Meir Kahane


Meir Kahane
Rabbi Meir Kahane

Rabbi Meir Kahane
Born 1 August 1932(1932-08-01)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Died 5 November 1990(1990-11-05) (aged 58)
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation Political activist
Religion Orthodox Judaism

Martin David Kahane also known as Meir Kahane (Hebrew: הרב מאיר דוד כהנא‎), and by the pen-names Benyac and David Sinai and the pseudonyms Michael King, David Borac, and Martin Keene[1] (1 August 1932 – 5 November 1990) was an American-Israeli rabbi and ultra-nationalist writer and political figure. He was an ordained Orthodox rabbi and later served as a member of the Israeli Knesset.[2]

Kahane gained recognition as an activist for Jewish causes, such as organizing Jewish self-defense groups in deteriorating neighborhoods and the struggle for the right of Soviet Jews to immigrate.[3][4] He later became known in the United States and Israel for political and religious views that included proposing emergency Jewish mass-immigration to Israel due to the imminent threat of a "second Holocaust" in the United States, advocating that Israel's democracy be replaced by a state modeled on Jewish religious law, and promoting the idea of a Greater Israel in which Israel would annex the West Bank and Gaza strip. In order to keep Arabs, who he stated would never accept Israel as a Jewish state, from becoming a numerical majority in Israel, he proposed a plan allowing Arabs to voluntarily leave Israel and receive compensation for their property, and forcibly removing Arabs who refused.

Kahane founded both the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the USA and Kach ("This is the Way"), an Israeli political party. In 1984 he became a member of the Knesset when Kach gained one seat in parliamentary elections. In 1988, the Israeli government banned Kach as "racist" and "undemocratic" under the terms of an ad hoc law.[5] In 1994, following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre perpetrated by a Kahane follower, Kach was outlawed completely.[6] The U.S. State Department listed it as a terrorist organization in 1994.[7][8]

Kahane was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel by an Arab gunman in November 1990, after concluding a speech warning American Jews to emigrate to Israel before it was "too late."[9][10]

Contents

Early life and education

Kahane was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York in 1932 to an Orthodox Jewish family. His father, Rabbi Yechezkel Sharaga Kahane, was born in Safed, Palestine (in present-day, Israel), in 1905, and went to study in Polish and Czech yeshiva religious schools.

As a teenager, he became an ardent admirer of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Peter Bergson, who were frequent guests in his parents' home, and joined the Betar (Brit Trumpeldor) youth wing of Revisionist Zionism. He was active in protests against Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary who maintained restrictions on immigration of Jews (including Nazi concentration camp survivors) to Palestine after the end of the Second World War. In 1947 Kahane was arrested for throwing eggs and tomatoes at Bevin, as the latter disembarked at Pier 84 on a visit to New York. A photo of the arrest appeared in the New York Daily News.[11] In 1954, he became the mazkir (director) of Greater New York’s sixteen Bnei Akiva chapters.

Kahane’s formal education included elementary school at the Yeshiva of Flatbush and high school at the Brooklyn Talmudical Academy. Kahane received his rabbinical ordination from the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, and earned a B.A. in political science from Brooklyn College. He was fully conversant with the Talmud and Tanakh (Jewish Bible), and worked as a pulpit rabbi and teacher in the 1960s. Subsequently, he earned a J.D. from New York Law School and an L.L.M. from New York University Law School.

Serving as Pulpit Rabbi

In 1956, Kahane married Libby, with whom he had four children.[12] In 1958, he became the rabbi of the Howard Beach Jewish Center. Located in Queens, New York, the synagogue was traditional rather than strictly Orthodox. At the Jewish Center, Kahane influenced many of the synagogue’s youngsters to adopt a more observant lifestyle. But when he attempted to install a mechitzah, a partition that is used to separate men and women, many of the key synagogue members turned against him. His contract was not renewed and he soon published an article entitled “End of the Miracle of Howard Beach.” This was Kahane’s first article in the Jewish Press, American-Jewish weekly, for which he continued to write until his murder in 1990.[13]

Infiltrating John Birch Society

In the late 1950s to early 1960s Kahane led a life of secrecy. His strong anti-Communist views landed him a position as a consultant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to his wife Libby, his assignment was to infiltrate the anticommunist John Birch Society and report his findings back to the FBI.[14]

