|Date of birth||August 1, 1932|
|Place of birth||Brooklyn, New York, United States|
|Year of aliyah||1971|
|Date of death||November 5, 1990(aged 58)|
|Place of death||Manhattan, United States|
|Faction represented in Knesset|
Meir David HaKohen Kahane (//; Hebrew: מאיר דוד כהנא; August 1, 1932 – November 5, 1990) was an Israeli-American ordained Orthodox rabbi, writer, and ultra-nationalist politician who served one term in Israel's Knesset. His legacy continues to influence militant and far-right political groups active today in Israel.
Kahane publicized his ideology ("Kahanism") through published works, weekly articles, speeches, debates on college campuses and in synagogues throughout the United States, and appearances on various televised programs and radio shows. He was an intense advocate for Jewish causes, such as organizing defense squads and patrols in Jewish neighborhoods and demanding for the Soviet Union to "release its oppressed Jews". He supported violence against those he regarded as enemies of the Jewish people, called for immediate Jewish mass migration to Israel to avoid a potential "Holocaust" in the United States, supported the restriction of Israel's democracy to its Jewish citizens, hoped that Israel would eventually adopt Jewish religious law, and endorsed the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Kahane proposed enforcing Jewish law as codified by Maimonides. Non-Jews wishing to dwell in Israel would have three options: remain as "resident strangers" with limited rights, leave Israel and receive compensation for their property, or be forcibly removed without compensation. While serving in the Knesset in the mid-1980s Kahane proposed numerous laws, none of which passed, to emphasize Judaism in public schools, reduce Israel's bureaucracy, forbid sexual relations between non-Jews and Jews, and end cultural meetings between Jewish and Arab students.
In 1968, Kahane was one of the co-founders of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the United States. In 1971, he co-founded Kach ("Thus"), a new political party in Israel. The same year, he was convicted in New York for conspiracy to manufacture explosives and received a suspended sentence of five years. In 1984, he became a member of the Knesset, when Kach gained its only-ever seat in parliamentary elections. In 1988, after polls showed Kach gaining popularity, the Israeli government banned Kach for being "racist" and "anti-democratic" under the terms of a law that it had just passed.
Martin David Kahane was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1932 to an Orthodox Jewish family. His father, Yechezkel (Charles) Kahane, the author of the "Torah Yesharah", studied at Polish and Czech yeshivas, was involved in the Revisionist Zionist movement, and was a close friend of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
As a teenager, Kahane became an ardent admirer of Jabotinsky and Peter Bergson, who were frequent guests in his parents' home. He joined the Betar (Brit Trumpeldor) youth wing of Revisionist Zionism. He was active in protests against Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary who maintained restrictions on the immigration of Jews, even Nazi death camp survivors, to Palestine after the end of the Second World War. In 1947, Kahane was arrested for throwing eggs and tomatoes at Bevin, who was disembarking at Pier 84 on a visit to New York. A photo of the arrest appeared in the New York Daily News. In 1954, he became the Mazkir (Secretary) of Greater New York City's 16 Bnei Akiva chapters.
Kahane's formal education included elementary school at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, and he attended high school at both Abraham Lincoln High School and the Brooklyn Talmudical Academy. Kahane received his rabbinical ordination from the Mir Yeshiva, in Brooklyn, where he was especially admired by the head Rabbi Abraham Kalmanowitz, and he began going by his Hebrew name, Meir. He was fully conversant in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), the Talmud, the Midrash and Jewish law. Subsequently, Kahane earned a B.A. in Political Science from Brooklyn College, a Bachelor of Law - LL.B. from New York Law School, and an M.A. in International Relations from New York University.
In 1956, Kahane married Libby Blum, with whom he had four children: Tzipporah, Tova, Baruch, and Binyamin. In 1958, he became the rabbi of the Howard Beach Jewish Center in Queens, New York City. Although the synagogue was originally Conservative, rather than strictly Orthodox, the board of directors agreed to Kahane's conditions, which included resigning from the Conservative movement's United Synagogue of America, installing a partition separating men and women during prayer, instituting traditional prayers, and maintaining a kosher kitchen. At the Jewish Center, Kahane influenced many of the synagogue's youngsters to adopt a more observant lifestyle, which often troubled parents. He trained Arlo Guthrie for his bar mitzvah. When his contract was not renewed, he soon published an article entitled "End of the Miracle of Howard Beach". That was Kahane's first article in The Jewish Press, an American Orthodox Jewish weekly for which he would continue to write for the rest of his life. Kahane also used the pen name David Sinai, and the pseudonyms Michael King, David Borac, and Martin Keene.
