MEIR KAHANE, a fanatic ultrarightwing American-Israeli zealot, was assassinated more than thirty years ago, and yet his spirit is in full control of Israel’s genocidal onslaught against the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza. When he was alive, his racist and antidemocratic political movement, the Kach party, was banned in Israel and officially designated a terrorist organization, both in Israel and the United States.
Today his disciples and admirers are entrenched in the government of Israel and direct its political energy toward implementing ethnic cleansing policies. Their avowed goal is to eliminate the Palestinian population in its entirety from the territories claimed by Israel.
Four years ago, a headline in a mainstream Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, warned of the rise of this danger:
Why Racist Rabbi Meir Kahane Is Roiling Israeli Politics 30 Years After His Death
The article, discussing forthcoming Israeli elections, stated:
“The leader of the Kach party, which advocated for an Israel free of Arabs, was assassinated in 1990, but his extremist beliefs will likely be represented in the next Knesset due to a pact between two far-right parties.” (Haaretz, February 21, 2019).
More recent national elections in 2022 completed the Kahanist takeover. The leading candidate for Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, formed a coalition joining his Likud Party with the right-wing Jewish Power and Religious Zionism parties to control enough seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to form a government. A November 5, 2023, Haaretz editorial decried “the power and legitimacy enjoyed today, in Israel as a whole and in the government, by the Kahanist, messianic Jewish far right.”
The adjectives “right-wing” and “far right” are not mere epithets hurled at Netanyahu by his opponents; he himself described the formation of his coalition as “another significant step bringing us closer to forming a right-wing, nationalist government that will look out for all Israeli citizens” (Reuters, December 1, 2022). His choice of coalition partners makes clear that his definition of “Israeli citizens” excludes Palestinians.
Two of the political leaders with whom Netanyahu coalesced, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Yoel Smotrich, are well-known supporters of Kahane’s demand for the takeover of all Palestinian territories and the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. A Jerusalem Post headline (October 27, 2022) declared:
The accompanying article lamented:
“Elevating these heirs and disciples of Meir Kahane, who preached and practiced violence and hatred, will further alienate all but the most extreme among American Jewry and other friends of Israel.”
So, who are Ben-Gvir and Smotrich? The 2022 Jerusalem Post article identifies their Religious Zionism party as “fascistic forces” and “an anti-secular, anti-Arab, anti-democratic alliance.”
Just before the November 2022 elections, Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, issued a powerful warning about the potential danger Itamar Ben-Gvir represented, and described him as “the modern Israeli version of an American white supremacist and a European fascist.” If Ben-Gvir
“gets his way—and Netanyahu gets his 61 seats—these two men will have the ability to demolish the country as we know it. . . . with a Netanyahu government completely dependent on Ben-Gvir, the Likud later will have no choice but to capitulate to the extremist’s every demand.”
“A government with Ben-Gvir in it,” Katz concluded, “will take on the contours of a fascist state. Some friends and friendly governments around the world are quietly conveying this warning. Sadly, no one is listening.”
Ben-Gvir’s reward for joining Netanyahu’s coalition was the post of Minister of National Security, “a newly created portfolio with powers over police in Israel and the West Bank” (Reuters, December 1, 2022).
Bezalel Smotrich, who proudly calls himself a “homophobic fascist,” was given the powerful position of Minister of Finance in Netanyahu’s cabinet, as well as a sui generis post in the Ministry of Defense, which, as The Times of Israel describes it, “confers upon Smotrich what amounts to the prime ministership of the West Bank” (December 8, 2022). A Le Monde article further explains:
“A religious fundamentalist and known arsonist is taking up residence on the 14th floor of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Appointed at the end of February to the tailor-made post of “minister within the ministry,” Bezalel Smotrich is set to become a de facto governor of the West Bank. As such, he has authority over the “Civil Administration”—in reality a military body—that manages the day-to-day occupation of the Palestinian territories. . . .
“As finance minister, 43-year-old Smotrich caused a stir in the country on March 1. As soon as he took up his new post, he called for the Israeli army to commit ethnic cleansing by “razing” the Palestinian village of Huwara.
“I am a homophobic fascist, but I am a man of my word.” That was how he talked about himself in a private conversation, a recording of which was broadcast by the public channel Kan in January. A Jewish supremacist and racist, Smotrich dreams of a theocratic state subject to religious law, a state that he would like to see extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, over the entire Holy Land. . . . He now has the means to implement a part of that plan.” (Le Monde, March 9, 2023)
Meir Kahane has not risen from the grave, but his political influence and power are far greater in Israel today than they ever were when he was alive.
November 6, 2023