As reported by Michael T. Kaufman in The New York Times (and subsequently followed up by The Village Voice in the early 1980s), Kahane (under his pseudonym Michael King) allegedly had an affair with a non-Jewish woman, Gloria Jean D'Argenio.[15] In 1966, Kahane/King allegedly sent a letter to D'Argenio in which he unilaterally ended their relationship. In response, D'Argenio jumped off the Queensboro ("59th Street") Bridge; she died of her injuries the next day. According to Kaufman, Kahane admitted to him that "he loved Ms D'Argenio and had sent roses to her grave for months after her death." He also established a foundation which carried the name she used in her modeling career, Estelle Donna Evans. Ads for the foundation appeared weekly in the Jewish Press, although the group never filed legally required financial documents detailing what it did with the money it collected.[16]

Activism

Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in New York City in 1968. JDL's self-described purpose was to protect Jews from local manifestations of anti-Semitism. Hate crimes and discrimination against Jews were very relevant at the time of mass exodus of urban Jewish population into suburbs; those Jews unable or unwilling to move often became victims of violent crimes in the racially and ethnically changing neighborhoods. JDL members led protests against anti-Semitic teachers in the public school system, provided escorts for elderly Jews and educated Jewish youth in the art of self-defense.[17] However, it was the criticism of the Soviet Union that garnered support for the group, transforming it from a "vigilante club" to an activist organization with membership numbering over 15,000.[18] JDL organized mass rallies in New York against the Soviet Union's policy of persecuting Zionist activists and curbing Jewish immigration to Israel. JDL played lead role in the "Free Soviet Jewry" movement ("Let My People Go!") and pushed for the release of Russian refuseniks and their resettlement in Israel. JDL also protested against the oppression of Jewish population in Muslim countries, fought Neo-Nazis in the United States and resisted Christian missionaries' activity to convert Jews.

Emigration to Israel, Knesset service

In 1971, Kahane emigrated to Israel.

When he moved to Israel, Kahane declared that he would focus on Jewish education.[19] However, he soon began initiating protests advocating the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the occupied territories. In 1972, Jewish Defense League leaflets were distributed in Hebron, calling for mayor to stand trial for the 1929 Hebron massacre.[20] He was arrested dozens of times.[21] In 1971, he founded the Kach party. In 1973, the party ran for the Knesset (Israeli parliament) during the general elections under the name "The League List". The party won 12,811 votes (0.82%), just 2,857 (0.18%) short of the electoral threshold at the time (1%) for winning a Knesset seat. The party was even less successful in the 1977 elections, winning 4,836 votes.

In 1980, Kahane was arrested for the 62nd time since his emigration and jailed for six months following a detention order based on allegations of planning armed attacks against Palestinians in response to the killings of Jewish settlers.[22] Kahane was held in a maximum-security prison in Ramla, where he wrote the book They Must Go. Kahane claimed in the book's preface that one of his cellmates was a Bedouin from the Negev about to be released after serving an eighteen-year prison sentence for the rape and murder of a Jewish girl.[23]

In 1981, Kahane's Kach party again ran for the Knesset during the 1981 elections, but did not win a seat, receiving only 5,128 votes. The Central Elections Committee had banned him from being a candidate on the grounds that Kach was a racist party, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the ban on grounds that the committee was not authorized to ban Kahane's candidacy. The Supreme Court suggested that the Knesset pass a law that would authorize the exclusion of racist parties from future elections, and the Anti-Racist Law of 1988 was later passed. In the 1984 legislative elections, Kahane's Kach party received 25,907 votes, enough to give the party one seat in the Knesset, which was taken by Kahane. Kahane refused to take the standard oath of office and insisted on adding a Biblical verse from Psalms, to indicate that when the national laws and Torah conflict, Torah (Biblical) law should have supremacy over the laws of the Knesset.

Kahane's legislative proposals focused on transferring the Arab population out from the Land of Israel, revoking Israeli citizenship from non-Jews, and banning Jewish-Gentile marriages and sexual relations, based on the Code of Jewish Law compiled by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah.

As his political career progressed, Kahane became increasingly isolated in the Knesset. His speeches, boycotted by Knesset members, were made to an empty parliament, except for the duty chairman and the transcriptionist. Kahane's legislative proposals and motions of no-confidence against the government were ignored or rejected by fellow Knesset members. Kahane often pejoratively called other Knesset members "Hellenists" in Hebrew (a reference to Jews who assimilated into Greek culture after Judea's occupation by Alexander the Great). In 1987, Kahane opened a yeshiva (HaRaayon HaYehudi) with funding from US supporters, for the teaching of "the Authentic Jewish Idea".

