Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Part I. Why was Kahane Vilified as a "Racist?"
The Sages say that he who defames a man is like a murderer. Why did many of Israel's political and intellectual leaders defame Kahane?
Long before Rabbi Kahane advocated the transfer and/or expulsion of Arabs from Israel, the idea was proposed by no less than Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, and other notables. Herzl wrote: "We shall try to spirit the penniless (Arab) population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries while denying any employment in our own country."
Still, why is it that only Rabbi Kahane was vilified as a racist? There are several reasons. He was a rabbi, an Orthodox rabbi. Although the racist calumny was used primarily by liberal and left-wing secularists, Reform, Conservative, and "politically correct" Orthodox rabbis joined the chorus of abuse. They shared a common interest, to diminish the power of uncompromising religious Orthodoxy, such as found among the Aguda and Shas parties. Unlike the leaders of these parties, however, Kahane was an ardent and uncompromising nationalist. He advocated the immediate incorporation of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza into the State of Israel and the expulsion of their Arab inhabitants [something beyond the purview or daring of those religious parties].
By calling Kahane a "racist," his calumniators, especially among the "Right," intimidated many thoughtful, but more cautious, critics of the government from openly supporting Kahane or taking a firm position of their own. Rabbi Kahane thus served as a convenient target for silencing "right-minded" public opinion, especially about the "West Bank" Arabs.
It's demonstrable, however, that an increasing majority of the Jews in Israel know they cannot live in peace and equality with devotes of the Quran. What else can anyone with a stitch of intellectual integrity conclude given the appalling indoctrination of Jew-hatred in Arab school books, the collaboration of Israeli Arabs with Hezbollah, and the seditious behavior of Arab MKs? Here let us pause and ask how has Israel's Government addressed this problem?
In the mid-1980s the Knesset passed a law barring from parliamentary elections any political party that advocated any form of "racism." The intended target of the law was not Muslims whose Quran calls Jews "pigs," and "dogs." No, the target was Rabbi Kahane. Let's consider this carefully.
Kahane, who was elected to the Knesset in 1984, voted in favor of that anti-racist law. He did so because its final version excluded from the definition of racism any party that advocated laws consistent with the Halacha. This, he erroneously thought, would save him. Yet the final version of the law did not deter Likud and other Knesset members from petitioning the Supreme Court to bar Kahane's Kach Party from competing in the 1988 Knesset election. And on this issue the Likud took the leading role because it was the Likud that had the most to lose [in votes and Knesset seats] if Kahane competed in that election. Indeed, the judges [of the Supreme Cout] voted unanimously in favor of the plaintiffs. This means they condemned Rabbi Kahane as a racist! Why did they perpetrate this injustice?
One reason is this: they feared the truth so often enunciated by Kahane, the truth about the genocidal objectives of Arabs on the one hand, and about the failure of Israel's government to take proper measures to protect its Jewish citizens on the other.
Will Kahane be allowed to run for the 12th Knesset? Obviously the Knesset will do everything in its power to disqualify this unSocratic gadfly. But what about Israel's Supreme Court, its High Court of Justice? Did it not rescue Kach and Kahane from the machinations of the Knesset in the 1984 elections (along with that PLO front, the Progressive List for Peace)?
The trouble is this. When Rabbi Kahane ran for the Knesset in 1984, many people thought he would fare no better than in his previous attempts to enter that political menagerie. Certainly no one regarded him as a force to be reckoned with when it came to forming a coalition government. And so the Supreme Court could feel no qualms in applying, as it often does, principles of American constitutional law in the area of civil liberties.
But today [I went on to say] the question is not whether Kahane will get a seat in the Knesset (if he is allowed to run), but how many seats? People who did not vote for him in 1984 out of pessimistic expectations regarding his chances for election will certainly vote for him in November , given the opportunity. And if only because of the intifada, Kach could become the third largest party in the Knesset. This is why I do not think the Supreme Court will come to Kahane's rescue in 1988 as it did in 1984.
Unfortunately, my prediction was correct. What is more, the same Court that barred Kach permitted the Progressive List for Peace, a pro-PLO party, to participate in the 1988 Knesset elections. The Court thereby armed the wicked and disarmed the innocent. This has been the general policy of the Government of Israel vis-à-vis its domestic enemies, a policy which may be termed "government-licensed insurrection."
That politicians like Shimon Peres see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil about Israel's implacable enemies may be attributed less to their escapist mentality, than to their intellectual dishonesty and [moral] cowardice: they simply can't accept responsibility for the disaster they have inflicted on the people of Israel since Oslo. Moreover, they can't transcend the indiscriminate egalitarianism of contemporary Western democracy, which accords disloyal Arabs the same rights as loyal Jews. To this add only Israel's political system that perpetuates these poltroons in power.
