Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lessons from Yitzhak Rabin: The Boston Bombings

The memorial to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the city of Tel Aviv, is at the precise spot where he was killed. It is simple and unornamented: a churning pile of rock slabs, seemingly caught in the middle of some violent upheaval, is cordoned off by a small iron fence. Tiny discs of metal mark the participants in Rabin's last moments; a security guard there, a bystander here, the murderer standing two feet behind the prime minister, who was looking in the opposite direction. A simple plaque on a nearby pillar reads "Here, at this spot, on November 4th, 1995, Israel's Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. Peace shall be his legacy." 

Rabin may very well have been the best-ever hope for peace between Israel and Palestine. He signed a peace treaty with Jordan that has lasted through the present day, and he helped broker the Oslo Accords, creating a legitimate Palestinian governmental entity and giving it control over most of the Palestinian population. A zealous young Israeli, a far-right extremist, shot him dead after he'd finished giving a speech in Tel Aviv. 

The name of that extremist is on the Wikipedia page about the incident, and presumably emblazoned in 'most every account of the shooting afterwards. But at the Israeli memorial, there is no name. Every other disc has a name for its participant, but not the shooter. He is simply "the murderer", or perhaps "the assassin"; my memory is failing me and I have no photograph of it. That struck me at the time, and it's stuck with me since. The names of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth, among others, are carved into our national memory. We grant them a platform to espouse their ideas, however disgusting, that they have done nothing to deserve. The assassins of history do not deserve to be remembered for their crimes. We mourn our dead and grieve for innocent eras long past, but we should not honor the monsters, the mentally ill, the men with guns who crown our best in blood. 

As I write this, law enforcement agents apparently have at least one suspect for the criminal who loaded pressure cookers with nails and shrapnel. I say 'criminal', not 'terrorist', because the latter is a term loaded with fear while the former is society's runoff. Terrorists spread fear and panic in the pursuit of a political ideal, and I worry that we spread far too much fear and panic in hunting them down. Better to call the rictus grin that bombed the marathon a criminal, a twisted soul gripped by hatred and fear, than to fear him and his kind ourselves. 

Like the man who murdered Yitzhak Rabin, the bomber of the Boston Marathon does not deserve a name. He does not deserve the time he will receive at the center of our national consciousness, nor does he deserve the outpouring of fear and anger that the people of our country will inevitably direct upon him. Whether he was inspired (if you can call it that) by al-Qaeda, or whether he is simply the latest in a long and ugly parade of domestic terrorists, we should not be afraid of him. He and his kind are out there, and perhaps they always will be. And let us guard ourselves and be watchful, as best we possibly can, that such a horrible thing does not happen again. But we should not lash out in hatred and fear and rage against him, for that would only give him what he wanted. Let us instead follow the words of Yitzhak Rabin's memorial. Let peace be the legacy of the Boston bombings. And let us, by doing so, defeat this man and his ilk once today and a thousand times to come by showing them that we are not afraid, that the worst he can do is to gash us and to shock us, but that he can never crush our spirit. There is so much more good in that city, in this nation, in this world than the evil that he and his kind struggle to infect us with. Let us show him and show the world that we are stronger than he ever imagined, and in spite of him and all that he can do, that we are not afraid. 

The tomb of Yitzhak Rabin and his wife Leah, in Jerusalem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very well written. As someone from the U.S. currently living in Israel, this really resonated with me. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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