Despite the boycott, Kahane's popularity grew among the Israeli public, especially among working-class Sephardi Jews.[24] Polls showed that Kach would have likely received three to four seats in the coming November 1988 elections,[25][26] with some earlier polls forecasting as many as twelve seats (10% of popular vote),[27][28] possibly making Kach Israel's third largest party.

In 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel's Basic Law, barring "racist" candidates from election. The Central Elections Committee banned Kahane a second time, and he appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court. This time, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the committee, disqualifying Kach from running in the 1988 elections. Kahane was thus the first candidate in Israel to be barred from election for racism.

Assassination

In November 1990, following a speech to an audience of mostly Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn,[10] as a crowd of well-wishers gathered around Kahane in the second-floor lecture hall in midtown Manhattan's Marriott East Side Hotel, Kahane was assassinated.[29][30][31] He was shot to death by El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian-born American citizen who was initially charged and acquitted of the murder.[32] Nosair was later convicted of the murder in United States district court incident to the trial for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[33] He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and later made a confession to federal agents.[34] Kahane was buried in Jerusalem.

Ideology

In Hebrew: "Today Everybody Knows: Rabbi Kahane was Right"
In Hebrew: "Today Everybody Knows: Rabbi Kahane was Right"

Kahane argued that there was a glory in Jewish destiny, which came through the observance of the Torah. He stated that, "democracy and Judaism are not the same thing."[35]

Kahane also believed that a Jewish democracy with non-Jewish citizens was self-contradictory because the non-Jewish citizens might someday become a numerical majority and vote to make the state non-Jewish: "The question is as follows: if the Arabs settle among us and make enough children to become a majority, will Israel continue to be a Jewish state? Do we have to accept that the Arab majority will decide?"[36] "Western democracy has to be ruled out. For me that's cut and dried: there's no question of setting up democracy in Israel, because democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins."

Kahane proposed the forcible deportation of nearly all Arabs from all lands controlled by the Israeli government. He framed this deportation as an "exchange of populations" that would continue the Jewish exodus from Arab lands: "A total of some 750,000 Jews fled Arab lands since 1948. Surely it is time for Jews, worried over the huge growth of Arabs in Israel, to consider finishing the exchange of populations that began 35 (50) years ago." Kahane proposed a $40,000 compensation plan for Arabs who would leave voluntarily, forcible expulsion "for those who don’t want to leave,"[36] and encouraged retaliatory violence against Arabs who attacked Jews: "I approve of anybody who commits such acts of violence. Really, I don’t think that we can sit back and watch Arabs throwing rocks at buses whenever they feel like it. They must understand that a bomb thrown at a Jewish bus is going to mean a bomb thrown at an Arab bus."[36]

Kahane proposed that Israel expand its boundaries "according to the description given in the Bible." He said, "the southern boundary goes up to El Arish, which takes in all of northern Sinai, including Yamit. To the east, the frontier runs along the western part of the East Bank of the Jordan River, hence part of what is now Jordan. Eretz Yisrael also includes part of Lebanon and certain parts of Syria, and part of Iraq, all the way to the Tigris River.[36] When critics suggested this would mean perpetual war between Jews and Arabs, Kahane answered, "There will be a perpetual war. With or without Kahane."

Political legacy

Graffiti in Hebron.[37][38] The persistent graffiti in Hebron calling for the expulsion or killing of Arabs has been characterized as Kahane's legacy.[39][40]
Graffiti in Herzliya: "כהנא צדק" ("Kahane was right")

Following Kahane's death, no charismatic leader emerged to replace him in the movement, although the idea of transferring populations gained traction in Israel. Two small Kahanist factions later emerged; one under the name of Kach and the other Kahane chai (Hebrew: כהנא חי, literally "Kahane lives [on]"), led by his younger son, Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane.

In 1994, following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre of Palestinian Muslim worshippers in Hebron by Kach supporter Dr. Baruch Goldstein, in which 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers were killed, the Israeli government declared both parties to be terrorist organizations.[41][42] The U.S. State Department also added Kach and Kahane Chai to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Providing funds or material support to these organizations is a crime in both Israel and the USA.

In late 2000, as bombing attacks on Israel during the Al-Aqsa Intifada began, Kahane supporters spray-painted graffiti on hundreds of bus shelters and bridges all across Israel. The message on each target was identical, simply reading: "Kahane was Right".

