A few days after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I was sitting in a café with my mentor, Dan Nimrod z’l. Dan, at the time, was an author and owner of the Dawn Publishing Company.
We were sitting in a coffee shop on Guy Street, near Concordia University, during our regular lunch meetings. Our topic of discussion was the Rabin assassination and an article I had written for The Suburban Newspaper in Montreal, challenging the Gazette on some of the sources they used in their coverage of the Rabin murder, that got me universally condemned by most of the Jewish establishment.
Dan was seething, I had never seen him so angry. He looked at me and said, “Howie, I think you need to write a follow-up piece challenging the Jewish Community on why you and Hillel Neur (at the time, Hillel was writing a column in The Suburban called ‘Gazette Watch’. His column highlighted The Gazette’s bias against Israel and provided the true story. It was Honest Reporting before Honest Reporting existed. I replaced him as author of that column when he moved onto bigger and more legal oriented things.) are the only ones publicly standing up for Israel. How could they possibly call Yitzhak Rabin a hero?” He asked.
Dan knew what he was talking about. He was a close personal friend of both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir (whom, Dan said, liked me very much when I worked in his office in 1992) Years before, Dan had served in the British Army in North Africa and Italy during World War II, he was a Commander in the Irgun and was responsible for ensuring the armaments were secured and 940 volunteers were trained and on board for the ill-fated Irgun ship The Altelena’s trip to break the UN blockade of The Mandate of Palestine. Yitzhak Rabin was the Hagenah Commander on the Tel Aviv shore who gave his troops the command to fire upon and sink The Altelena.
He fought in the Israeli War of Independence and was a Commander in the Betar movement. Dan was the driving force in the revival of Betar in post-war Europe. In 1955, Dan was a leader of the first attempt to form an Israeli popular front of all non-Socialist parties to challenge Labour in that year’s general elections. When his idea was rejected, he joined a general Zionist “think tank” for that election. It took 23 years for Dan’s idea to come to fruition with the formation of the Likud party.
Upon moving to Montreal in 1956, Dan authored the book “Peace Now a Blueprint for National Suicide”, and published countless magazines, articles and dossiers promoting the Zionist vision and educating the masses on true Israeli history. If you have never read a Dan Nimrod article or book, I encourage you to find one.
I responded, “Dan, everyone in this city considered Rabin a national hero. His assassination just cemented the idea, you know, when someone gets assassinated they suddenly become saintly.”
Dan said, “he tried to kill my friends. I was supposed to be on the ship, he tried to kill me.” Dan then closed his eyes in quiet contemplation, as if he was being transported back to another time. He stayed that way for a couple of minutes, then he opened his eyes and looked straight at me.
“Howie,” he said, “what do you think is a hero?”
“Someone who does something selfless to benefit the greater good?” I answered hesitantly. He sighed, closed his eyes again and remained quiet for another few minutes.
His eyes popped open, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “listen very carefully Howie. This is a lesson that not too many people learn. “
I put my drink down and he continued, “heroes are made by the writers of history. You said that a hero is selfless for the benefit of the greater good. Who determines the greater good? The victor. History is written by the victor and society accepts that. But that isn’t what a hero is.
If you really want to determine who a hero is, you must judge him on his character and his actions. But what if a person works very hard for a community, give his all, but then does something evil? Do we still consider him a hero? Do we still fete him? name parks and schools after him? Does recognizing him as a hero minimize the heroism of other people?
Yitzhak Rabin was no hero, not to Israel, not to Zionism and not to the Jewish cause. Think critically, think smartly, but most of all, Howie, don’t buy into the propaganda on either side. Know history, know facts and make judgements based on them. That is the only way to live your life and the only way to be credible when making public statements.
When you know the history, when you tell the truth, they can condemn you all they want. Truth will always win. You can always change the story and convince the masses that what you did was fair and just, there is a rationale for everything, but, at the end of the day, you can’t change history. “
I’ve lived my life based on this principle, I’ve always strived to tell the truth. I’ve always been wary of using the moniker hero to describe anyone or heroic to describe any action. That is, until last week.
Last week, my friend Ari Fuld got murdered. After being fatally stabbed in the back, according to people close to him, the knife penetrated numerous internal organs and he should have dropped to the ground right where he stood, he turned around, chased the terrorist murderer down the length of the strip mall, drew his firearm and neutralized the terrorist before collapsing himself and dying from his wounds.
Ari’s actions saved the lives of other people at the mall, his final act, where he knew he was if not fatally, seriously wounded, was selfless, non-political and solely with the intention of saving lives. In my opinion, Ari is a hero.
I know if Dan were alive today, during our lunch this week, he would agree.