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Conspiracy Theories Grow Over Killing of Israeli Leader

Report connects an Israeli agent to the 1995 murder of Prime Minister Rabin.

By Ilene R. PrusherSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / November 12, 1997



JERUSALEM

Israelis preparing to observe an official day of mourning Nov. 12 for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, shot two years ago at a peace rally in Tel Aviv, seem equally preoccupied with unearthing details about the assassination, which shook this nation like no other event in its short history.

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In addition to memorial ceremonies, the government releases Nov. 12 previously unpublished findings of a commission that investigated the Nov. 4, 1995, assassination. According to Israeli media reports, government officials who have read the Shamgar Commission report say the document reveals that an agent of the government security service, Shin Bet, urged the killer to shoot Mr. Rabin.

The aftermath of the Rabin assassination has been filled with more recrimination than reconciliation. The left wing, which cheered Rabin's move to trade land for peace with the Palestinians, blamed the right for staging endless, hateful protests in which Rabin was called a traitor and compared to a Nazi.

But now, the climate of blame seems likely to reach new heights as people who have been propagating conspiracy theories since Rabin's death have more fodder for arguments that the Nobel Peace Prize-winner was the victim of a government plot.

In fact, it is the conspiracy theorists who have pushed the Rabin investigation to the fore. Until two weeks ago, they were little more than fringe pamphleteers who made the lecture circuit in far right-wing circles. That was until the country became captivated by the suggestion that a government plot may be more than wild imaginings.

It started when Hatzofeh, a right-wing newspaper, ran a story on the eve of the anniversary highlighting a conspiracy theory being propagated on the Internet by a man named Uzi Barkan.

Soon, several members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government were calling for a follow-up and for the release of unpublished parts of the Shamgar report. They also want to prosecute Avishai Raviv, since most of the conspiracy theories revolve around him. A young right-wing activist notorious for leading rabid demonstrations and running summer camps for militant teenagers, Mr. Raviv had befriended assassin Yigal Amir, and, according to some, encouraged him to kill the prime minister. After the assassination, it became known that Raviv was an agent provocateur paid by Shin Bet to incite and inform on ultranationalists. He set up the right-wing group Eyal, which was a front to attract potential lawbreakers.

Israel's attorney general says he will consider indicting Raviv for failure to prevent a crime once he was aware of Mr. Amir's plans to assassinate Rabin.

Many Israelis decry talk of conspiracy as an insult to Rabin's memory and as an attempt of the right to absolve itself of collective guilt. To those who believe in Rabin's vision of peace, the only conspirators are the ultranationalist activists who created a climate of incitement, and right-wing rabbis who purportedly decreed Rabin a din rodef, an ancient Hebrew term for someone who is a danger and should be killed.

Many government officials brush off the apparent inconsistencies surrounding Rabin's murder, such as reminding the public how rare it is that every detail of any crime is clear or undisputed.

Some officials, including Mr. Netanyahu, opposed making the documents public because it would expose techniques of the intelligence services.

That, however, may be just what the public is after. The suggestion that Shin Bet planned Rabin's murder is "outlandish," says Chemi Shalev, an Israeli political analyst. "But the question of Raviv as an agent who somehow incited Amir, or whether the Shin Bet went too far in provoking incidents against the prime minister, that part of it is a question being asked by many people, even people on the left."