Rabin's killer is a model student

PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

The sharp, handsome face of Yigal Amir has been peering out of Israeli television screens and front pages every day in the three months since he killed Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister, but his old university is claiming it had quite forgotten what he looked like.

This, at least, is the explanation of Bar-Ilan university when asked why no fewer than 12 pictures of Amir appear in a fund-raising booklet distributed at a dinner in New York last week. Pictures of Yigal Amir, who was a law student at Bar-Ilan for three years, appear on page after page as the model student potential donors might like to support.

Shlomo Eckstein, president of Bar-Ilan, a religious university north of Tel Aviv, says it is all a horrible accident. Amir is not named in the booklet, which was prepared 18 months ago, and nobody noticed whose face was used. "I am extremely sorry," said Mr Eckstein, "that such a technical error has again led to a stigma against the university". It is doubtful if all Israelis will be as forgiving as he hopes. The booklet may have been sent to the printers earlier, but it was re-edited to include a picture of Rabin and a dedication to his memory. Leah Rabin, his widow, said the booklet gave her the "chills", adding: "It is very hard for me to believe that this happened only because of lack of attention and carelessness."

The pictures show Amir studying a book. He is not giving his notorious grin, as he so frequently does in court. Critics of Bar-Ilan say it might be possible that one picture could slip through, but are sceptical that 12 could be missed. They also wonder how Amir came to be picked as a model student even before the assassination, since he was already known as an extreme right-wing militant.

Exactly who chose Amir's face out of 16,000 Bar-Ilan students may never be known, but the scandal over the booklet has torpedoed the university's effort to distance itself from its most famous former student.

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