Political murder is a special case of homicide, often collective, as in crimes against humanity, rather than individual, although assassination comes under this heading. I am not referring to acts of violence associated with robbery, heated disputes, or revenge, but something systemic, regularized, ideally, from the culprit’s standpoint, bureaucratized, to hide specific responsibility and involvement. The one who gives the orders is as much implicated as the one who pulls the trigger, possibly more so when command incites to execution, the latter less likely otherwise. Example: Obama has murdered countless individuals through drone assassination, even had he not pored over candidate-lists in the Situation Room. Approval is given, all systems go (!), as his orders are transmitted to operators, like him, thousands of miles from the scene, themselves in comfortable surroundings, playing God to unsuspecting victims. (Today’s NYT, 1-7-15, reports these remote-control assassins are receiving full military honors for their work.) War crimes are best perpetrated when hidden from view; ditto, the murder of individual political leaders.
Enter Netanyahu into the discussion. PBS’s “Frontline” this week traced his rise and political career, and notwithstanding the usual gaggle of apologists for Israeli policies, e.g., Dennis Ross and Martin Indyck, as well as Netanyahu’s own advisers, one sees a compelling narrative of the Rightward drift of Israel’s politics, including scenes of outright fanaticism in which a tumultuous crowd is gathered protesting the Oslo Accords. Netanyahu is not haranguing the crowd from the speakers’ balcony looking down; rather, he is one more face in the crowd, quite relaxed and evidently pleased at the furor created. What do I make of the scene? Quite simply, Netanyahu did nothing to stop the demonstration. Why should he, he was entirely in agreement with it. Here is a leader who uncorks the bottle, the vitriol pouring out; the leader whose consistent hardline agitation over at least two decades shapes the political-ideological environment for extremism, and, no surprise, much of the Israeli public responds favorably.