ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Right-wing pundit on Rabin murder: ‘When people are silenced, there is violence’

Channel 14’s Yinon Magal under fire for appearing to justify Yigal Amir’s motives in assassinating PM in 1995; last month, panelist on same show called for Amir’s release

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Host Yinon Magal on Channel 14's 'The Patriots' show on August 30, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Host Yinon Magal on Channel 14's 'The Patriots' show on August 30, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In the second incident of its kind in a month, a television host on the right-wing Channel 14 drew fire for showing sympathy toward the jailed murderer of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a live primetime show on Wednesday evening.

The remark was made during a discussion on the popular panel show “The Patriots,” focusing on the newly declassified protocols of the 1993 cabinet meeting at which Rabin and his government ministers approved the first part of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

The protocols revealed significant security concerns by the ministers, as well as Rabin referring to “extreme elements” among Israelis determined to thwart the agreement, thereby foreshadowing his own murder two years later by Yigal Amir, a Jewish right-wing extremist who is serving life in prison.

On Channel 14’s show, host Yinon Magal — a former Knesset member and one of the most prominent figures in the network, which staunchly supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — slammed Oslo and Rabin, arguing that the right-wing opposition led at the time by Netanyahu had been silenced.

“Rabin brought about a disaster, Oslo was a disaster,” Magal said. “At the time, I spoke with Yigal Amir when he was in prison, I had conversations with him. I don’t trust everything Yigal Amir says, but one of the things he told me was: ‘I did it because it was impossible to make the voice of the right wing heard.'”

The right-wing opposition staged a series of mass demonstrations against the government in the mid-1990s, arguing that the Oslo Accords would be a security catastrophe and hand the Palestinians weapons that would be turned against Israel.

Indeed, Palestinian terror bombings proliferated over the following years, killing hundreds of Israelis and inflaming internal tensions and incitement that spiraled out of control and culminated in Rabin’s November 1995 assassination.

Yigal Amir, the convicted assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, seen during a court hearing in Tel Aviv, November 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

“Understand — every time they want to silence us… when people aren’t allowed to talk, there is violence. It wasn’t possible to criticize Oslo. It wasn’t allowed to voice criticism from the right,” Magal said, appearing to offer an explanation for Rabin’s murder.

When faced with protest from one of the panelists, Magal added: “It was a terrible and violent act of murder that affects the whole State of Israel, but we can’t take away the issue that there was a silencing of an entire [political] camp that eventually ended in violence. In my opinion, it’s impossible to separate these things.”

In response, “The Patriots” occasional panelist Mossi Raz, a left-wing former lawmaker, announced he was halting his appearances on Channel 14.

“Yinon Magal’s remarks from yesterday are outrageous,” Raz posted Thursday on X, formerly Twitter. “I will decide if and when to resume appearing on the channel in accordance with its future behavior.”

Channel 14, a conservative network sometimes likened to the US’s Fox News, was embroiled in a similar controversy a month ago, when “The Patriots” panelist Ari Shamai called for Amir’s release from prison.

Lawyer Ari Shamai says Yigal Amir, assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, should be released from prison, on a Channel 14 panel on July 30, 2023. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Shamai had made the comment while discussing a High Court ruling against a recent law seen as specifically benefiting an associate of Shas party chair Aryeh Deri. The court ruled that the law, which removes the cooling-off period for an acting mayor before they can run for a full term, must only go into effect after the upcoming local elections in October.

“I am happy to hear one statement — that the High Court of Justice and Supreme Court are against personal laws. If that is so, then the time has come to release the assassin Yigal Amir because there are personal laws against him,” Shamai said, receiving pushback from the other panelists but applause from the show’s studio audience. Host Magal said: “We’re not getting into this.”

Shamai was likely referring to a law passed in 2001, colloquially called “the Yigal Amir Law,” which bars parole boards from pardoning or commuting the sentence of a prisoner convicted of murdering a prime minister for political reasons.

That incident prompted Israeli food giant Strauss and two other companies to cease advertising on Channel 14.

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