At Kahane Memorial, Crowd Jeers Ben-Gvir as He Says ‘Not All Arabs’ Should Be Deported From Israel

Far-right lawmaker and Netanyahu ally Itamar Ben-Gvir published his planned speech, in which he says he ‘does not support the expulsion of all Arabs’ but of ‘terrorists’; both Israel and the EU designated Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach movement as a terrorist organization ■ U.S. State Department expresses concern ‘by the use of Kahane’s legacy and rhetoric by extremist and violent right wing activists’

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Meir Kahane supporters set fire to a Palestinian flag at near Kahane's grave in Jerusalem, on Thursday.
Meir Kahane supporters set fire to a Palestinian flag at near Kahane's grave in Jerusalem, on Thursday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

A crowd jeered far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir on Thursday as he said he “does not think all Arabs should be deported,” with someone calling “All Arabs” during the annual commemoration of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the outlawed Kach movement.

“It is not a secret that I am not Rabbi Kahane and I don’t support deporting all Arabs,” Ben-Gvir said.

Departing the hall under tight security, Ben-Gvir stated that “they’re allowed to jeer me.”

Earlier, audience members burned a Palestinian flag with their lighters.

Ben-Gvir published in advance the speech he had planned to deliver at the event, hailing Kahane for his work to “open the Iron Curtain, fight antisemitism against Jews in the U.S. and legislate the death penalty for terrorists.”

Credit: Nati Harnik / GPO

“It’s no secret that today I am not Rabbi Kahane and I do not support the expulsion of all Arabs, and I will not legislate laws for segregated beaches,” Ben-Gvir said in the text of the speech he released. He added, however: “We will of course work and act to expel terrorists from Israel for the sake of Israel’s Jewish character, for the sake of settlement and for the sake of Jewish identity.”

>> Who was Meir Kahane, and why is his racist legacy relevant again

“But I think Rabbi Kahane’s main characteristic was love," the speech continued. "Love of Israel without compromises or any other considerations.”

“If in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] they throw rocks and firebombs on our soldiers and police officers, we must allow [soldiers] to respond,” the text concluded. “If a family is afraid to walk to the [Western Wall] because it's dangerous, that needs to end.”

Responding to Ben-Gvir’s speech, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that “celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent. There is no other word for it. We are concerned by the use of Kahane’s legacy and rhetoric by extremist and violent right wing activists.”

On Thursday, President Isaac Herzog told Ben-Gvir that he was being approached by Jews from all over the world who are worried about Otzma Yehudit’s policy on minorities. “You and your party have a reputation that worries many, in regard to your approach to Arabs and Muslims in our country and in the region,” Herzog told Ben-Gvir in a meeting that is part of a series of consultations the president is having with the leaders of parties in the incoming Knesset.

Ben-Gvir, KahaneCredit: Moti Milrod, GPO

Replying to Herzog’s remark that Israelis "must not have racism” within them, Ben-Gvir replied that he is not a racist, but he “wants order to be among us. We came to implement right-wing policy.”

Ben-Gvir makes sure to attend the annual memorial ceremony held in honor of Kahane in Jerusalem every year. He is one of the main speakers, together with Knesset members Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel and a handful of the late leader’s students.

Yitzhak Wasserlauf, second on Otzma Yehudit’s Knesset slate, led the ceremony last year, when Ben-Gvir gave the keynote address as a sitting member of the Knesset. Among other things, Ben-Gvir called Haaretz a “Hamas mouthpiece” in regard to an article he didn’t like. “I’m not looking to justify myself. Yair Lapid said that the opposition isn’t being led by Benjamin Netanyahu but by Itamar Ben-Gvir. I want to tell you, Haaretz, thank you that you’ve made it clear that I am on the right path and that Rabbi Kahane, may his blood be avenged, is smiling down on me.

“There’s a difference between me and Kahane and between Otzma Yehudit and Kach, but the greatest compliment I get is that we took the rabbi’s immense love for Israel and are perpetuating it,” Ben-Gvir added.

Kahane served in the 11th Knesset as leader of the extremist Kach movement, which was ultimately barred from running for the 12th Knesset. Kahane was murdered in New York after delivering a lecture at a Manhattan hotel in 1990.

People attending the event on Thursday burn a Palestinian flag.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

After Kahane’s death, Kach split into two factions: Kach and Kahane Chai (“Kahane Lives”), which was led by his son, Benyamin Ze’ev Kahane.

The Israeli government declared both Kach and Kahane Chai illegal terror organizations in 1994, following the February 1994 massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs by Kach supporter Baruch Goldstein, killing 29 Muslim worshippers. That same year, Kach was also placed on the U.S. State Department and European Union lists of outlawed terror groups, although the group was later removed from the U.S. blacklist.

Born Martin David Kahane in Brooklyn in 1932, Kahane was raised in an Orthodox, revisionist Zionist home in Flatbush. He was the son of a European-born rabbi and was active in the right-wing youth movement Beitar. After immigrating to Israel in 1971, Kahane established his ultranationalist, Orthodox Kach party and became involved in a campaign to convince the Jewish public of the need to expel its Arab citizens as well as the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.

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