In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, Kahane's life of secrecy and his strong anticommunism landed him a position as a consultant with the FBI. According to his wife, Libby, his assignment was to infiltrate the anticommunist John Birch Society and report his findings to the FBI. Later, Michael T. Kaufman published an article claiming that Kahane then confided in him that he had been in a relationship with Gloria Jean D'Argenio. According to these allegations, Kahane allegedly sent a letter to D'Argenio in which he unilaterally ended their relationship. In response, D'Argenio jumped off the Queensboro Bridge and died of her injuries the next day.
At some time in the late 1950s, Kahane assumed the persona of a Gentile, along with the pseudonym Michael King. Kahane began openly expressing his anticommunism. He and Joseph Churba created the July Fourth Movement, which was formed to counteract widespread opposition towards U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Subsequently, they coauthored the book The Jewish Stake in Vietnam, an attempt to convince American Jews of the "evil of Communism". The introduction states that, "All Americans have a stake in this grim war against Communism... It is vital that Jews realize the threat to their very survival [should Communism succeed]." Churba had a major falling out with Kahane over the use of paramilitary activities, and they parted ways permanently. Churba went on to pursue his own career, joining the U.S. Air Force, writing many books on the Middle East, and eventually becoming one of Ronald Reagan's consultants. Kahane chose to fight for Jewish rights, and was willing to use extreme measures. He even attempted to acquire and grow biological weapons to use on a Soviet military installation. He began using the phrase "Never Again" and conceived the Jewish Star and fist insignia, a symbol resembling that of the Black Panther Party. However, Kahane himself opposed the Black Panthers because they had supported anti-Jewish riots in Massachusetts and had left-wing views.
Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in New York City in 1968. Its self-described purpose was to protect Jews from local manifestations of anti-Semitism. The JDL said it was committed to five fundamental principles:
The JDL favored civil rights for blacks, but opposed black anti-Semites and racism of any form. In 1971, the JDL formed an alliance with a black rights group in what Kahane termed "a turning point in Black-Jewish relations". The Anti-Defamation League claimed that Kahane "preached a radical form of Jewish nationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism" that was replicated by Irv Rubin, the JDL's successor to Kahane.
A number of the JDL's members and leaders, including Kahane, were convicted of acts related to domestic terrorism. In 1971, Kahane was sentenced to a suspended five-year prison sentence for conspiring to manufacture explosives. In 1975, Kahane was arrested for leading the attack on the Soviet United Nations mission and injuring two officers, but he was released after being given summonses for disorderly conduct. Later the same year, Kahane was accused of conspiring to kidnap a Soviet diplomat, bomb the Iraqi embassy in Washington, and ship arms abroad from Israel. He was convicted of violating his probation for the 1971 bombing conviction and was sentenced to one year in prison. However, he served most of it in a hotel, with frequent unsupervised absences, because of a concession over the provision of kosher food.
In a 1984 interview with Washington Post correspondent Carla Hall, Kahane admitted that the JDL "bombed the Russian [Soviet] mission in New York, the Russian cultural mission here [Washington] in 1971, the Soviet trade offices".
In 1971, Kahane moved to Israel. At the time, he declared that he would focus on Jewish education. He later began gathering lists of Arab citizens of the State of Israel who were willing to emigrate for compensation, and eventually, he initiated protests that advocated the expulsion of Arabs from that country, and Israeli-occupied territories. In 1972, Jewish Defense League leaflets were distributed in Hebron, calling for the mayor to stand trial for the 1929 Hebron massacre. Kahane was arrested dozens of times. In 1971, he founded Kach, a political party that ran for the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, during the 1973 general elections under the name "The League List". It won 12,811 votes (0.82%), just 2,857 (0.18%) short of the electoral threshold at the time (1%) for winning a Knesset seat. The party was even less successful in the 1977 elections, winning only 4,836 votes.
In 1980, Kahane was arrested for the 62nd time since his emigration, and he was jailed for six months after a detention order that was based on allegations of him planning armed attacks against Palestinians in response to the killings of Jewish settlers. Kahane was held in prison in Ramla, where he wrote the book They Must Go. Kahane was banned from entering the United Kingdom in 1981.
