Well known progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), in a shock move to her supporters, was set to attend an event which is to commemorate the legacy of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But after pressure from Pro-Palestinian activists and prominent Palestinian figures in the US, cancelled attending the event.
For most in the West Yitzhak Rabin is remembered as a hero of peace, who took the step towards achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians. Most remember the images of former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Yasser Arafat, on the white house lawn shaking the hand of Yitzhak Rabin, signing the Oslo Accords. But for Palestinians and for the people of the Global South, Yitzhak Rabin is remembered for a very different record he left behind.
The event that AOC was set to attend on the 20th of October, is being set up by a pro-Israel group ‘Americans for Peace Now’, where it is doubtful that they will detail the record of horrifying war crimes and racism which he left behind.
As AOC has now cancelled the event, it is especially relevant that people understand the true record of Yitzhak Rabin. First starting with the Nakba, or the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, between 1947-1949 saw the mass expulsion of approximately 800,000 Palestinians from their homelands.
During the course of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, several dozen massacres were committed against largely unnarmed Palestinian civilians, with perhaps the bloodiest of all being the massacre committed during the Lydda-Ramle death march, in which approximately 70,000 Palestinians were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle, as well as from surrounding villages. Yitzhak Rabin was directly implicated in this massacre, signing off on the order to expel the people of Lydda and surrounding areas. To quote the Israeli Right Wing Historian, Benny Morris, “ Israeli soldiers threw grenades into houses they suspected snipers were hiding in. Residents ran out of their homes in panic and were shot. Yeruham Cohen, an IDF intelligence officer, said around 250 died between 11:30 and 14:00 hours.”. It is also important to note that Benny Morris only quotes Israeli sources and does not include the oral history of the survivors, which detail the horrific executions and torture of Palestinians.
One may say that the 1948 Lydda-Ramle death march was long ago, so he may have repented and become a changed man, but that is far from the truth. In 1967 Yitzhak Rabin, whilst head of Israel’s military, was responsible for the destruction of three more villages and the expulsion of their inhabitants.
But what about his record outside of Palestine you may ask, well this is also a troubling thing to honour also when “remembering the legacy” of Yitzhak Rabin also. For example, in 1976 Yitzhak Rabin threw a Banquet for the Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, John Vorster, expressing that Israel and Apartheid South Africa both faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness”, he then went on to praise Apartheid South Africa and hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa”.
But surely one would argue, his record must have gotten better over time. In fact the only thing that seemed to happen, was that Yitzhak Rabin garnered a larger Arab body count. In 1987 the first Intifada (uprising) occurred in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, in which over 1,000 Palestinians were massacred in what was overwhelmingly an unarmed uprising. The policy introduced by Yitzhak Rabin, then Minister of War, in mid-January of 1988 was one of what he described as “force, might and beatings”, under which Israeli troops were instructed to break the bones of unarmed protesters.
But perhaps he repented for his “bone breaking” policy, the thousands injured as a result of it, the hundreds beaten to death and the torture inside prisons which went on under his command? Not a chance, he bragged about it even in 1992. In 1992 Yitzhak Rabin also stated, of the occupied coastal enclave, that “I would like Gaza drown in the sea”.
After this, in 1993, Yitzhak Rabin led Israel into a seven day war on Lebanon in which around 130 people were massacred, causing 400,000 civilians to flee their homes due to the well documented indiscriminate bombardment of Lebanon. This was the same year that the Oslo Accords were signed.
Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a fanatical Right-Wing Israeli extremist, who was motivated to kill Rabin over his cooperation with the PLO. But before he died, in his last address to Knesset, he had promised to give Palestinians “less than a State” and to ensure a “united Jerusalem”, which would mean denying Palestinians the right to establish a capital in East Jerusalem as part of a so-called Two-State solution.
This is the record that the Palestinians remember, a legacy of racism, torture, ethnic cleansing and massacres. Anyone who claims to hold true to progressive values, cannot defend this or honour such a figure. Especially at an event which will almost certainly not even entertain the war crimes committed by the former Israeli Prime Minister.
Politicians who side with unjust causes and corrupt their values must be challenged, because otherwise they will continue to be pressured into becoming the opposite of what their supporters originally saw them as being. It is doubtful that AOC understood the true record of Yitzhak Rabin until she was made aware by Palestinians.