The Israeli Historian Who Blames Rabin for His Own Murder and Praises Hitler Is Making a ComebackHistorians in the News
tags: Hitler, Yitzhak Rabin, Uri Milstein
The time has come to forget the stories about the Chosen People. The fairy tales about dashing young Jewish fighters in the War of Independence. The legends about the nation’s heroes. This is the time to stop thinking about Israel as an invincible power. The senior commanders of the Israel Defense Forces failed and humiliated themselves time and again, and their blunders run like a thread through Israel’s history from 1948 to the present day. In fact, it’s possibly due only to a miracle that Israel still exists.
That, at any rate, is the impression one gets from perusing the vast project undertaken by Dr. Uri Milstein, one of Israel’s leading and most productive military historians. At 78, the angry prophet from Ramat Efal, in central Israel, is convinced that he deserves the Israel Prize and a military medal of valor, no less. He likens himself to Don Quixote, to Aristotle, to Einstein. Not only should academia sing the praises of his research, he believes: He should also be awarded the title of “professor-plus.” He’s certain that he’s being ignored by the establishment because of its glorification of and devotion to the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin.
That last notion is not without foundation. Milstein has flayed any number of admired IDF officers, but it was his bashing of Rabin that made him anathema in the academic world and among the public as a whole. The straw that broke the camel’s back came a few months after the prime minister’s assassination in 1995, when Milstein praised his student, Yigal Amir, and claimed that he himself had played a part in various developments.
Public denunciation of Milstein led him to develop more radicalized ideas and positions: From being an acclaimed historian, he was relegated to the fringes and accused of disseminating conspiracy theories. At present, though, as his 80th birthday approaches, Milstein is enjoying something of a comeback. Rabin is no longer considered to be a saint, and even his crassest critics are no longer execrated. Milstein of 2018 is slowly making his way back to the mainstream, with a growing fan base. He writes a weekly column for the newspaper Maariv, blogs on the News1 website, is a frequent guest on Kan public radio and sends a weekly newsletter to a mailing list that he says consists of 5,000 subscribers, “200 of them professors and Ph.Ds.”
Milstein’s return after a protracted period of ostracism is an opportunity to reconsider his image and the circumstances that could pave his way back to the heart of the mainstream. His proponents view him as a brilliant, trailblazing researcher and treat him as a profound, serious historian of unbounded scholarly and personal integrity. At the same time, his many opponents and detractors in academic circles and beyond perceive him as a provocateur, claim he’s superficial and a charlatan, and even raise the possibility that he’s mentally deranged. ...
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