One to listen out for on BBC Radio 4

On Monday, November 2nd, at 8 p.m. UK time, BBC Radio 4 will air a programme titled “The Most Successful Assassination in History”.

“The story of the night 25 years ago when Israel’s peacemaker prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by an Israeli extremist – a night that changed the Middle East forever.”

The full synopsis to the programme – made by Tuning Fork Productions and Open Audio, written and presented by Jonathan Freedland and produced by Freedland’s wife Sarah Peters who founded Tuning Fork Productions – reads as follows:

“The 1990s began with high hopes for peace, never higher than when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn. By 1995, Rabin – a former general trusted by Israelis as “Mr Security” – was preparing to make the moves, including the handover of territory in the West Bank and Gaza, that might have resolved the conflict once and for all.

On November 4, Rabin addressed a peace rally in Tel Aviv, joining in with the crowd as they sang Shir l’Shalom – Song for Peace. As he left the stage, a Jewish extremist stepped forward and fired two bullets into his back. Those bullets not only killed Rabin, they stopped the peace process dead. Rabin was replaced within months by Binyamin Netanyahu, and the country took a very different path, the path on which it remains 25 years later.

Jonathan Freedland speaks to those who were there – Rabin’s bodyguard who pounced on the assassin, his closest political adviser who was with him as he died, his grand-daughter whose eulogy moved the world. They are unified in their belief that the killer achieved every one of his aims – stopping peace and condemning both peoples to apparently endless war – making this the most successful assassination in history.”

Whether or not the programme will inform the BBC’s domestic audiences of factors other than Rabin’s assassination which affected the outcome of the ‘peace process’ of course remains to be seen. As noted on these pages a year ago when the Guardian similarly claimed that “Rabin’s death buried the prospect of peace”:

“First, shortly after Rabin’s assassination, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister. Despite the fact that he was fiercely opposed to the Oslo Accords, on his watch Jerusalem still signed the Wye River Memorandum and Hebron Agreement, which obligated Israel to further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, including from 80% of the historic Jewish city of Hebron.

Israel’s next prime minister, Ehud Barak, negotiated a final status agreement with the Palestinians that would have created a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and most of the West Bank, with Palestinian control of Arab neighborhoods and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is Judaism’s holiest site ).  Yasser Arafat rejected the 2001 offer, which exceeded the demands of the Oslo Accords, that, let’s remember, never called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Not only did Arafat reject what would have been the creation of the first sovereign Palestinian state in history, but responded by intensifying a violent intifada that preceded the breakdown of negotiations with Israel in January 2001.  The Palestinian led violence […] marked by scores of deadly suicide bombing attacks on innocent civilians, would ultimately claim more than 1,100 Israeli lives.

In 2005, as the 2nd Intifada finally died down, Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and civilians from Gaza, which many assumed would remove the incentive for terror.  Instead, the withdrawal was followed by the rise of Hamas, who won parliamentary elections in 2006, and then violently wrestled complete control of the territory the following year.  The result was thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli towns, and wars in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014.

In 2008, Mahmoud Abbas rejected an Israeli offer by Ehud Olmert that was even more generous that Barak’s offer to Arafat.”

Five years ago Guardian columnist and Jewish Chronicle contributor Jonathan Freedland published an op-ed at The Jewish Chronicle about Yitzhak Rabin on the 20th anniversary of his assassination. Titled “An assassin’s bitter legacy”, it included themes similar to those seen in the synopsis to the BBC’s upcoming programme.

“Yigal Amir was surely the most effective assassin in modern history. He wanted to destroy the peace process, then real and under way, and he did so. Oslo is a dead letter.”

As noted by CAMERA UK’s co-editor at the time:

“Tellingly, Freedland only mentions the word “Palestinians” once (in passing) in his entire op-ed.”

The notion that Amir managed to single-handedly destroy an otherwise viable ‘peace process’ is one which BBC audiences have also seen promoted by the corporation’s Middle East editor on repeated occasions.

“My view is that Rabin’s assassination, 20 years ago today, was one of the most successful political killings of the 20th Century; his assassin, Yigal Amir, wanted to destroy the Israel-Palestinian Oslo peace accords by shooting dead the only Israeli leader who had a chance of making it work.”  “Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace?“ November 4th 2015, discussed here.

“How the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin changed the region’s history, as remembered by BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. “No political killing in the twentieth century was more successful,” he argues, observing the dramatic effects on the Oslo peace process. “Perhaps there was a moment for peace, and it came, and went.”” “Recipe for Disaster“ May 19th 2017, discussed here.

On November 2nd we will find out whether or not Freedland’s account finally provides BBC audiences with the essential context of the intense campaign of devastating terror attacks that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were running against Israelis at the time and the effect that was having on public support for the Oslo process.

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