On Saturday night, November 5th, tens of thousands of people attended the annual Rabin Memorial Rally at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. This was one of the largest turnouts in years, and came after the event was nearly cancelled due to lack of funds.
The massive turnout is a response to growing incitement from the past year.
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog told the crowd: “Tonight we go out to war for democracy. Tonight we go out to war for the state. Twenty-one years ago they promised to change, to learn a lesson, to do soul searching. Twenty-one years ago they watched over as gangs of thugs hung images of Rabin in an S.S. uniform, and they said nothing. After 21 years, they are silent again, turning a blind eye again. After 21 years, hatred rears its head, and incitement is here again. The hatred is the same hatred, the incitement is the same incitement, and the leader is the same leader.”
Tzipi Livni also drew attention to the problem of incitement: “We have come this year to prevent the next political murder. They have called too many people traitors this year. This evening is the response to our children who will ask us: ‘Where were you when Israel became a country where speaking out was not allowed, a country in which peace and democracy are considered bad words?”
Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam spoke about Rabin’s struggle for peace: “We are so different from one another but we are all people and we must walk Rabin’s path of peace and realize his vision. After decades of war and hatred, we deserve to live in love and peace. We must put an end to war, before war puts an end to our lives.”
In the run-up to the rally, there was outrage following remarks by coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud), who said that Rabin’s murder was “not political.” NIF was among the many who responded to his comments, saying that “Rabin’s murder was a political murder – and none of the attempts to deny this reality will help. We remember the terrible wave of hatred and incitement that led to the murder 21 years ago, and we know that we’re not allowed to remain silent in the face of the current wave of incitement. We, the many who attended the memorial, and hundreds of thousands more who supported it from home, will continue to make our voices heard everywhere in the public arena: when they try to harm the freedom of the press, when they try to intimidate officers, judges or social activists, or to incite against minorities.”