In 1981, Kahane's party again ran for the Knesset during the 1981 elections, but it did not win a seat and received only 5,128 votes. In 1984, the Israeli Central Elections Committee banned him from being a candidate on the grounds that Kach was a racist party, but the Supreme Court of Israel overturned the ban on the grounds that the committee was not authorized to ban Kahane's candidacy. The Supreme Court suggested that the Knesset pass a law excluding racist parties from future elections. The Knesset responded in 1985 by amending the "Basic Law:Knesset" to include a prohibition (paragraph 7a) against registration of parties that explicitly or implicitly incite racism.
In the 1984 legislative elections, Kahane's Kach party received 25,907 votes, gaining one seat in the Knesset, which was taken by Kahane. He refused to take the standard oath of office and insisted on adding a Biblical verse from Psalms to indicate that national laws were overruled by the Torah if they conflict. Kahane's legislative proposals focused on Jewish education, an open economy, transferring the Arab population out of the Land of Israel, revoking Israeli citizenship from non-Jews, and banning Jewish-Gentile marriages and sexual relations. It was based on the Code of Jewish Law compiled by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah.
While his popularity in Israel grew, Kahane was boycotted in the Knesset, where his speeches were often made to an assembly that was empty except for the duty chairman and the transcriptionist. Kahane's legislative proposals and motions of no-confidence against the government were ignored or rejected. Kahane often pejoratively called other Knesset members "Hellenists, a reference to Jews who assimilated into Greek culture after Judea's occupation by Alexander the Great. In 1987, Kahane opened a yeshiva ("HaRaayon HaYehudi") with funding from US supporters to teach "the Authentic Jewish Idea". Despite the boycott, his popularity grew among the Israeli public, especially for working-class Sephardi Jews. Polls showed that Kach would have likely received anywhere from four to twelve seats in the coming November 1988 elections.
In 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Basic Law of Israel, barring political parties that incited to racism. The Central Elections Committee banned Kahane a second time, and he appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court this time ruled in favor of the committee, disqualifying Kach from running in the 1988 legislative elections. Kahane was thus the first candidate in Israel to be barred from election for racism. The move was criticized as being anti-democratic by Alan M. Dershowitz.
Also in 1985, the Knesset passed a law declaring that a Knesset member could only be an Israeli citizen. As a result of this legislation, Kahane renounced his United States citizenship. Following his banning from the Knesset, he tried to get his U.S. citizenship reinstated on the basis of the fact that he was compelled to relinquish it by the Knesset. It was not reinstated, but he was permitted to continue traveling to the United States.
In November 1990, Kahane gave a speech to an audience of mostly Orthodox Jews from Brooklyn, where he warned American Jews to immigrate to Israel before it was "too late". As a crowd gathered around Kahane in the second-floor lecture hall in Midtown Manhattan's New York Marriott East Side, Kahane was assassinated by El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen who had trained in Pakistan. He was initially charged and acquitted of the murder. Nosair was later convicted of the murder in U.S. District Court for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Prosecutors were able to try Nosair again for the murder because the federal indictment included the killing as part of the alleged terrorist conspiracy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and later made a confession to federal agents.
Some researchers, such as Peter Lance, consider Kahane one of the first, if not the first, American victims of the new group Al Qaeda, since his killer is believed to have links to Osama bin Laden's network. The cell that Kahane's assassin belonged to had been training in the New York Metro system since mid-1989.
Kahane was buried on Har HaMenuchot, in Jerusalem. His funeral was one of the largest in Israel's history, and approximately 150,000 participated. He was eulogized by a number of prominent supporters in both the U.S. and in Israel, including Rabbi Moshe Tendler and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliyahu, who spoke of how little the people understood of Kahane's "true value".
Kahane argued that there was a glory in Jewish destiny, which came through the observance of the Torah. He also noted, "Democracy and Judaism are not the same thing." Kahane also stressed the view that a Jewish state and a Western democracy were incompatible, since Western democracy is religion-blind, and a Jewish state is religion-oriented by its very name. He also warned of the danger of non-Jewish citizens becoming a majority and voting against the Jewish character of the state: "The question is as follows: if the Arabs settle among us and make enough children to become a majority, will Israel continue to be a Jewish state? Do we have to accept that the Arab majority will decide?" "Western democracy has to be ruled out. For me, that's cut and dried: There's no question of setting up democracy in Israel, because democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins."
