Once upon a time, right-wing activists used to hand out bumper stickers lambasting the "hostile media." But on Tuesday, at a memorial marking the 21st anniversary of Rabbi Meir Kahane's murder, not a bad word was said about the press. On the contrary, the "hostile media" provided the evening's chief entertainment - a fact that merely contributed to the euphoria gripping the massive crowd.
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Clip after clip that had aired on Israel's commercial television stations over the last year was shown on the big screen of the Heichal David hall in Jerusalem's Romema neighborhood. There was a report broadcast by Channel 10 just two days ago about Ariel Zilber's new song, "Kahane was right." A Channel 2 report that praised longtime activist Itamar Ben-Gvir as "a skilled media machine" and "a kind of celeb" also won applause. Another Channel 10 report described how African refugees enjoyed a day at Tel Aviv's Gordon pool - to the horror of the pool's usual clientele - with MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union ) and far-right activist Baruch Marzel picking up the tab. Then back to Channel 2, which showed Ben-Ari explaining how he would respond to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip: "24 hours, and there would be no more [town of] Beit Hanun." The crowd went wild.
"Today, Rabbi Kahane is sitting in heaven and smiling," Ben-Gvir told the audience. And wherever he is now, he undoubtedly is smiling. Once, his followers were a marginal bunch. But today - 23 years after his Kach party was banned from running for Knesset and 17 years after it was outlawed altogether - they are a huge crowd, including many seemingly normative young people.
"Many people ask why we're still doing this in such a small hall," the emcee told the packed room. "But this is the only hall in Jerusalem that doesn't employ Arabs. It deserves this honor."
Moreover, if once the left was able to make life miserable for the Kahanists, today, it is Ben-Ari and other right-wing MKs who are making life miserable for leftists.
"Today, it isn't just Ben-Ari," Ben-Gvir noted. "In Yisrael Beiteinu, in National Union, even in Likud they understand that Kahane was right."
Today, Kahane is a brand. And if there were no bumper stickers assailing the hostile media on sale Tuesday, it was possible to buy just about anything else. The merchandise ranged from Kahane's many books through memorial candles to T-shirts bearing slogans such as "price tag" - the term given to retaliatory attacks on Palestinians and soldiers following house demolitions in the settlements - and "Free Yigal Amir," the murderer of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. There was even an illustrated children's book about Kahane, as well as the first volume of a biography of him (that volume alone ran to 600 pages ) and many books inspired by him.
One of those present leafed through a book about Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Arabs at Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994. "That's 'Baruch Hagever'; you aren't familiar with it?" the salesman asked. "You have to buy it. It's a classic."
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: באולם האירועים ברוממה, מאיר כהנא מתגלגל מצחוק