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Mainstream Jewish Groups Are Silent As Israel's Far- Right Gains Strength And Influence

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
December 2022

In 2019, when Itamar Ben Gvir, the extremist follower of the late Rabbi Meir  
Kahane, was in talks to coordinate tactics with other parties, notes the Jewish  
Telegraphic Agency (Oct. 14, 2022), “the message from the U.S. Jewish community  
was clear: Don’t. That’s no longer the case when the former prime minister  
(Benjamin Netanyahu) is once again working with Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) and  
its leader Itamar Ben Gvir to work out an agreement.”  
According to JTA, “At least four of the major Jewish groups that spoke out in  
2019 say they will not get involved this time: AIPAC, the American Jewish  
Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations  
and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs…Two groups that spoke up in 2019, the  
Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement, told JTA that they are just as  
alarmed now as they were then. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for  
Reform Judaism, said a failure by the organized Jewish community to present a  
solid wall of opposition to allowing into government a party based on the  
teachings of the racist late Rabbi Meir Kahane would have far-reaching  
consequences not just for the U.S.-Israel relationship but for Israel’s  
relationship with U.S. Jews.”  
Ben Gvir was, the Washington Post (Oct. 30, 2022) notes, “for decades a  
political untouchable. His roots in the overtly racist Kach party... banned by  
Israel, put him beyond the fringe of even the most right-wing parties. That  
changed last year when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu... was desperate  
for a few more parliamentary votes, invited Ben Gvir into his  
alliance….’Netanyahu opened the door for Ben Gvir to participate in mainstream  
politics,’ said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.  
‘Now he is becoming a force.’”  
Ben Gvir, who has been called the “David Duke of Israel” by one commentator,  
first came to prominence as a 19-year-old in 1995 in the wake of a peace deal  
with the Palestinians signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The Post  
reports that, “An outraged Ben Gvir brandished a car ornament reportedly ripped  
from Rabin’s Cadillac and said: ‘we got the car. We’ll get to Rabin, too.’  
Weeks later, Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli extremist. Ben Gvir  
was not connected to the killing, though he campaigned for the assassin’s  
release from prison. He has been prosecuted for inciting violence and was known  
to keep on his wall a portrait of Baruch Goldstein, the American Israeli who  
massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers at Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs.”  
The Times of Israel (Oct. 28, 2022) refers to Ben Gvir and his allies as “far  
beyond the continent’s (Europe) ascendant nationalists and into areas where only  
neo-fascists tread…On some issues Otzma Yehudit appears to have staked positions  
even more extreme than the far-right parties troubling Europe…Among the most  
prominent policy positions…include encouraging Arab citizens of Israel to  
emigrate; annexing the West Bank without affording Palestinians the right to  
vote or other civil rights…using live fire against Palestinian rioters,  
refraining from prosecuting IDF soldiers for military actions they carry out;  
overhauling the legal system, crimping the high court’s ability to strike down  
legislation and giving the government the ability to pack the bench with  
ideological compatriots.”  
Yaakov Katz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, told BBC (Oct. 28, 2022), “Ben Gvir  
and Smotrich want to change the type of democracy we have. They want to take us  
into a potential dark moment. They would have the power and influence to  
dramatically change the country and that’s what they say they want to do. When  
it comes to Arabs, when it comes to LGBTQ rights, when it comes to the rights of  
women, they could do a lot of damage.”  
The silence of major American Jewish groups is coming under increasing  
criticism. Susie Gelman, who heads the Israel Policy Forum, told the Times of  
Israel: “It takes an excessive measure of cognitive dissonance to condemn  
displays of racist supremacy at home as American citizens while dismissing  
similar displays as irrelevant or beyond our legitimate concerns when they so  
prominently occur in the Jewish state…”

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