by Rachel Willis
Opening with real-life footage of Iraeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s speech on the South Lawn of the White House on September 13, 1993, director Yaron Zilberman creates a disturbing portrait of a country in crisis with Incitement.
Rather than focus on Rabin and the political decisions surrounding his peace accords with Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, the film instead focuses on Rabin’s assassin, Israeli law student Yigal Amir.
After the signing of the Middle East Peace Agreement, Amir drives directly to a rally protesting the peace accord. After a near arrest, he drives to the campus of Bar-Ilan University and takes part in further demonstrations. A rabbi in support of the protests speaks to the students, encouraging their involvement in activities to undermine the government’s efforts for peace.
The film does not spend inordinate time focusing on the violent Palenstinian-Israeli history. Instead, we’re thrown directly into Amir’s world. There are brutal acts by Jewish extremists that are fully supported by Amir. At the funeral of Baruch Goldstein (responsible for the massacre of 29 Muslim worshippers in a mosque), Amir listens to a rabbi praising Goldstein as a martyr and a hero for the Jewish people. When suicide bombings in Tel Aviv occur as a reaction to the massacre, Amir cannot see the cyclical nature of this type of extremist violence.
From the beginning, there is little sympathy for Amir. We’re merely witness to his descent into religious extremism and right-wing nationalism. The film is also an indictment of the rabbis and political leaders who spoke about Rabin in harsh tones. At rallies for Benjamin Netanyahu, from which Zilberman incorporates real footage, protesters call Rabin a traitor and chant “Death to Rabin!”
Throughout the film, Zilberman uses archival footage to great effect. It heightens the tension and shows the audience exactly how violent the rhetoric became surrounding the peace accords. While thousands came out in support of Rabin, seemingly just as many came out against him.
However, it takes a while for Zilberman to make his point, and not enough focus is given to the factors that drove Yigal Amir. The film spends a lot of time following Amir around as he tries various ways of undermining Rabin’s attempts to create a peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine.
As right-wing nationalism and extremism rises around the world, it’s worth examining how violent rhetoric from religious and political leaders can inflame an already angry populace. Would Amir have acted had he not felt he had the support of numerous rabbis and Jewish law?
Zilberman has his opinion, and Incitement is the means in which he expresses it.