On December 31, 2000, Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and his wife Talya were shot to death as they returned from Jerusalem to their home in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Tapuach, and five of their six children wounded. Palestinian gunmen fired more than 60 machine-gun rounds into their van.[43]

In the 2003 Knesset elections Herut, which split off from the National Union list, ran with Michael Kleiner and former Kach activist Baruch Marzel taking the top two spots on the list. The joint effort narrowly missed the 1.5% barrier. In the following 2006 elections Jewish National Front led by Baruch Marzel, fared better but also failed to pass the minimum threshold. Michael Ben-Ari, elected to the Knesset in the 2009 elections on renewed National Union list, is a self-declared follower of Kahane who was involved with Kach for many years.

Supporters

In an article written in January 2001 on a forum of the Jewish Defense League, activist Joe Kaufman praised the Kahane movement and its founder Meir Kahane. In that article Kaufman said of Kahane: "It was perfectly understandable, if he were to have hated Arabs. Just like, during the Holocaust, it was perfectly understandable for a Jew to hate Germans…If the Kahanes' memory serves us any purpose, it's to show that trust (and peace) is ultimately between only ourselves."

In a 1971 interview, Bob Dylan made positive comments about Kahane. In Time Magazine, Dylan stated, "He's a really sincere guy. He's really put it all together."[44] According to Kahane, Dylan did attend several meetings of the Jewish Defense League in order to find out "what we're all about"[45] and started to have talks with the rabbi.[46]

See also

Publications

  • (Partially under pseudonym Michael King; with Joseph Churba) The Jewish Stake in Vietnam, Crossroads, 1967
  • Never Again! A Program for Survival, Pyramid Books, 1972
  • Time to Go Home, Nash, 1972.
  • Letters from Prison, Jewish Identity Center, 1974
  • Our Challenge: The Chosen Land, Chilton, 1974
  • The Story of the Jewish Defense League, Chilton, 1975, 2nd edition, Institute for Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, (Brooklyn, NY), 2000
  • Why Be Jewish? Intermarriage, Assimilation, and Alienation, Stein & Day, 1977
  • Listen, Vanessa, I Am a Zionist, Institute of the Authentic Jewish Idea, 1978
  • They Must Go, Grosset & Dunlop, 1981
  • Forty Years, Institute of the Jewish Idea, 2nd edition, 1983
  • Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews, Lyle Stuart, 1987
  • Israel: Revolution or Referendum, Barricade Books (Secaucus, NJ), 1990
  • Or ha-ra'yon, English title: The Jewish Idea, n.p. (Jerusalem), 1992, translated from the Hebrew by Raphael Blumberg, Institute for Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane (Jerusalem), 1996
  • On Jews and Judaism: Selected Articles 1961–1990, Institute for Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane (Jerusalem), 1993
  • Perush ha-Makabi: al Sefer Devarim, Institute for Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane (Jerusalem), 1993, 1995
  • Pirush HaMaccabee: al Sefer Shemu'el u-Nevi'im rishonim, Institute for Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane (Jerusalem), 1994
  • Listen World, Listen Jew, 3rd edition, Institute for the Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane (Jerusalem), 1995
  • Beyond Words, 1st edition, Institute for the Publication of the Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane (Jerusalem), 2010.
  • Kohen ve-navi: osef ma'amarim, ha-Makhon le-hotsa'at kitve ha-Rav Kahana (Jerusalem), 2000
  • Cuckooland, illustrated by Shulamith bar Itzhak (yet unpublished).
  • DVD-quality downloadable videos of Meir Kahane's lectures, SamsonBlinded.org

Also author of Numbers 23:9: "... lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations," I. Block, 1970s. Contributor—sometimes under pseudonym Michael King—to periodicals, including New York Times. Editor of Jewish Press, 1968.

