RABIN, the Last Day

Venice, Sept 10, 2015 – Twenty years after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was
assassinated a documentary screened at the 72nd Venice Film Festival this week pointed
the finger at a complex conspiracy to kill the man who signed the Oslo peace accord and
so returned part of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
                      Rabin died amid the indifference of the country’s security apparatus and
the shrill shouts for his death by ultra-orthodox Jewish organizations and rabbis who
declared a Jewish ‘fatwa’ or ‘rodef’ on the Prime Minister. After that he became a
marked man and should have been closely guarded. But the assassin, Yigal Amir, 26,
simply walked through a non-existent security cordon after a massive peace rally. Amir
later boasted to police he came so close to the Prime Minister ‘I could have touched him.’  
Instead he fired three bullets into Rabin’s back.
                     Even then, mortally wounded and clumsily shoved into his official
limousine, the conspiracy ensured the bleeding man would take eight instead of two
minutes to reach a hospital that was only 500 meters away. Rabin was still alive. But
he arrived too late. He had lost too much blood during the unexplained ‘slow ride.’
                     For reasons only he knows veteran Israeli film maker Amos Gitai
waited twenty years (perhaps to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the assassination
on November 4) to film ‘Rabin, the Last Day.’ Using actors to play the part of witnesses
at the official inquiry and the police interrogation the 153-minute long documentary
meticulously details the contradicting evidence and testimonials offered at an official
inquest and during police interrogation as well as startling news film shot at the scene of
the assassination which reveals the baffling absence of security measures.
                    Needless to say the government inquest by three judges, all wearing
skull caps, buried the case with the banal excuse it was not their job to find culprits
and besides no one broke the law apart from the assassin.
                    What the inquest whitewashed or did not want to see was the hatred,
fomented by official speeches against Rabin, an anti-Rabin frenzy stoked by political
opportunism that reached a point where people spat at the Prime Minister in the street,
deviled him as a ‘traitor’ and raised posters portraying him in Nazi uniform. Psychiatrists
compared him to Hitler and ultra-orthodox Rabbis invoked the Torah which they said
condemned to death anyone who gives away Jewish land – as Rabin did at Oslo.   
                      Not much has changed since 1995. Some of the same faces are still in
power and each year the West Bank shrinks as more Jewish settlers move in. The
rightwing Zionist Likud party governs Israel supported by the ultra-orthodox parties,
many of them fanatical religious fundamentalists. The Palestinians are still waiting for
statehood, their rights and a valid peace effort.
                     Gitai’s film, better late then never, is certain to shake Israeli society and
will cause some sleepless nights to those political leaders, among them current Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fingered as provocateurs in the film who helped foment a
political climate of violence that made the assassination inevitable in a country
already split  between those seeking peace and those who oppose any concession to the
Palestinians. ‘Rabin, the Last Day’ is also a kick in the groin for those who still believe
peace is possible in a nation dominated by militant religious zealots and uncompromising
                     In fact the difference between Islamic and Jewish fundamentalism is
minimal and the real villain in the documentary is not the psychopathic killer -
indoctrinated by ultraorthodox rabbis quoting the Torah - but the political scoundrels
who hide behindZionist and religious principles and so ensure anyone who acts contrary
to these religious and political credos is likely to share Rabin’s fate.
                Hailed by critics here this week as the best film at the 2015 Venice Film
Festival Gitai’s ‘Rabin, the Last Day’ has exposed the huge abyss that still divides Israeli
society today, as it did then. In a startling compilation of evidence the finger of guilt also
points at a security apparatus and a judiciary that did not fulfill its obligation as an
independent guardian of the nation and its institutions.

Uli Schmetzer was a foreign correspondent for 37 years who periodically covered events in Israel. He is the author of
four books, all available on Amazon.com and Kindle.