As the years pass, the open wound in the collective Jewish heart that was created by the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin has begun to heal. Though the murder of a prime minister because of his peace policies illustrated the tremendous division in Israeli society, for most Jews, Rabin's death represents a bright red line against communal violence that none should ever be allowed to cross again.
Yet 12 years after Yigal Amir's abominable crime, polls show that a surprisingly large minority of Israelis are willing to contemplate freeing Amir.
Part of the rekindled controversy has been caused by Israel's astonishingly liberal policies for prisoners — even those convicted of the most abhorrent crimes. Amir's conjugal visits with a woman who married him in prison have resulted in a baby, as well as some misplaced sympathy for the paternal miscreant.
But the talk about Amir is a distraction from the main contemporary lesson that Yitzhak Rabin's murder holds for us.
Most of the commentary about the assassination since November 1995 has focused on revisiting the political chasm between right and left in Israel, and the rest of the Jewish world. But whatever divisions existed over the Oslo accords in Israeli society a dozen years ago, including those popping up now about the question of concessions to the Palestinians on Jerusalem, the point is that internal Jewish differences remain minimal when compared to the continuing hatred of Israel's foes.
At a time when boycotts of Israel are all the fashion in Europe, and those who compare Israeli society to South African apartheid or worse have firmly ensconced themselves in the mainstream of American culture, the ongoing squabbling between the Zionist left and the Zionist right is simply meaningless.
Evidence of this was on display last week at the University of Delaware, when a Jewish participant in a scheduled panel discussion was suddenly uninvited by the institution.
Why? Because the director of Islamic Studies at Delaware, who was also slated to be on the panel, objected to appearing with a person who had at one point been a member of the Israel Defense Force. No one cared about his stands on the issues — just the fact that he had once helped defend Israel was enough to disqualify him in this forum. That IDF veteran is Asaf Romirowsky, the manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and an occasional columnist for the Jewish Exponent.
The objection came from Muqtedar Khan, who, in addition to his University of Delaware post, is also a fellow at the prestigious Brookings Institution, a widely respected liberal Washington think tank. Sadly, rather than ask Kahn to excuse himself from appearing, the oranizers asked Romirowsky to stay home. This decision was a disgraceful abandonment of the university's integrity, as well as an example of outright prejudice. And it's a clear illustration of how deeply entrenched anti-Israel bias has become in academia.
This ought to motivate us to become more aware of how normal and accepted bias against Jews and Israel has become on campus.
But it also ought to remind us that our differences about where to place Israel's borders in the unlikely event of a real peace process breaking out pale in comparison to the chasm between those who care about Israel and those who wish to destroy it.
At a time when foes of the Jewish state are growing in influence, this is no time to revisit the obsolete debate about Oslo that we associate with Rabin's murder. Instead, it is an apt time for all friends of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to stand together in its defense.