Kahane proposed an "exchange of populations" that would continue the Jewish exodus from Arab lands: "A total of some 750,000 Jews fled Arab lands since 1948. Surely it is time for Jews, worried over the huge growth of Arabs in Israel, to consider finishing the exchange of populations that began 35 years ago." Kahane proposed a $40,000 compensation plan for Arabs who would leave voluntarily, and forcible expulsion for those who "don't want to leave". He encouraged retaliatory violence against Arabs who attacked Jews: "I approve of anybody who commits such acts of violence. Really, I don't think that we can sit back and watch Arabs throwing rocks at buses whenever they feel like it. They must understand that a bomb thrown at a Jewish bus is going to mean a bomb thrown at an Arab bus."
In some of his writings, Kahane argued that Israel should never start a war for territory but that if a war were launched against Israel, Biblical territory should be annexed. However, in an interview, he defined Israel's "minimal borders" as follows: "The southern boundary goes up to El Arish, which takes in all of northern Sinai, including Yamit. To the east, the frontier runs along the western part of the East Bank of the Jordan River, hence part of what is now Jordan. Eretz Yisrael also includes part of Lebanon and certain parts of Syria, and part of Iraq, all the way to the Euphrates River." When critics suggested that following Kahane's plans would mean a perpetual war between Jews and Arabs, Kahane responded, "There will be a perpetual war. With or without Kahane."
Following Kahane's death, no leader emerged to replace him in the movement although the idea of transferring populations, which was attributed mainly to Kahane, was subsequently incorporated into the political platform of various political parties in Israel, such as Moledet (applying to Arab non-citizen residents of the West Bank) and Yisrael Beiteinu (in the form of population exchange). Two small Kahanist factions later emerged; one under the name Kach, and the other under the name Kahane chai (Hebrew: כהנא חי, literally "Kahane lives [on]"), the second one being led by his younger son, Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane. Neither one was permitted to participate in the Knesset elections by the Central Elections Committee.
In 1994, following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre of Palestinian Muslim worshippers in Hebron by Kach supporter Baruch Goldstein, in which 29 Muslim worshipers were killed, the Israeli government declared both parties to be terrorist organizations. The US State Department also added Kach and Kahane Chai to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
In the 2003 Knesset elections, Herut, which had split off from the National Union list, ran with Michael Kleiner and former Kach activist Baruch Marzel taking the top two spots on the list. The joint effort narrowly missed the 1.5% barrier. In the following 2006 elections, the Jewish National Front, led by Baruch Marzel, fared better, but it also failed to pass the minimum threshold. A follower of Kahane who was involved with Kach for many years, Michael Ben-Ari, was elected to the Knesset in the 2009 elections on renewed National Union list. He stood again in the 2013 elections as the second candidate on the list of Otzma LeYisrael, but the party failed to pass the minimum threshold.
In 2007, the FBI released over a thousand documents relating to its daily surveillance of Kahane since the early 1960s.
In 2015, Kahane's grandson, Meir Ettinger, was detained by Israeli law enforcement. He was the alleged leader of the radical Jewish group "The Revolt". In an online "manifesto" echoing some of his grandfather's teachings, Ettinger promotes the "dispossession of gentiles" who live in Israel and the establishment of a new "kingdom of Israel", a theocracy ruled by Halacha. Ettinger's writings condemned Israel's government, mainstream rabbis, and the IDF, and also have denounced Christian churches as "idolatry".
In 2016, Kahane's widow claimed that modern Jewish extremists in Israel are not following the ideology of her late husband, Rabbi Meir Kahane. She justified that claim by arguing that unlike modern Jewish extremists, Rabbi Kahane had a more mature approach that did not encourage illegal activities.
The prosecution argued that Arab MK Haneen Zoabi should be banned for denying the Jewish people's existence, and she was banned by the Central Elections Committee, which uses the Kahane precedent. A week later, the ruling was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court. Attempts to ban the Strong Israel and Balad political parties by using the Kahane precedent were also overturned.
In 2017, The Forward reported that some of Kahane's followers were aligning themselves with white nationalists and the alt-right. Other Kahanists declared that such moves did not reflect Kahane's teachings, and they supported that declaration by arguing that Kahane worked together with African Americans.
