Kahane's Knesset Legacy: If There's No Torah, the Pigs Will Take Over the Country

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A memorial service for Meir Kahane in Jerusalem, 2012.
A memorial service for Meir Kahane in Jerusalem, 2012. Credit: Emil Salman
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

What is it going to be like in the next Knesset, which may yet feature members who style themselves as following the path of Meir Kahane, founder of the racist Kahanist movement?

A review of Kahane's parliamentary activity from 1984 to 1988 could provide a hint. During those four years, until his party was banned from contending in elections, Kahane's agenda included "the transfer" of Israel's Arabs to somewhere else; annexing the West Bank and Gaza Strip; beefing up the settlements, including inside major Palestinian cities; fighting the secular and "Hellenized" left-wingers; persecuting condescending Ashkenazi kibbutzniks; reshaping the state as a non-democratic Jewish one; halting the military draft of girls; and taking action against "assimilation."

We could be hearing similar songs in parliament for the first time since the 18th Knesset, which included former National Union MK Michael Ben Ari – who has now co-founded the Otzma Yehudit party

Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and the 'transfer' of Arabs

"In this debate, finally, we have no choice but to focus, to observe, to think and to decide on the real solution to the question of questions: the place of the Arab in a Jewish state," Kahane told the Knesset in 1985, and proceeded to lay forth his opinion of what minority status should be in Israel: unequal. He then accused his colleagues on the left of hypocrisy.

>> Read more:Why racist Rabbi Meir Kahane is roiling Israeli politics 30 years after his death | Explained ■ I told Meir Kahane: You and Louis Farrakhan both raise money by attacking Jews | Opinion ■ Courting Kahanists, Netanyahu takes politics to the gutter | Analysis

Kahane maintained that there is a basic “contradiction” between the State of Israel being both a democracy and a Jewish State. He argued that Israel cannot be a Jewish state if the Arab population, having a vote, outnumbers the Jewish population.

FILE Photo: Kahane speaks in front of his supporters in Jerusalem, 1984. Credit: Nati Harnik / GPO

"As long as an Arab singing the national anthem would have to sing "the Jewish soul yearns," he cannot be equal to Jews, Kahane argued. "As long as Independence Day represents the defeat of the Arabs, he cannot celebrate it; as long as a Jew might be prepared to allow an Arab to become a general in the army but not the chief of staff, let alone prime minister, the Arab cannot feel at home; as long as the Law of Return applies only to Jews, the Arab cannot feel that the State of Israel is his; as long as a Jewish Knesset member does not accept the Arab's right to be a majority here, you are surely holding him in contempt when you try to convince him that he is a citizen with equal rights."

Kahane called on his colleagues to "stop the lies" and described the Arab in Israel as a "son of the Palestinian Arab people ostensibly living in absence of choice and against his will in the Jewish state, which he hopes through natural propagation to turn into Palestine."

Many of the local people murdered Jews before Israel's establishment, and only the Israeli army and the Lord stopped them from destroying the state in 1948, Kahane said, adding, "They abhor the Jewish state. Let us acknowledge the fact, let us understand that at the end of the day they are our enemies and let us resolve that this state shall eternally be the state of the Jewish people."

Two years later, in 1987, Kahane became preoccupied with the "demographic threat" posed by the Arabs, which he called incredibly dangerous – while the solution "lies within us, in our souls, in our wish to admit to the truth". What is that truth? That there is an "insurmountable contradiction" between the concept of Zionist and a Jewish state, and the concept of western democracy. Anybody who doesn't grasp that is obtuse, he said.

According to Kahane, the Jewish state by definition cannot be democratic. In his vision, Israel should be a "state with Jewish sovereignty… in which the Jew determines his own future and fate, and the Jew is the captain of the ship." Non-Jews have no say in national decisions that determine the fate of the state and the nation, Kahane averred.

Why couldn't Israel be Jewish and democratic? Because, Kahane said, "Western democracy rejects the concept of a Jewish state with disgust" because it requires a state ruled by the majority, whoever the majority might be. If the Arabs were the majority, Kahane said, then it would be their right to set up a state as they please, and they would eliminate the Jewish state.

