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Not Just A Racist Rabbi, But A Racist State

Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, February 27

A lot has been said and written about the political legacy of Rabbi Meir Kahane and his impact on Israeli politics. Kahane’s party, “Jewish Power,” has recently returned to the fore, after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited its members to join the coalition he is forming. As a reminder, Kahane was the founder of the Jewish Defense League and the Kach Fascist Gang, which soon became banned under Israeli law. He served as a deputy in the Eleventh Knesset. In 1988, his electoral list was removed and prevented from running in the Israeli general election on the grounds that it was “racist”. In this context, I already cited in my previous writings an Israeli academic study published in 2002, which concluded that the roots of Kahane’s blatant racism are deeply embedded in Israeli society, and that right-wing extremism is not an anomaly in the practice of Zionist politicians. This is true of political movements in Israel today, as well as political parties prior to 1948, including the Revisionist Movement led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which was influenced to a large degree by Fascism in Europe. The occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 re-paved the path for the emergence of this worldview and brought it to the center stage of Israeli politics. It is at this point that we saw the birth of extremist Israeli parties like Tsomet and Moledet. The study was based on a public opinion poll showing support for Kach’s extremist ideas such as forcefully displacing Palestinians and initiating attacks against them among voters of all Jewish parties, including those who consider themselves in the leftist Meretz Party. It is therefore important to interpret the significance of Netanyahu’s embrace of the Kahane Gang not only in terms of its implications on Palestinians, but also in terms of its implication on Israeli domestic politics. When the “Jewish Power” Party raises the banner of “Kahane was right” it is not only making a statement against Palestinians, but also against secular and liberal Israelis. In the party’s view, Israel should be an Orthodox state based on the pure superiority of the Jewish race. The problem with Israel is that it seeks to balance a modern state that is secular, rational and effectively organized with antiquated and obsolete traditions adopted from Jewish religious life in the Diaspora. The result is a consistent fear and hatred of Arabs using a religious pretext. Racism, therefore, is deeply embedded within the Jewish state. –Antoine Shalhat

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