ANALYSIS AND ACTIVITY
Below you will find a stylistic and substantial analysis of Yitzhak Rabin's address at the conferment of a doctorate of philosophy, honoris causa. The address was the prototype and most warmly received of all the victory speeches in Israel and the Jewish world at the time. It was also one of the best loved and remembered by an entire generations of Israelis whose lives were affected by the war and its losses. Today it brings us Rabin - the legend and we can see in it, too, Rabin - the man.
In working with a group to understand Israel and the Rabin of 1967 and 1995, your objective is to interpret the text in a manner similar to that of the schematic flow chart below and to explore the myths, stereotypes and realities behind the man, his life and his career. The article below, together with the chart, provide the answers in the context of the time they were written: you will naturally wish to go further and we provide some indications in this respect.
You should therefore make a list of questions for the whole text and each section to explore with participants:
- How can the text be divided up?
- What are the major theses posited in each section?
- What are the explanations provided in the text?
- What examples are used to back them up?
The next stage is to explore other characteristics:
- What ideas or messages are consistently reiterated throughout the address?
- How are the various ideas linked and channelled towards the conclusion?
- Is every idea taken to its logical conclusion?
- Do the ideas presented seem realistic/idealistic/logical - or do you have any other description for them?
- By what means does the speaker retain interest?
- By what means does the speaker raise and lower tension?
- What are the speaker's aims and are these achieved?
- Does the address flow? Is it well-paced or slow?
- Do you find the style prosaic/literary/dramatic/flowery - or any combination of these? Do you have any other impressions?
Finally, the text should be explored critically - but constructively - against the reality of 1967 and with the perspective of almost 30 years and the tragic assassination of its author.
You can use newspaper articles, news clips and some of the more recent speeches to set against the original above.
- How long does it take to read the address? For what reason do you think Yitzhak Rabin was awarded an honorary doctorate?
- Is this the sort of address you would expect from someone accepting an honorary doctorate? Why/why not?
- What do you know about the Six Day War and its impact on Israeli society and politics?
- Were there parts of the text which struck you as anachronistic, over- or understated, true today or misleading? Give examples and discuss [for/against].
- Do you think ideas have changed in Israel in the ensuing years - and how?
- Did Yitzhak Rabin's ideas change?
- How will you remember Yitzhak Rabin - as the soldier or the statesman?
ABOUT THE SPEECH
Yizthak Rabin is proof that one does not have to have a polished style to make headway in a career as a national leader.
The measured pace of his words, his stumbling pronounciation, the typical, monotonous "Rabin" intonation on items deemed less noteworthy, his transgressions of Hebrew language in grammar and reading - all the above have enhanced Rabin's public reputation as an honest, practical man who makes no capital out of flowery language. His lapses of the tongue have also entered the language in their own right for their unerring accuracy. Even in the United States, Rabin became sought-after as a public speaker because of his rank and personality, despite his impediments, and despite the fact that English is not his native tongue.
The text before us, carefully composed for one of the high media points of the ceremony, retains a conceptual continuity in its component paragraphs and overall content; it respects the standards and rules of the Hebrew language as well as Aristotleian rules of composition. It carefully combines all the elements of the classical speech: ethos, logos and pathos.
The starting point of the acceptance speech, which becomes the framework for the initial and the concluding remarks, invites the thousands of army officers and the multitudes of soldiers who participated in the Six Day War to share with him the honor bestowed upon him by Academia. This gesture, this modesty of the ego of the doctoral candidate, together with the involvement of the army-as-people at this moment of elevated honor, captivates the hearts of his audience and sets the tone for his development of the thesis that the IDF should be acknowledged for its unique nature and -- together with it -- the People ofIsrael as a whole. His play on waiving the personal honor in favor of thearmy is entirely consistent with the cult which places the state at the top of the values hierarchy and with the attitude that the individual is of significance as a representative of the group.
