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Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Spring - Summer 2023

Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an  
American Jewish Radical  
Shaul Magid,  
Princeton University Press,  
276 Pages,  
When Shaul Magid, professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, began work on  
this study of the life and politics of an American Jewish activist who preached  
radical and violent means to Jewish survival, he may have thought he was writing  
history. Instead, Meir Kahane’s militant voice is echoed increasingly in  
contemporary Israel, though he died by assassination in 1990.  
Kahane, well known as the founder of the Jewish Defense League, immigrated to  
Israel in 1971, where he founded KACH, an ultranationalist and racist political  
party. It was eventually expelled from the Knesset as “racist.” An example of  
how much Israel has changed can be seen in the fact that a disciple of Meir  
Kahane, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is now Israel’s National Security Minister. Until  
recently, Ben-Gvir had a portrait of Meir Kahane hanging on his living room wall.  
Professor Susannah Heschel, a colleague of Shaul Magid at Dartmouth, notes that,  
“One of the great scholars of Judaism in our day presents one of the most  
despicable characters to emerge in postwar Jewish life.”  
This book, writes Magid, “…has two objectives. The first is to critically  
examine the outlook of one of the most divisive Jewish figures of the second half  
of the twentieth century. The second is to explore the way some of Kahane’s  
ideas, which were shunned and rejected by much of the Jewish world, inadvertently  
seeped into the Jewish mainstream, certainly in Israel but also in America.”  
Contempt For Liberalism  
Kahane’s contempt for liberalism is explained by Magid this way, “As one  
committed to the survival of the group at all costs, Kahane regarded liberalism  
as the enemy of the Jews. The Jews’ commitment to liberalism, against their own  
collective interest, was in his view an act of repugnant self-hatred that was  
rooted in anxiety but sparked resentment. Liberalism sought to ameliorate  
resentment by claiming that the social and political system should not focus on  
groups but individuals when it came to rights, goods, and services. Yet when  
group identities feel threatened and unstable, when power shifts from one group  
to another, when a group feels disenfranchised and ignored, and when communities  
feel under siege, very often liberalism itself is attacked because its focus on  
the individual is assumed (rightly or not) to be the very source of these social  
For Kahane, the religious freedom provided by the American society represented a  
threat to Jews. In Magid’s view, “Kahane’s radical critique of liberalism…  
applied equally to the American Jewish program of assimilation or  
‘Americanization’ that he felt was robbing a generation of Jews of any positive  
sense of Jewishness …he believed American Jewry was being threatened from within  
(through assimilation) and from without (through the ever present antisemitism  
that he believed would invariably raise its head). By the early 1970s Kahane had  
ostensibly given up on America, believing that Israel was the only possible  
solution for Jewish survival.”  
A brief look at Kahane’s life is instructive. He was born in Brooklyn in 1932  
and grew up as a member of a youth group affiliated with Revisionist Zionism,  
founded by Zeev Jabotinsky in 1925. The Revisionists were the more militant wing  
of the Zionist movement, insisting that its rivals in the Labor movement were too  
passive in efforts to establish a Jewish state in all of the land of biblical  
A Racial and Ethnic Powder Keg  
In the late 1960s, New York City was a racial and ethnic powder keg in the  
aftermath of a racially charged teachers strike that set African American parents  
against a largely Jewish teachers’ union. Kahane at this time decided to form  
the Jewish Defense League (JDL) which would soon fixate on alleged examples of  
black antisemitism. Kahane wanted Jews to embrace “Jewish power,” modeled after  
the Black Panthers. Kahane equated Black Power groups to Nazis. He called it  
“self-defense,” while critics charged that it was “vigilantism.”  
Magid notes that, “What mattered for Kahane was Jewish interest alone; if their  
interests coincided with the interests of others, fine, but only if the interests  
of the Jews and their community took precedent. In this sense, Kahane’s  
radicalism of the same period, and it is not a coincidence that before 1967 some  
black militants called their movement ‘Black Zionism,’ was a throwback to an  
earlier movement among American blacks.”  
The JDL also became involved in the campaign in behalf of Soviet Jewry. In 1971,  
the JDL firebombed a Soviet attaché’s car. In July, 1971, Kahane stood trial for  
violating the Federal Fire Arms Act of 1968, entered a guilty plea and was placed  
on five years federal probation. Two months later, he and his family immigrated  
to Israel.  
Kahane Founds a Political Party  
Once in Israel, Kahane founds a political party called JDL-Israel that he soon  
renames KACH (“Thus”). In 1973, Kahane and KACH win some 13,000 votes or 0.8%,  
not enough for a Knesset seat. In the 1971 and 1981 elections the total drops to  
less than 5,000 votes. But by 1984, Kach receives nearly 26,000 votes, or 1.2%—-  
enough for a seat in the Knesset. Then, in June 1984, Israel’s Central Elections  
commission votes to ban KACH from participating in the election. It cites KACH’s  
call for deportation of Arab and Druze citizens and Kahane’s characterization of  
Israel’s Declaration of Independence as a “schizophrenic document.” It is, as  
the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, “The first time in Israel’s history that  
a Jewish political faction was banned from an election.”  
