November 13, 2011-Iranian Missile Bases Exposion, Rabin Memorial Rally, Women's Sing In and Syria
The big news of the day is the "mysterious" explosion at the Revolutionary Guard base that housed Iran's main missile program. Among those killed was the head of the program, one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard. Iran claims the explosion was the result of an accident. Though, let's see... What is the likelihood there would be an explosion at Iran's main missile base, timed to kill the head of the program? Who is behind the blast? I will let you, my readers, speculate. However, all you have to ask yourself is who had the most to gain?
Of course, what is the difference between an air strike that destroys a missile base and a bomb? In the first case, you can start a war with unintended consequences. In the second case, the enemy is left to claim that you did it. Not bad.
Last night was the memorial rally to commemorate the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, held annually in Rabin Square. In advance of the memorial there was concern that after a summer of demonstrations the public would not turn out for a more traditional “peace rally”, even one held in Rabin's memory. It was the first memorial I attended for Rabin, and towards the end of the ceremony, during a minute of silence, I was moved to tears (but more on that in a moment.)
A number of things struck me over the course of the evening. The first thing that struck me was how young the crowd was. The majority of those assembled were, with out question, too young to remember that fateful night, or any part of the life of Rabin. The commemoration last night combined a selection of songs (some of which I have posted on my Facebook page), together with a number of speeches. The speeches had two themes; one was centered on protesting what was clearly described as "the terror of the right" (particularly, what was referred to as a "ta'ag meh'cheer" (price tag), which have manifested in the form of recent attacks on both Palestinian and/or Israeli targets, every time an action is taken against the settlers.
The second issue, is the continued unwillingness of the right to take any responsibilithy for these attacks. One religious woman from Bnei Brak spoke about how she came from a part of the National Religious World that no longer exists. She detailed how after the assassination she wanted to move to the center, to not be identified as much with "the religious". She described the group which she considered herself a member of as "Dati Lite" ("Religious lite"). As she stated, the vast majority of the National Religious have moved the other way, into what she called "the Haredi Nationalists".
Finally, the last repeating theme was the need for a succeor to Rabin. Speakers called for a strong leader who could make decisions, one who had Rabin's sense of the world. As Yossi Sarid stated (in a speech that was a bit too long), Rabin believed in force, but understood that limits of force; Rabin also knew we could win every battle, but ultimately lose the war. Unfortunately I fear the cry for new leaders is going to be difficult. There was some hope that the necessary leadership could come from the summers' protest organizers. However, having met some of them, that seems very unlikely. (It is actually an interesting phenomenon that all the protest movements this year seem to share-- be they the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, the protestors in Cairo, or those in Tel Aviv, they all lack strong leadership.
The fact is this country desperately needs a new Rabin or a new Ben Gurion. Unfortunately, it is unlikely Israel will either any time soon. It was interesting to see how the media covered the Rabin memorial rally. The right-leaning Jerusalem Post stated that the rally was "sparsely" attended. The left leaning Ha'Aretz reported that thousands attended. The organizers of the evening claimed there were 100,000 participants. The truth is in the middle. When we first arrived at the rally (at the start time), Rabin Square was quite empty. However, the square quickly filled. Note: the ceremony began 1/2 and hour later than publicized. My best guess is that there were between 30-40,000 people in the square last night.
One final thought on Yitzchak Rabin, and this one is personal. One of my favorite memories is of the time, in 1990, when I spoke to a gathering of over 500 visitors to Israel, at the Mt. Scopus amphitheater-- the same place Rabin gave his very famous post-1967 speech to the leadership of the Israeli army. The speaker who followed me was, then Defense Minister, Rabin.
Finally, I remember the day 14 years or so earlier, when I was home on leave from the army and the phone rang in my Jerusalem apartment. On the other side of the phone was Leah Rabin, the Prime Minister's wife. She had met my mother at an Israel Bond breakfast and just wanted to call to give me her regards.
Last night's rally was not the only one I have attended lately. The day before I attended a rally that was more of a sing-in, the purpose of which was to protest the recent attempts in various areas, (whether in the army or on bus stop in Jerusalem) to bar either the voices or images of women from the public view. This rally which took place at the Tel Aviv Musuem was one of six taking place throughout the country.
This problem is part of a much larger problem of the constant rightward movement of major sectors of the Orthodox world, and their attempt to impose their medieval norms on the rest of the society. This is one of the major challenges facing this country, and I will be exploring the issue further in the coming weeks.
The Arab League has expelled Syria. Assad has been far from a favorite of the Sunni dominated League for a long time. Its alignment with Iran and support for the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon have long tried the patience of many of the leagues members. They were willing to give Assad cover with his crackdown on the demonstrators. The Arab League just wanted Assad to give them cover as well; by pulling back some of his troops. Instead, Assad chose to intensify the attacks. Today alone 23 demonstrators were killed. It is possible for Assad to can kill all of his opposition. However, it is more likely he will end up like Qaddafi, sooner or later.