The speech is structured as follows from the point of view of the logos:
- Opening remarks
- Body of the speech
- Concluding remarks
The speaker's presents the secular, "Altermanist" position which accompanied Israeli political culture, literature and discourse from the period of the War of Independence to the Six Day War. Through his words, too, we hear echoes of the Ben Gurion ideological stance - the supreme value from which every Israeli imbues life with meaning, namely: national, territorial and sovereign existence in the State of Israel.
This thesis is founded upon three myths from the history of the Jewish people which have repeated themselves, giving this history its direction and shaping the life of the people, its poetry and literature. The first is the myth of Isaac's sacrifice - the sacrifice of children for a supreme value; the second is that of heroism - the victory of David over Goliath; third is the myth of Destruction - the recurring fear of and threat to physical and national existence, as a force which strengthens the national spirit.
The rhetoric of the address does not hesitate to exploit audience emotions or any other means to create absolute identification or involvement with those feelings and viewpoints expressed by the speaker. In his description of battle and bravery, he does not miss the opportunity to recall moving events and describes, too, moments of human weakness, such as the paratroopers' tears as they see the stones of the Kotel [Western or Wailing Wall].
Rabin reformulates, in his own words, the characteristic streak of sorrow in Jewish happiness, which has also found its expression in Alterman's poem, entitled, "The Silver Platter". It is, indeed, a foundation stone of the Israeli reality.
The textual composition creates a sense of tension and commands the attention with its combinations of questions, stories and paradoxes. The three questions are placed in the introduction, one after the other, as a lead-up to the main thesis. The use of the negative in the following paragraphs ["not destructive"; "who has not watched"; "has not witnessed" etc.] enhance the sense of the dramatic in the text, while adding to the drama of the event by the use of a wider context, the award ceremony.
Below is a schematic flow chart of the conceptual development of the text, which affords an appreciation of the artistry and skilled composition of the text.
- OPENING REMARKS
Polite address to the Presidium and the audience.
Description of the emotional state of the speaker; description of the facts; redefiniton of the "I". The speaker poses three rhetorical questions which refine the paradox in the award of an honorary doctoral degree to a military man and redefine the entire ceremony as an official recognition of the unique nature of the IDF as the army of the people.
- CORE OF THE ADDRESS
- The claim: the IDF is a unique army.
Rationalization: the IDF aims to build and educate, over and beyond its security duties.
Examples: the IDF was awarded the Israel Education Prize; the Nahal combines military service with agricultural work; the teacher-soldier units.
- Question: How is it conceivable that the IDF should merit recognition of its dedication precisely in war-time?
Claim: war reveals the true qualities of courage, humanitarianism and spirituality in man.
Examples: soldiers in battled endangered their own lives to save their comrades-in-arms; the supreme effort of battle revealed depths of feelings and courage; the IDF at war is elevated to unbelievable heights of spirituality.
- Claim: the IDF reincarnates the myth of the courage of the few against the many.
Rationalization: the fighters realize there is no other choice; the objectives of war stem from spiritual values.
Examples: the tank units, the paratroopers and sappers fought incessantly under fire.
Conclusion: the IDF's advantage is based in its values and not in technology.
- Claim: in the elite hi-tech units, the real supremacy is a human one.
Example: the tank units were poorly equipped.
Rationalization: the soldier's strength lies in his commitment to his people and his family, as well as in his fear of destruction.
Conclusion: the IDF's secret weapon is its spirit and values.
- Claim: the IDF's advantage is the quality of its officers.
Example: the officer goes in front of his men.
Conclusion: there is no explanation for the dedication of the officers, other than their recognition of the ethical quality of the war and the just nature of their chosen way.
Claim: all the revelations of heroism in war are based on spiritual values and the sense of mission.
Conclusion: the IDF - the army of the people - operates on the basis of love of our country and the will to sacrifice one's life on behalf of the ideals of freedom and national existence.
- CONCLUDING REMARKS
The IDF has supremacy because of the quality of its manpower and the spiritual dedication it reveals in times of trial. The man who has served as Chief of Staff in this war and represents the IDF at this ceremony acknowledges this distinction with pride.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Morele Bar-On, A SPEECH FOR EVERY OCCASION Translation and exercise: Gila Ansell Brauner