Kahane Is Alive and Well - in Some of Israel's Leading Politicians

The statements of today's Likud-Beiteinu electoral candidates are not so different from those that got the rightist banned from the Knesset 25 years ago.

The Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Meir Shamgar, listed the following reasons for disqualifying Rabbi Meir Kahane from running in the 1988 elections: “The deliberate stirring up of emotions on a national-ethnic basis, which gives rise to hostility and quarrels and widens gaps; the call for the violent negation of rights; systematic, deliberate contempt for certain segments of the population defined on a national-ethnic basis and humiliating them in a manner frighteningly reminiscent of the worst persecutions visited upon the Jewish people – all these are sufficient ... to support the conclusion regarding incitement to racism ... The radical way these subjects are presented and the actions that go with them, together with the grave distortion of the character of the state and its police that stems from it, render these goals and actions grave enough to justify the Central Elections Committee’s decision.”

In 1988, Kahane had an insider’s understanding of the Knesset. In the 1984 elections, he had managed to defeat a similar attempt at disqualification by appealing to the very same Supreme Court, and served as the sole member of his faction. During his first term, which was also his last, Kahane encountered harsh resistance from the institution he had tried so hard to infiltrate. Knesset members left the plenum when he spoke. The attorney general asked the Knesset House Committee to limit his actions. His parliamentary immunity was lifted, and he was kept from having free access to places where there was danger of his engaging in incitement and starting a riot. The Israel Broadcasting Authority’s governing council ruled that interviews with Kahane and quotations or statements by him would be examined “to ensure that the government media did not serve as a stage for incitement against citizens or statements offensive to the State of Israel, which violated the principles of the Declaration of Independence and allow only the broadcast of reports that have clear value as news and do not offend these principles.”

In October 1985, Army Radio dedicated an entire day of its broadcasts to “the fight against racism and Kahanism.” Officers also received a special briefing about negating Kahane and his movement in light of its “agreement with the state’s institutions and the vast majority of society that Kahane’s messages are racist.” The most significant change came in the form of Statute 7A of the Basic Law on the Knesset, which prevents factions and individuals from running for the Knesset if their goals, statements or actions contain negation of the country’s democratic character or incitement to racism. This statute carried the most weight in the disqualification of Kahane and his list in the 1988 elections. What did Kahane say that made the authorities so angry? Here are a few examples:

“The cancer eating away at us is the Arabs of the State of Israel”; “Neither liberalism, democracy nor the supposedly progressive world view will dictate what is good and what is bad”; “No Arab will be accepted to study at university unless he swears loyalty to the Jewish state”; “The more the Arabs multiply and reach Jewish areas, the more crimes there will be in general, and sex crimes in particular, against Jews”; “Who will finally administer hormonal treatment to suppress the nationalist-sex-maniac drive of the nationalist-sex-maniac Arab criminal?” After the attack on Bus 405 in 1989, Kahane said of the victims: “Who murdered them? ... These leftists ... this government.” Kahane’s punishment for statements such as these was to be barred from running in the next Knesset elections.

Twenty-five years later, in the 2013 elections, the joint list of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu will include Benjamin Netanyahu (“[Former prime minister Yitzhak] Shamir was right: the Arabs are the same Arabs and the sea is the same sea”; “Minus the Arabs and the Haredim, Israel is in great shape”); Avigdor Lieberman (“The left-wing organizations are nothing but terrorist collaborators”; “For some European ministers, Israel’s destruction is something to be taken for granted”); Gilad Erdan (“The Arab channels broadcast incitement and false reports and incite the Arabs of Israel”); Danny Danon (“It seems that an enemy state comprised of infiltrators has been established inside the State of Israel. The time has come to declare war on that infiltrator state and set a goal that everyone must meet: immediate deportation”), and Miri Regev (“The Sudanese [in Israel] are a cancer in our body”; “I didn’t equate the Sudanese with human beings. Perish the thought!”).

At a time when these are the most prominent representatives of Israel’s largest political party, the one most likely to win the elections, what is the sense in disqualifying a campaign such as that of Michael Ben Ari and his party, Otzma Leyisrael? After all, Ben Ari – who said in an interview, “I’m not the only one who represents Rabbi Kahane; he is represented by a great many people everywhere, inside and outside the Knesset” – is only a small symptom of Israel’s regression.

A scrap of wood is floating on the surface of the water, marking the spot where the ship went down. There was no one to save it.

The writer is a blogging system manager at the well-known Israeli Internet portal Tapuz.