His solution, presented to the Knesset, was to move them out of Israel, willing or not.

"When my nation and I face annihilation, would I ask the person aspiring to exterminate me if he is prepared to leave? I'm not that much of a sucker. Let everybody live in their own countries. They have 22 of them," he said – and they could live there in "love and brotherly fraternity, and coexist with their brothers, Arab coexistence, but not here. We don't have 22 countries. We don't even have two. This one is ours and it doesn't belong to another people or person who is not a Jew."

FILE Photo: A memorial for Kahane sells shirts and books in Jerusalem, 2011. Credit: Michal Fattal

On another occasion he remarked that by "faith in God and a hand that isn't hard but is iron, without fear, we shall expel them."

Transfer was only one element of Kahane's solution. In his speeches he presented four subsections en route to salvation. "We must: First, Annex Judea, Samaria and Gaza, thus obviating the possibility that Shimon Peres will forsake Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as [Menachem] Begin abandoned the Sinai. Second, establish massive settlement throughout the West Bank, including inside the big cities of Nablus, Hebron and Jenin. Third, make transfer plans; forth, to return to our Father in heaven, to faith and trust in God."

Those who want coexistence have 'defiled their souls'

Kahane was also disturbed by "assimilation," mainly of Jewish women who married Arabs and even had children by them. "In the Arab villages in Israel and the cities there are thousands of Jewish women married to Arabs. They will have Jewish children who are actually Jew haters, Arabs; these are Jewish women who have defiled their souls."

He called these women "prostitutes" and blamed the Education Ministry for promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence, describing a program in which 20 Jewish students visited the Arab village of Taibeh for four days, and called it, "a plot to destroy the fences and the obstacles between the holy Jewish people and the non-Jews, and of course in the name of coexistence and democracy."

Kahane wasn't satisfied with protecting Jewish girls from Arab men. He wanted to protect them from secular Jewish men and IDF officers and to prevent girls from serving in the army. In a speech he said: "Don't tell me what happens in the IDF with the girls. I don't live in an ivory tower," claiming that 4,000 abortions occur each year in the IDF.

"Religious girls come from the moshavim [agricultural community], from places where they had a framework of religion and modesty. Suddenly they come to the IDF. There's an officer there who decides everything." Kahane intimated that the girls were often seduced. "It's true that not all girls are the same. There's no question that without a traffic law not every child will be run over. But the traffic light is a preventive."

Secular Jews are Pigs 

Part of his parliamentary activity was directed at Shabbat observance. He called it "a far greater battle than the Jewish-Arab crisis," and warned against compromising with secular Jews. He warned the secular people that "the first person who was killed by the Maccabees was a Jew who wanted to eat pork."

He warned against compromises on this issue, saying "for us the Jewish people, the holy nation, there is no foolish concept of 'live and let live.' There's no such concept in the Jewish world because God won't let us live in lawlessness, and unbridled freedom, as we wish. If there's no Torah, there won't be peace, serenity or rest. The pigs will take over the country."

On the slate of the union of right-wing parties, which is composed of Habayit Hayehudi, the National Union-Tekuma, and Otzma Yehudit - and was formed with the mediation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - there are two former Kach activists - former MK Michael Ben Ari and his adviser attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir. Ben Ari sees himself as a successor of Kahane.

The political career of Ben Ari, who served as an MK from 2009 to 2013, was full of controversial incidents and statements that gave him broad media coverage. For example, in 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, he said: "The people demand to expel leftists, the leftists are traitors, leftists to Gaza." He also said: "In Gaza there are no innocent people" and called on the IDF to increase the lethal attacks indiscriminately.

"What's 200 attacks and only 15 dead? We want 15 raids with 2,000 dead." The demonstrators shouted "We'll erase Gaza," and "All of Gaza is a cemetery." In 2017 Ben Ari said that the children of asylum seekers in the south carry "very serious viral illnesses." Now he's preparing to return to the legislature under the sponsorship of the prime minister.

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