Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination
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The 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin didn’t happen “out of tire blue,” according to this extremely well researched and written study. Sprinzhak (political Sscience/Hebrew Univ.; The Ascendance of Israel’s Radical Right, 1991) touches on other pockets of violence in Israel’s history, but his primary focus, is on violence by the political extreme right, beginning with the underground groups known as Irgun and the Stern Gang during the 5-year-long revolt against British rule (1944-48) and continuing to the present day. He shows how, after the 1967 Six Day War and in such figures as the late Meir Kahane, Baruch Goldstein (the 1994 murderer of more than 29 Arabs praying at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron), and Yigal Amir (Rabie’s assassin), an uncompromising nationalism was fused with a religious orthodoxy that dehumanized Arabs while also delegitimizing and demonizing Israel’s leaders. Some rabbis spoke of Rabin according to the traditional heinous halakhic (Jewish legal) categories or rodef and moser (respectively, a person who pursu es another with intent to kill, and a Jew who Informs on other Jews to the gentile authorities). Yet despite the sharp rise in political violence, Sprinzhak feels that, given the foreign and domestic pressures Israel experiences, things could be far worse. He argues that Israeli political life is in fact marked by relative restraint and that a violent civil war remains only a remote possibility, a major reason for this being “the stiff Halakhic prohibitions against domestic violence and even more so, the powerful psychosocial system of self-control and fear of civil war developed and experienced in the Diaspora.” Sprinzak’s guarded optimism about the durability of Israel’s parliamentary democracy is well earned, coming as it does after a clear, thoughtful historical and phenomenological look at the prevalence of rhetorical and behavioral extremism In Israeli political life. (On this same subject, see also Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman, Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin, p. 1436.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85344-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998


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