That Arabs attack and murder Jews because they are Jews is conclusive evidence that these Arabs are racists in the conventional sense of the term. But to expose this racism and to act appropriately vis-à-vis these Arabs would require more political probity and courage than these politicians can muster. Moreover, for politicians like Peres to acknowledge this relentless Arab hatred would be to admit that they had long been engaged in deception regarding the possibility of Jewish-Arab coexistence, which they (as well as Benjamin Netanyahu) constantly mouth for consumption abroad. Otherwise they themselves would be exposed to the charge of racism!
Hence they found in Rabbi Kahane a convenient scapegoat on which to vent their cowardice and dishonesty. Whereas one professor likened Rabbi Kahane to Hitler proclaiming the Jews as the Master Race, others called him the "Khomeini" of Israel.
In the name of democracy Rabbi Kahane, was barred from speaking at Israeli universities, some of whose professors opposed, on grounds of "academic freedom," the temporary closing down of PLO-infested Arab universities in Judea and Samaria! Still, apart from political motives, what was there about Rabbi Kahane that aroused so much vituperation?
More effectively than other rabbis, Kahane held up a mirror to self-effacing Jews: Jews embarrassed by hundreds of biblical verses like this: "You are a holy people to the Lord your God: the Lord has chosen you to be His special people, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6). No wonder reluctant members of the Chosen People were so embarrassed and enraged by Kahane. To the ignorant, such biblical verses smack of racism! The last thing these timorous and assimilated Jews want to see in Israel is the intellectual and moral cultivation of a people true to these words of the Torah: "Lo, it is a people that stands alone and does not reckon itself among the nations" (Num. 23:9).
Rabbi Kahane was proud of his Jewishness. But he lived in a country whose ruling elites evince not a scintilla of Jewish pride. This is why they hated him. This is why they reviled him as a racist. This is why they drummed him out of the Knesset. And this is why they bear no small burden of responsibility for his murder.
Whatever shortcomings one may attribute to Rabbi Kahane—and even the great men of the Bible were not faultless—this intrepid rabbi was a great man and a great Jew. That's why he was banned from the Knesset.
That sinkhole of corruption is a haven for small-minded men: men without keen wits and imagination, men lacking spiritedness, men without chests. But note this about them: their personal faults aside, these politicians are emasculated by the myth of Democracy and by an inauthentic or fabricated form of Zionism.
To overcome these obstacles to Israel's spiritual redemption and thus foster the development of a national goal worthy of the name "Israel," Kahane sometimes resorted to strident rhetoric. But let's remember that the Prophets were not milquetoast toast orators ala Benjamin Netanyahu. Would we remember them were they mere politicians?
If I am not mistaken, however, it must be admitted that despite his sharp mind, Kahane overlooked what might have been his best weapon. I have in view the Achilles heel of Israel's ruling elites: namely, that Israel is not and never has been a democracy!
Since Kahane was accused of being a fascist, it would have been quite simple to turn the accusation against his detractors by showing that modern Israel is in fact a democratically elected despotism; and he could have cited the illustrious Alexis de Tocqueville, to prove it! Of course, this might also have been somewhat embarrassing to his own (brief) membership in the Knesset—not an insuperable obstacle, but one requiring great finesse to defuse.
Even rabbis are fond of saying, ala former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, that Judaism is democratic. Is it not clear, however, to anyone with a stitch of intellectual integrity, that democracy's basic principle of one-adult-one vote would consign Israel to oblivion if the Arabs were a majority? What a commentary on the caliber of Israel's High Court of Justice! But that rabbis should genuflect to such sugary nonsense is disgraceful.
Unsurprisingly, rabbis were among Kahane's greatest enemies. Some feared that his reputation as a rabbi, however slanderous and absurd, would undermine their own prestige. This calls to mind an occasion when students at the religious Bar-Ilan University invited Kahane to speak on their campus, but this liberal university also banned him. Perhaps they feared his notoriety would alienate the University's financial benefactors in America? This is probably why American Zionist organizations deemed Kahane anathema.
One last word: The people loved Rabbi Kahane; the Establishment abhorred him. He had the pulse of the people. They knew quite well about Israel's Arab enemies, of whom Israel's ruling elites—politicians and judges, intellectuals and journalists—were fearfully silent. And the silence continues to deafen us. The unSocratic Kahane spoke the truth, and it was this, not hemlock, that killed him.
*This article is based on my previous offering "Who Murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane? (March 25, 2009).
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