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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: January 2010

8 - The Middle East and North Africa: Jewish and Islamic Politics



Chapter 7 initially focused on the great religious-political figure of the anticolonial period, Mahatma Gandhi. This chapter begins with the assassination of the most significant political-religious figure of postwar Israeli politics, Yitzhak Rabin. The latter killing in November 1995 exhibited many parallels to the assassination of Gandhi. In both cases the killer came from the extremist right wing of the leader's own religion. Yigal Amir, a yeshiva graduate and student at a religious university, said he assassinated Rabin to stop him from handing over parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians. The killing thus triggered a debate among Jewish Modern Orthodox scholars and leaders as to whether they, too, had some responsibility for the act. The next month the Israeli government refused a visa to a New York rabbi, Abraham Hecht, who, it is said, had given a religious justification for the killing of Rabin only months before the assassination. Rabbi Hecht had apologized to the prime minister for his ruling days before Rabin's death.

Rabin established his security credentials in his lifelong fight for the independence of Israel. Born in Jerusalem in 1922, he joined the Palmach, the elite military strike force of the Hagana underground, in 1941. He later studied at the British military staff college at Camberley and became Chief of Staff for the Israeli Army in 1964. Rabin orchestrated Israel's great victory in the 1967 war.