Assassination and Education
This year it will be the 16th Memorial Day of the Assassination of Rabin. Every event that repeats itself year on year presents an educational challenge, but unlike traditional Jewish holy days, the shape of this Memorial Day is being formed in the here and now. And I ask myself what will make this Memorial Day into something different from other value-laden days like May Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Columbus Day? Is there anything to be learned from a political assassination? Did the world learn anything from Kennedy’s assassination? Martin Luther King’s?
Murder is a one-way action, almost a dichotomy, that happens when the only act available to a person is the most extreme of all. In this sense I think that there is hardly any point in saying “violence is bad”. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t know that violence is forbidden. No one raises a hand to another, or sees one raised at himself who thinks that is a righteous act. We may choose to ignore the violence of others, but only through fear or indifference, not approval.
On the other hand, between agreeing with a leader’s opinions, and murder, lies a complex grey area. This grey area can contain the educational message, since it contains within it the complex choices a “non-murdering” person faces when they wish to shape their land for their children. The posters in the street before the assassination that called Rabin a murderer, did not refer to actual murder that he had or had not committed, but instead to the feeling of murderous pain that his opponents felt when they saw their country being stolen from under their noses.
So what are the limits to permissible resistance in a democracy? What can one do when one feels that a person or a leader, addressing issues painfully close to one’s heart, advances the opposite approach to that which one desires? What opposition is permitted? A demonstration? And if that demonstration leads to the destruction of property in order to attract the attention of the media, is that permitted? What about 24 hour demonstrations outside the home of the public official, that does not allow him or his family to sleep?
Is theft from the government permissible? (Not paying particular taxes?) Is a violent rebellion against the regime legitimate? Would one’s answers to these questions be different were we living in a fascist state? If one were an oppressed minority? If one were living under a leadership that seems to trample one’s rights underfoot?
How far does one go in a hopeless situation?
It may well be that these kinds of questions – inviting a range of value-rich answers – are more fruitful than “do you think it was wrong to murder the Prime Minister?”