Religious Jews Condemn Netanyahu's Far-right Pact in Jerusalem Protest

Some 300 protesters vowed to 'not give fascism a pass' after religious right-wing parties join forces with Kahanist party under PM's auspices

Activists march in protest of Prime Minister Netanyahu's support of far-right political pact, Jerusalem, March 2, 2019.
Emil Salman

Some 300 religious Jewish Israelis marched on Saturday outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, in protest of his electoral deal with right-wing parties, which could see followers of late racist U.S.-born Rabbi Meir Kahane enter Knesset after the April 9 election.

Joining a growing wave of criticism in Israel and abroad of Netanyahu's support of Otzma Yehudit, demonstrators called "We won't give fascism a pass" and held up signs condemning racism and Kahanism, which calls for the deportation of Arabs from Israel.

>> Read more: Following controversial deal with Kahanists, religious Israelis are seeking a new political home

The protest was organized by the anti-racism nongovernmental organization Tag Meir and two other moderate religious groups, under the slogan: "Jews against Kahanism."

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Supporters of Otzma Yehudit called for a counter-protest, but only one person showed up.

Former minister Rabbi Michael Melchior told protesters that Otzma Yehudit itself and Habayit Hayehudi and National Union, which joined forces with it under Netanyahu's pressure to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties, "are adopting the most impure values from the nations of the world – fascism and racism – and want to stain Judaism."

"But that’s not even the worst thing they are doing," Melchior added. "They have always done that. They were outside the fence and you [Prime Minister Netanyahu] made efforts to bring Kahanism into the Knesset." Referring to the allocation of the 28th spot of the Likud roster to a candidate from Habayit Hayehudi in Netanyahu's bid to secure the far-right union, Melchior said: "You even left room on the Likud slate, something that has never been done in the history of Israeli politics."

Tag Meir Chairman Gadi Gvaryahu said that Habayit Hayehudi "would never had thought of including a party that believed in violating the Sabbath publicly, even if it meant gaining 10 more Knesset seats. It wouldn't include a party that didn’t keep kosher, but they are looking the other way with a party that seeks to violate basic values, that supports a murderer who killed 29 worshippers inside a mosque," referring to American-Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein, who massacred Muslim worshippers in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994.

Otzma Yehudit is led by former lawmaker Michael Ben Ari, together with Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Benzi Gopstein, all former disciples and political descendants of Kahane, whose vitriolic racism against Arabs got his Kach party banned from running in the 1988 election. Two years later, he was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel.