A song of peace silenced long ago, the rockets of war exploding today, and the legacies still to be written

I was given a bird’s eye perch at Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in 1995. One speaker, a close friend of Rabin, waved high above his head the bloodstained paper bearing the lyrics of the peace song the Israeli leader had sung just before he was assassinated.

SHARE A song of peace silenced long ago, the rockets of war exploding today, and the legacies still to be written
President Clinton presides over ceremonies marking the signing of the 1993 peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians on the White House lawn with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat (right).

President Bill Clinton presides over ceremonies marking the signing of the 1993 peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians on the White House lawn with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat (right).

Ron Edmonds-AP file

The War in Israel continues.

And always there will be tears, and recriminations, and fingers pointing, and men morphing into warriors, boys mimicking soldiers and terrorists crossing the boundaries of humanity.

And in the midst of the fog of war since the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who struggled for peace, there exists a common denominator: Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, the ultra conservative who replaced Rabin six months after the murder.

Shot by a right-winged Israeli zealot, Rabin had just signed a stunning peace initiative with his nation’s enemy, Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat … and heralded the baptism of the Oslo Peace Accords.

Now, nearly three decades later, it is Netanyahu, a Rabin foe, who is being blamed by many Israelis for failing to anticipate that Hamas would be at their door in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, 2023.

“Stay the course of peace,” President Bill Clinton warned at Rabin’s funeral nearly 30 years earlier.

I was given a bird’s eye perch at Rabin’s funeral on Nov. 6, 1995, at the behest of the Jerusalem Post, which was controlled at the time by owners of the Chicago Sun-Times. Kings and other leaders from 86 countries sat on white chairs at the ceremony. It was a photographer’s dream now in a box in my closet.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu (left) and President Bill Clinton (right) at the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem in 1995.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu (left) and President Bill Clinton (right) at the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem in 1995.

Michael Sneed/Chicago Sun-Times

When the voice of Jordan’s King Hussein broke during his eulogy for Rabin, the crowd wept for the loss of Israel’s first native born prime minister, a soldier most of his life, shot to death after singing a song of peace at a rally just two days earlier.

The bloodstained paper bearing the lyrics of that peace song, which Rabin had stuffed in his pocket before he was murdered, were waved in the air by another speaker, a close friend of Rabin, when he paid his tribute to the slain prime minister.

Bibi Netanyahu was not popular that day.

Rabin’s widow, Leah, standing next to her husband’s casket, seemed to freeze when Netanyahu, then leader of the conservative Likud party, approached her to express his condolences. He was the man she believed helped foment the atmosphere that led to her husband’s assassination. He would succeed Rabin six months later.

The spectacle of war has now placed Netanyahu’s legacy on a shelf to be decided in the future. And when he was elected six months after Rabin’s assassination, the memory of Rabin’s struggle for peace was already a whisper.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he and President Joe Biden participate in an expanded bilateral meeting on Oct. 18 in Tel Aviv. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he and President Joe Biden participate in an expanded bilateral meeting on Oct. 18 in Tel Aviv.

Evan Vucci/AP file

A Tour Before the Storm …

Veteran Chicago journalist Jim O’Shea was on a tour of the Middle East recently, leaving Israel just three days before the shocking slaughter of Jewish families by Hamas terrorists.

The Israel-Hamas War had begun. And he had missed it. O’Shea, an Army vet, had never covered a war as a journalist.

A former editor of the Los Angeles Times, O’Shea is now the board chairman of the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN), which reaches 40 million people in 22 markets in the Middle East and North Africa. It was commissioned by Congress in 2004 to provide fair and balanced reporting in the Middle east and North Africa.

“There are overwhelming Russian and Chinese propaganda operations in the MBN territory, where news is heavily censored and filtered,” said O’Shea, who also claims “China and Russia are more admired in our network than America.”

So he headed on a tour to “check out on our credibility, ” visiting Tunisia; Cairo, Egypt; a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq; Beirut, Lebanon; Dubai, and Israel by accompanying MBN’s reporters on their assignments and “meeting some amazing editors and journalists along the way whose jobs aren’t easy.”

“The strike Oct. 7 by Islamic terrorists deserves universal condemnation,” O’Shea tells Sneed. “But there is no justification for the killing of innocent people; both Palestinian and Israeli in Gaza.

“The death and destruction there is tragic, terrible,” added O’Shea, who also criticizes the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) “for coddling the radical Israeli settlers who illegally occupied land in the West bank and staging unprovoked attacks on Palestinians who live there.

“Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister, and the religious right-wing political allies he openly supports also bear responsibility for the tinder box that exploded in Gaza on October 7th.

“Netanyahu’s dubious legacy is now on hold,” he said.

O’Shea’s stories at each stop of his Middle East tour can be found on his Five Ws blog published on Substack.

Sneedlings….

Bow wow! The Heartland (No-Kill) Animal Shelter, which is full-up, is waiving fees on ALL dogs six months and older from noon to 6 p.m. this weekend. ... Congrats to irreplaceable sports buff Grant DePorter and wife, Joanna, on the birth of their first grandchild, a granddaughter named Charlie! ... A special condolence to the Sun-Times’ irreplaceable Angela Johnson on the death of her beloved husband, David, who died Oct. 6. … And to my friends, Lanie and Tom Myron, on the death of their beloved son, Colin, 44, our hearts are broken. Always of service, Colin was a volunteer devoted to Honor Flight Chicago, an organization which sends veterans of World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to Washington, D.C., for a Day of Recognition

Saturday birthdays: Bill Gates, 68; Jane Alexander, 84; Joaquin Phoenix, 49; Julia Roberts; 56; Caitlyn Jenner, 74; Sunday birthdays: Richard Dreyfuss; 76; Winona Ryder, 52.

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