In November 1995, after addressing a pro-peace rally in a stadium in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was returning to his car in the parking garage underneath the arena when three shots rang out. Rabin was hit twice, and when surgery to save his life was unsuccessful, Israel's leader had become the latest victim of the Middle East's seemingly never-ending cycle of violence. The assassin, however, was not a Palestinian seeking revenge over Israeli atrocities in the West Bank, but a fellow Israeli, a talmudic scholar named Yigal Amir. The illusion of solidarity in Israel--the small nation staunchly united against its surrounding enemies--was ruptured beyond repair.
As Karpin and Friedman describe the days and months leading up to Rabin's assassination, it becomes apparent that a confrontation between Israel's secular majority and its ultra-orthodox religious zealots had long been imminent. The 1993 signing of the Oslo Agreement, which began the process of returning the West Bank to Palestinian rule, provided the impetus for a violent tear in the fabric of Israeli society. Amir's story is painstakingly reconstructed, from his early initiation in zealotry to his current status in jail--serving a life sentence, but still intensely proud, even boastful, of his deed. The authors also show how the political gap has dramatically widened with the religious right's strengthening of its position in Israel's government since Rabin's killing. This is a chilling and sobering journalistic account that anyone with an interest in Middle East affairs simply must read, and soon. --Tjames Madison
From Publishers Weekly
Two years after the assassination of their prime minister, Israeli journalists Karpin and Friedman have produced not only a chilling profile of the murderer but also an expose of the right-wing zealotry that created him. Throughout, they illustrate the collision between the classic Zionist vision of a democratic, humane Jewish state as a refuge for the oppressed, and religious-nationalist Zionism, which demands theocracy and Jewish occupation of the entire biblical Land of Israel as a prerequisite for the messianic age. Opponents of the 1993 Oslo agreement set out to sabotage the peace accords?first by conventional protests, then by a deliberate campaign of demonization waged against Rabin. With few exceptions, according to the authors, the mainstream right (led by Benjamin Netanyahu) failed to condemn the excesses of extremists and in many cases collaborated with them. Karpin and Friedman further contend that radical rabbis (in Israel and the U.S.) distorted ancient Jewish legal concepts to give religious sanction to "murder in the name of God." Even after the assassination, they say, Israel failed to confront adequately the societal cleavages that had made the unthinkable a reality. The authors debunk the various conspiracy theories concocted by the right to blame Rabin and Shimon Peres for the murder. The left, they argue, refused to call to account the extremist rabbis who ruled that Judaism permitted the murder of Rabin and who declined to expose evidence linking Netanyahu to the provocateurs. Karpin and Friedman have filled this void with a sober examination of the historical record and a plea that Israelis learn the lessons from one of their country's greatest tragedies.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.