Two events haunt Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from the anti-Oslo protests: the “Rabin in Gestapo Uniform” poster in Zion Square and the “Rabin Coffin” at Raanana Junction. And while both are frequently raised by Netanyahu’s opponents, there is a critical difference between the two incidents.

In the case of the posters – really legal sized photocopies of a photomontage – unless Netanyahu is Superman in disguise, there is no way on this God’s earth he could have seen it from his position on the balcony. And when one considers GSS agent provocateur Avishai Raviv’s role in the Zion Square story it takes on the stench of a “dirty trick” to discredit the nationalist camp.

This is not the case with the “Rabin Coffin” story. There’s no question that then candidate Netanyahu came to Raanana Junction and there’s also no question that a full size mock coffin was paraded around Raanana Junction while he was there. Not only that, the coffin was not intoduced to the scene by some mysterious unknown group. Similar coffins were used as props by the group demonstrating at Raanana Junction for many weeks.

But here’s where coverage of the story goes awry. And it all starts with the label which has been given to that coffin – “Rabin Coffin”. Because it wasn’t Rabin’s coffin. Period.

Take a look at the pictures from Raanana Junction and you’ll see for yourself. There were two slogans on the coffin. One side read “Rabin is burying Zionism” and the other side declared “Rabin is killing Zionism.”

That’s right – the coffin wasn’t Rabin’s coffin – it was Zionism’s coffin!

Please recall, the slogans were not in some obscure foreign tongue – they were in Hebrew. And the lettering was large enough to be clearly read in the photographs which have been published of the “Rabin Coffin” in various newspaper articles.

Whether or not Rabin’s policies would ultimately spell the end of Zionism is of course subject to debate. But it certainly was a legitimate position.

Yes, the message of the protest focused on Prime Minister Rabin rather than his administration, but that’s nothing unusual. The papers today are full of political advertising attacking the man Netanyahu – including a new ad sponsored by Yuval Rabin’s own Dor Shalom group.

Was the use of a coffin as a protest prop at Raanana Junction something radically new to Israel? Far from it. Just a few examples:

Back on December 20th 1992, Israel Military Industries workers blocked Kaplan Street in a huge protest of the planned firing of 2,500 IMI workers. A few demonstrators carried a coffin, which they said symbolized the government’s recovery plan for the industry – and they burned it!

On January 20, 1993 over 1,000 Jews and Arabs marched in Jerusalem with a black coffin representing peace at the head of the procession.

Coffins continue to be used as props in demonstrations after the Rabin murder.

On May 16, 1996 Tel Aviv University students carried a coffin representing higher education in protest against a proposed tuition hike.

I don’t expect Leah Rabin and her children to be able to discern this simple truth when they peer at the photographs from Raanana Junction through their veil of anguish and hatred. But there’s no excuse for the likes of Ehud Barak and others from the opposition.

There are enough legitimate sources of strife within Israeli society today. The time has come to bury the “Rabin Coffin” myth.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645