Critical Essay

The story of Israeli prime minister Yitzak Rabin’s assassin

Incitement shows the roots of political fractures that remain.

The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Novem­ber 1995 was a watershed event in Israeli history. The deed brought to light deep fissures in Israeli society—divisions whose significance had not previously been widely recognized. In hindsight, Rabin’s murder also marked something else: the end of the Israeli peace movement that was hoping for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The words of Israeli poet Dahlia Ravi­ko­vitch seem to capture this moment in Israeli life: “Even rocks break, this happens suddenly / also with men.”

The release of an Israeli film about Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, has sparked heated debates in Israel that reflect the very conflicts in Israeli society that have shaped the country in the years since Rabin’s murder and have led Israel into its current political stalemate: after two consecutive elections, no bloc of parties has been able to form a government.

Directed by Yaron Zilberman, with a script by Ron Leshem, Yamim Nora’im (“Awesome Days”)—titled Incitement in English—has received the Ophir Award as the year’s best Israeli film and was picked to represent Israel at the next Academy Awards. The movie has been both widely praised for taking viewers inside Amir’s life and thought and denounced for making him a sympathetic figure.