that maybe Second Amendment enthusiasts could do something to stop her. Exactly what? Oh, Trump left that hanging.

Friedman goes on to mention the new documentary film Rabin: The Last Day, by director Amos Gitai, released just in time for the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination.

As The Times’s Isabel Kershner reported from Israel when the film was released, it “is unambiguous about the forces it holds responsible” — the extremist rabbis and militant settlers who branded Rabin a traitor, the right-wing politicians who rode the “wave of toxic incitement against Mr. Rabin as they campaigned against the Oslo accords,” and the security services that failed to heed the warnings that the incitement could get out of hand.

“Mr. Rabin is almost invisible in the first two hours of the film,” she reported. “Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader at the time, is shown in now-infamous historical footage addressing a feverish right-wing rally from a balcony in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, as protesters below shouted for the death of Rabin — the ‘traitor’ — and held up photomontage posters of him dressed in an SS uniform.”

According to Friedman, Netanyau still claims he never saw posters or heard the protesters’ slogans.

Friedan closed by quoting Chemi Salev, who wrote in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in the wake of the Republican National Convention:

“Like the extreme right in Israel, many Republicans conveniently ignore the fact that words can kill. There are enough people with a tendency for violence that cannot distinguish between political stagecraft and practical exhortations to rescue the country by any available means. If anyone has doubts, they could use a short session with Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, who was inspired by the rabid rhetoric hurled at the Israeli prime minister in the wake of the Oslo accords.”

You can read Thomas Friedman’s full NYT op-ed here.

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