Some 85,000 people turned out for the annual rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night, November 4, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. This year the rally’s organizers tried to emphasize “national unity” instead of the event’s traditional focus on peace.
Orthodox right-wing extremist Yigal Amir shot Rabin to death on November 4, 1995, at the end of an event the then-prime minister held to demonstrate public support for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians. In the following days, and every year since, on the Saturday evening closest to the date of Rabin’s political murder tens of thousands of Israelis have gathered in Rabin Square, as it was renamed, to pay their respects.
In stark contrast to previous years, the organizers of this year’s rally – the groups Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security – sought in their advertisements before the event to “avoid politics,” and focused on “national unity” and omitted any mention of peace, assassination or Palestinians.
Hadash MKs, among them Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh and Dov Khenin, objected to the absence of any messages related to peace at the rally, as well as the organizers’ refusal to mention the fascist incitement that led to Rabin’s murder 22 years ago. In an effort to attract people from outside the left to the annual rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, organizers refused to let any national politicians address the crowd.
In keeping with the “nonpartisan” theme of the organizers, three settlers were scheduled to address the center-left crowd – Oded Revivi, head of the Efrat Municipal Council in the Etzion Bloc, Esther Brot, a resident of the Ofra settlement who was evicted from her home after the Supreme Court ruled that it was built on Palestinian property, and Micah Goodman, the director of the Ein Prat Midrasha in the settlement of Alon. Because of the protests about Brot’s presence, she canceled her attendance before the event. When Revivi spoke, he was received with loud boos and drumming from thousands of young left-wing activists.
Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a coexistence group, and an activist in Hadash, said that he was both “Israeli and Palestinian, and [I] am speaking to you today in the name of both these identities, in the understanding that they don’t negate each other… As an Israeli, I demand shared and equal citizenship; as a Palestinian, I seek the end of the occupation of members of my people who live without rights in territories under my country’s control,” he continued, adding that Rabin’s murder was aimed at undermining precisely these two goals.
During the rally, Meretz flew banners and flags, as did the anti-settlement movement Peace Now. Young Communist League activists and Hadash members, with red flags, also participated in the rally.
As in previous years, Breaking the Silence – which publishes anonymous testimonies about Israel’s military occupation over the West Bank – Hadash Communist Party of Israel, Standing Together and Peace Now, set up stands at the rally, after organizers initially turned them away.
In response to how this year’s organizers tried to dilute the left-wing roots of the event, Ido Even-Paz, a leftist activist belonging to the controversial organization Breaking the Silence, which publishes anonymous testimonies about Israel’s military control over the West Bank, created a satirical Facebook forum entitled “Rabin’s murder – For and Against.” “If you want to include everyone in the conversation – which is what Darkenu and Commanders for Israel’s Security is doing – then why not include the people who were in favor of the murder? They can speak at the memorial for Rabin, because it is no longer considered political. What’s worse, those who believe the murder was justified, are welcome, as is their despicable incitement,” he said.