An Israeli professor claimed that former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was not assassinated by the man who was convicted of killing him, and asserted that the 1995 slaying was orchestrated by a senior politician against the backdrop of the landmark Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians.
On Wednesday, Mordechai Kedar, a scholar of Arabic culture at Bar-Ilan University, stood by the remarks he had made the night before, telling Channel 12 that he would rather resign than apologize for asserting the possible innocence of Yigal Amir.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the “nonsense remarks in connection with Yigal Amir, the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin.”
The Yitzhak Rabin Center said that Kedar is “a sick conspiracist.”
Bar Ilan University distanced itself from Kedar, saying in a statement that it “completely condemns” his remarks and that his opinions “do not represent the university and its employees. We maintain that there is no place for such remarks in Israeli society.”
The university administration was planning to hold a meeting over the issue. Meanwhile, Kedar has been suspended from representing the institute abroad, including at a conference next week.
Amir was convicted of shooting Rabin at the conclusion of a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995, and sentenced to life in prison. The case against Amir was clear-cut: He was caught on video raising a gun to Rabin. He calmly confessed to the police, re-enacted the crime for them and never recanted his testimony.
Still, fringe conspiracy theories have posited a number of possibilities other than Amir being the assassin. The theories rely on some purportedly ambiguous facts surrounding the night of the murder: claims that the bullets were blanks, witnesses who say they didn’t see blood at the scene, and a supposedly abnormally long drive to a nearby hospital.
Blame for the shooting has also been directed at the political right wing, which at the time was led by Netanyahu, over alleged incitement in fiery rhetoric against Rabin and the peace process with the Palestinians that peaked with the Oslo Accords, signed on the White House lawn in 1993.
Kedar, who is a professor at Bar-Ilan University — where Amir was a law student — addressed a rally in support of Netanyahu in the central city of Petah Tikvah on Tuesday night.
“The person who murdered Rabin is a man with the initials ‘Yud Resh,'” Kedar said, referring to two Hebrew letters. Amir’s Hebrew initials are Yud and Ayin.
“The person behind this thing was apparently a leading politician who wanted to eliminate Yitzhak Rabin because he wanted to exit the Oslo Accords,” Kedar claimed. It was not clear who the “he” referred to.
“From here, I call to remove the deceitful ‘top secret’ title from the documents that don’t line up with the theory that the right murdered Rabin. It is about time. For 24 years the right has been tarnished, my Bar-Ilan University has been tarnished, we have all been tarnished,” he said.
This was happening, he said “because of something that, perhaps, Yigal Amir didn’t do. And he is sitting in solitary confinement. Why solitary? So that he won’t tell the truth to anyone.”
Kedar then called for a “real investigation of Rabin’s murder.”
His remarks were captured on video by a member of the audience, Likud party activist Yossi Hacohen, who published the clip on his Twitter account.
רעידת אדמה !!!!! דוקטור מרדכי קידר :יגאל עמיר לא רצח את רבין!!!!!פעם ראשונה אני שומע אדם במעמדו וברמתו אומר דבר כזה !שתפו pic.twitter.com/nESbRjRJTW
— Yossef Hacohen (@HacohenYossef) October 29, 2019
On Wednesday, facing growing public backlash, Kedar told Channel 12 that he had no intention of walking back his remarks.
“If [university administrators] ask for an apology they will get a resignation,” he said. “I guarantee it.”
Kedar reiterated his theory that Amir is innocent, but refused to comment on the identity of who he believes might be the real killer.
He said that he began to rethink his idea of the Rabin assassination after listening to a presentation by Nahum Shahaf, a physicist who specialized in drone and missile technology for the Israel Defense Forces and has also promoted conspiracy theories about the Rabin murder.
Kedar told Channel 12 that Amir may have confessed to the murder due to the strain of intensive interrogation by police and being denied access to a lawyer for a month.
“Why is he in solitary confinement? Kedar asked. “Why can’t you get to him? Every prisoner is accessible…except for him. Why not?”
The Yitzhak Rabin Center said in a statement, “Again, just like every year ahead of the memorial day for prime minister’s murder, a sick conspiracist comes along, gets headlines and grabs seven minutes of fame. We wish him a full recovery.”
The center said it will continue to work toward “curbing arguments, incitement and the spread of anarchy so that the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin 24 years ago will be the last political murder in Israel.”
Although in solitary confinement, Amir has been allowed phone calls, family visits, and conjugal visits. Those privileges were recently suspended after he tried to use his phone to form a political party ahead of last month’s elections.