Understanding Rabin’s Assassin in the Film ‘Incitement’
The murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995, at a peace rally in Tel Aviv shocked the world, and irrevocably altered the peace process that had begun with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Compounding the shock was that the assassin was Israeli and Jewish, a nationalist Orthodox young man named Yigal Amir. The series of events that led to the murder that changed the Middle East forever chillingly unfold in the Israeli film Incitement, which opens in select theaters on January 31. The psychological thriller is told from the Amir’s point of view and humanizes him even as it shows him change from uncertain law student to an extremist certain that he has a religious and existential obligation to eliminate one of the architects of the accords.
Israeli director Yaron Zilberman, who wrote the script with Ron Leshem, spent six years researching his subject, conducting interviews with Amir as well as others involved to understand the confluence of factors that drove Amir to kill. “I wanted to show the inner workings of incitement, how a relatively moderate activist turns into an assassin, using religious and political justification,” the Haifa-born, New York City-based filmmaker said. “It was important for me to show why it happened and what we can learn from it.”
Starring Yehuda Nahari Halevi in a riveting performance as Amir, Incitement won several Ophir Awards—Israel’s Oscar—including for best feature film, automatically qualifying it as the Israeli submission for the Academy Award for best international feature. It was a hit in Israel, where it also received criticism in Israel for its negative portrayal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as other contemporary leaders and politicians by showing them as complicit in the social climate that led to Amir’s radicalization. If it opens old wounds, that’s fine with Zilberman: “That’s what we meant to do.”