For supplementary information and insights:

References

  1. ^ Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Jewish Action Online, 2008
  2. ^ Rabbi Meir Kahane Jewish Virtual Library
  3. ^ Jacqueline Shields. "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries". http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/jewref.html. 
  4. ^ Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Libby Kahane, 2008, Abstract
  5. ^ NY Times - Israel Bans Kahane Party From Election
  6. ^ Kahane's Knesset career was ended by section 7a of Basic Law: The Knesset (1958): "Prevention of Participation of Candidates List."
  7. ^ Kach, Kahane Chai (Israel, extremists)
  8. ^ "Chapter 6 -- Terrorist Organizations". http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2007/103714.htm. Retrieved 2010-11-21. 
  9. ^ Jewish militant faces bomb trial BBC News, 15 June 2004
  10. ^ a b Specter, Michael (1990-11-06). "Jewish Leader Kahane Slain in New York". Washington Post. 
  11. ^ Friedman, Robert I. The false prophet - Rabbi Meir Kahane - from FBI informant to Knesset member New York 1990 ISBN 1556520786 p.9
  12. ^ Carrying a Torch
  13. ^ Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Libby Kahane, 2008, review by Rabbi Dr. Rakeffet-Rothkoff
  14. ^ "Carrying a torch" Haaretz
  15. ^ New York Times November 06, 1990 obituary, New York Times; see also a biography of Kahane called The False Prophet by Robert I. Friedman
  16. ^ Remembering Kahane, and the Woman on the Bridge, by Michael T. Kaufman, March 6, 1994, New York Times
  17. ^ Tydor Baumel, Judith (2005). The "Bergson Boys" and the origins of contemporary Zionist militancy. Syracuse University Press. pp. 270. 
  18. ^ Hewitt, Christopher (2002). Understanding Terrorism in America: From the Klan to Al Qaeda. Routledge. pp. 35f. ISBN 0415277655. 
  19. ^ Ehud Sprinzak (1999). Brother against Brother. The Free Press. P. 189
  20. ^ The Kach Movement - Background. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 3 March 1994
  21. ^ 60 Minutes - Meir Kahane
  22. ^ Israelis arrest rabbi on terrorism charges, The Montreal Gazette May 15, 1980
  23. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/25575106/They-Must-Go
  24. ^ http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20113657,00.html
  25. ^ Jewish Defense League Unleashes Campaign of Violence in America New York Times, 17 October 1988
  26. ^ Jew vs. Jew: the struggle for the soul of American Jewry, Samuel G. Freedman
  27. ^ The Jewish Struggle Against Arabs in Israel, Ariel Natan Pasko
  28. ^ Israeli Democracy, Ahavat-Israel.com
  29. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark (2003). Terror in the Mind of God. University of California Press. pp. 59. 
  30. ^ Katz, Samuel M. "Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the manhunt for the al-Qaeda terrorists", 2002
  31. ^ Hamm, Mark S (2007). Terrorism as Crime: From Oklahoma City to Al-Qaeda and Beyond. NYU Press, p 29
  32. ^ Jury Selection Seen As Crucial to Verdict
  33. ^ CNN Jenkins, Brian. "Sheik, others convicted in New York", October 1, 1995, CNN
  34. ^ Jerusalem Post Scheffler, Gil. "Sharon was Kahane killer's target", Aug 15 2010, The Jerusalem Post
  35. ^ "One absolutely cannot confuse them. The objective of a democratic state is to allow a person to do exactly as he wishes. The objective of Judaism is to serve God and to make people better. These are two totally opposite conceptions of life.God's Law: an Interview with Rabbi Meir Kahane
  36. ^ a b c d Kahane.org
  37. ^ Baltzer, Anna. Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. page 279
  38. ^ http://www.salem-news.com/articles/january152011/gassing-arabs-tg.php
  39. ^ Jewish terrorism in Israel. By Ami Pedahzur, Arie Perliger. 2009, page 73
  40. ^ Encyclopedia of American religion and politics. Paul A. Djupe, Laura R. Olson. 2003, page 239
  41. ^ "Kach and Kahane Chai". Archived from the original on 2002-12-16. http://web.archive.org/web/20021216072525/library.nps.navy.mil/home/tgp/kach.htm. 
  42. ^ "Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)". http://www.ict.org.il/inter_ter/orgdet.cfm?orgid=19. 
  43. ^ Dudkevitch, Margot (1 Jan 2001). "Kahane, wife killed by terrorists". Jerusalem Post. http://info.jpost.com/C002/Supplements/CasualtiesOfWar/2000_12_31.html. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  44. ^ Bob Dylan interview
  45. ^ The Wandering Kind by Douglas Wolk
  46. ^ Heylin, Clinton (2001). Bob Dylan Behind the Shades. The Biography-Take Two. London: Penguin Books. pp. 328. ISBN 0-1402-8146-0. 
  47. ^ http://www.jpost.com/Features/InThespotlight/Article.aspx?id=193556

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