Rabin – The Last Day – A Disturbing Film about the Failure to Call Out Threatening Hate Speech


I usually write about books, but the powerful new film Rabin, The Last Day, was utterly commanding and demands recognition.  Amos Gitai’s film is a documentary in the style of The History Channel, in that it intersperses lots of actual footage and interviews with Rabin’s contemporaries, such as his wife and Shimon Perez, with scenes using actors, particularly for the coverage of the ultra-right wing Israeli Jew who assassinated Rabin and for coverage of the Israeli government’s subsequent investigation into what happened and why.  The result is a powerful film that builds to a powerful climax and thoughtfully examines the people and the sentiments that led to this unspeakable violence.

Rabin was an heroic figure, willing to negotiated for peace, a step at a time.  This compromise was utter anathema to the Israeli ultra-right, including certain rabbis who preached against him and all the angry protesters who repeatedly likened Rabin to Hitler and portrayed him as a traitor to his people.  It wasn’t much of a leap for these zealots to call for Rabin’s death, and that was what they got.

The assassin was susceptible to the rabbis’ demands, and Israeli security had a very bad day.  So Rabin died an unnecessary and tragic death.   Sadly, Rabin followed in the footsteps of all to many Middle East moderates willing to negotiate for peace.

What really leaves a bad taste, however, is Benjamin Netanyahu, whose primary interest seems to have been to beat Rabin at the polls.  To do that, Netanyahu is  repeatedly shown at rallies portraying Rabin as a Hitler and where signs and banners called Rabin a traitor and urged violence.  It doesn’t matter whether or not Netanyahu ever threatened Rabin or used violent language against him.  It was enough that he never took a stand against the violence and said, “look, I disagree with Rabin, but he’s no Hitler and I condemn the violent language and threats against him.”  Netanyahu instead used this charged atmosphere for his own political gain.

Here in the States, we are in the middle of a seemingly endless election season, where the right has all too often seized on extreme and violent language to attack their opponents, immigrants and anyone else they don’t happen to like.  Extreme and violent language all to often leads to extreme and violent action.  Have they no decency?