The pity is-the tragedy is-that most Jews do not believe that Judaism is Divine and therefore do not accept it as the foundation of the state. And so, because of that-but only because any attempt to establish a true Torah state would lead to bitter civil war among Jews-I would not be prepared to establish a state that would bar elections involving parties that do not accept Torah law as authority.
The Jew is forbidden to give up any part of the Land of Israel, which has been liberated. The land belongs to the G-d of Israel, and the Jew, given it by G-d, has no right to give away any part of it. All the areas liberated in 1967 will be annexed and made part of the State of Israel. Jewish settlement in every part of the land, including cities that today are sadly Judenrein, will be unlimited.
All Arabs who are prepared to accept the State of Israel as the exclusive state of the Jewish people and of no one else, will be allowed to remain in the land with the status of "resident stranger", as per Jewish laws. They will be granted personal rights, but no national ones. They will have general economic, social, cultural, and religious freedom, but will not be citizens of the Jewish State and will have nothing to say in its future in any way. Accepting this status, they are welcome to remain, and are entitled to all the respect and decency that Judaism demands we grant to all humans who are resident strangers in our land and who bow to its laws and concepts.
Those who refuse to accept noncitizen status shall be compensated for property, but not given a bonus, and shall be transferred only to Arab - not Western - lands. The transfer shall be effected peacefully, if possible, but if the Arab still refuses, then forcibly and without compensation.
Rabbi Abraham Kalmanowitz had a great love for Meir... [He once told Meir:] 'Because you sanctified G-d's name... your name and fame shall spread far and wide.'
Meir accepted the rabbinical position at the Howard Beach Jewish Center (HBJC) with certain conditions. He demanded Orthodox practices, even though none of the synagogue's members were observant: a kosher kitchen, traditional prayers, and separate seating for men and women with a mechitza (partition) between them. Another condition was that the synagogue resign from the Conservative movement's United Synagogues of America. Remarkably, the board of directors agreed to all these terms, perhaps because the salary which Meir accepted was far lower than that of a Reform or Conservative rabbi.
Meir's primary success in this position was to be his undoing. Many of the youngsters were enchanted by the new rabbi and his mesmerizing personality. Much to their parents’ chagrin, some of these children began to observe the dietary and Sabbath laws.
The JDL favored civil rights for blacks, and opposed only black anti-Semites.
The leader of a black self help group and the national chairman of the Jewish Defense League met today and pledged "brotherhood". The unprecedented meeting between a black organization and the JDL, termed by Rabbi Kahane as a "turning point in Black-Jewish relations", took place in the Harlem headquarters of NEGRO (National Economic Growth and Reconstruction Organization).
Kahane was a U.S. citizen at birth. He moved to Israel where he became active in politics and was elected to the Israeli Parliament. Kahane, aware of the fact that accepting an office under a foreign government was an expatriating act listed in INA 349 (a)(4), communicated on several occasions with the State Department that he did not intend to give up his U.S. citizenship. The State Department nonetheless claimed that Kahane committed the expatriating act by shifting his allegiance to Israel. The court rejected this argument because an actor who contemporaneously with the expatriating act declares his intent to stay a U.S. citizen automatically preserves his citizenship. Kahane v. Shultz (E.D.N.Y.1987). One year later, the Israeli Parliament passed a law providing that its members could only be Israeli citizens. Kahane executed a formal oath of renunciation of his U.S. citizenship to remain eligible for a seat in the Parliament. After Kahane's party was barred, on different grounds, from running in the elections, Kahane tried to revoke his renunciation of U.S. citizenship claiming that the Israeli law compelled his act. The court ruled against Kahane, who remained expatriated, although he was permitted to visit the United States and was eventually assassinated in New York City. Kahane v. Secretary of State (D.D.C.1988).CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
If there are those who wish to create something known as 'Palestine' they are welcome to do so in 'Jordan' which in itself is a fictitious state created by the imperialist British by cutting away, in 1921, the eastern part of the Land of Israel. The Arabs who call themselves 'Palestinians' had the opportunity to create a 'Palestine' in a far larger part of the Land of Israel, but refused to do so. They lost that chance forever and if they refuse to create a state in 'Jordan' now, but insist upon war, they will lose again and lose 'Jordan' in the process because - while we will never begin a war for those parts of the Land of Israel now under foreign rule, should the Arabs begin that war, and we liberate still other areas of the Land of Israel, then those will never be given up either.
As an activist he was an admirer and supporter of Rav Meir Kahane, when very few people were.
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