KACH then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that a political faction can be  
barred only if it poses a danger to the existence of Israel. Kahane called the  
ruling political bias. The Court ruled that KACH could participate in the  
election. KACH’s platform was essentially that Israeli citizenship was for  
Jews only and that Arabs should be expelled from the country and from the  
territories controlled by Israel. KACH and Kahane also wanted to ban marriage  
and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews and demanded Jewish sovereignty  
over the Temple Mount.  
Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem told Knesset members that Kahane undermined “the  
basic moral tenets of the state.” Knesset members boycotted Kahane’s speeches.  
A month after his election, Kahane tried to visit the Israeli Arab village Ukim  
El-Fahm to “encourage” its inhabitants to immigrate. Israeli police blocked him  
from entering and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called the effort “negative,  
dangerous and damaging.” Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir warns Knesset members in  
November 1984 that it is “shameful, disgusting, dangerous.”  
Kahane Is Suspended  
In July 1988, Kahane is suspended from the Knesset for threatening an Arab member  
with a noose. A few months later, KACH is banned from competing in the elections  
that year. "In 1985", a year after KACH is allowed to run and Kahane is elected,  
the Knesset passed an amendment to the Basic Law, Israel’s not-quite  
constitution, barring “parties engaged in incitement to racism.” This includes  
KACH. Polling at the time shows the party winning some 100,000 votes—-3 or 4  
seats. In October 1988 Kahane appeals to the Supreme Court. His appeal is  
rejected and the election ban stands.  
Followers of Kahane have had a major impact upon Israel. In 1994, Baruch  
Goldstein, a U.S.-born JDL and KACH member, gunned down dozens of worshippers at  
the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. He became a hero to  
Israel’s right-wing and prominent rabbis presided at his funeral.  
Kahane’s racism is examined extensively by Magid. In May 1981, for example, he  
took a full page ad in the Israeli daily Maariv. Entitled, “She is a daughter of  
Israel. Perhaps Your Sister, Your Daughter or Granddaughter”. The ad, he points  
out, “spelled out some of Kahane’s proposals for the upcoming Knesset election.  
These included (1) a law forbidding the ‘abomination of assimilation and  
communion with goyim’ (in this case, Arabs), (2) a mandatory prison sentence for  
any Arab who had sexual relations with a Jewish girl or woman, and (3) a law  
restricting United Nations forces from engaging in any type of relations with the  
Jewish population. In addition, Kahane later declared that if elected he would  
strip all Israeli Arabs of their citizenship and work toward expelling any who  
refused to relinquish it. Kahane actually submitted such a bill—-called the  
‘three tolls bill’—-to the Knesset in late 1985.”  
Similar To Nazi Legislation  
At this point, in the face of legislation which was similar to laws adopted by  
Nazi Germany, Israeli legislators took the drastic action of amending the  
country’s basic laws to bar “racist parties and candidates” from running in  
Israeli elections. Known as article 7a of the Basic Laws, this amendment  
rendered KACH illegal and Kahane and his party were removed from the Knesset.  
“The reason given by the Knesset,” writes Magid, “was that Kahane and his  
followers were ‘inciting racism and endangering security.’ This law was clearly  
legislated for Kahane and KACH alone, it was never successfully invoked again.  
In many ways it was a final blow to Kahane’s political career in Israel. He  
appealed the ruling to Israel’s Supreme Court, and the court upheld the Central  
Elections Committee’s decision thereby barring him from running in the 1988 and  
1992 elections. Although Kahane remained popular, he knew his political career  
would be a zero-sum game: either he would take over the direction of the country  
or he would be rejected by it…The question of race is crucial to understanding  
Kahane’s entire life and work, from the time he entered the public stage in the  
mid-1960s to his later career in Israel. It stands at the very center of his  
political agenda.”  
A year after the Knesset passed its “Racism Law” in 1986, Kahane wrote an essay  
with the title, “I Hate Racism.” In this essay, writes Magid, Kahane claims “his  
positions are wholly in line with Jewish law. A ‘religious Jew,’ he notes,  
believes that Jewish distinction is one thing only: divine election. There is  
nothing inherently distinct, certainly not unique, about the Jews other than the  
fact that God chose them. And divine election assumes, for him, a belief in a  
transcendent deity who communicates its will to the Jews at Sinai.” Kahane  
addresses those Jews he describes as “not religious”—-and here he names a number  
of Reform rabbis and other Jewish supporters of Israel such as American  
neoconservatives——with this message: “Let us pity them, those who call me  
racist, but who are the real Jewish racists, the ones who—-deep in their hearts—-  
know that their ‘Jewishness’ their ‘Zionism’ their ‘cultural tradition,’ their  
insistence about being part of a separate group, is sterile and barren tribalism  
at best, noxious and obnoxious racism at worst.”  
Refuse To Accept Divine Election  
As Kahane saw it, Magid points out, “Jewish liberal secularists want to cling to  
the idea of Jewish difference but refuse to embrace it in terms of divine  
election because they do not believe in the divine nature of Torah. In light of  
this, Kahane asks, what is the basis of Jewish difference? What sets the Jew  
apart that would justify a ‘Jewish’ state on land where others already reside?  
For Kahane the secular Jew can find ground for Jewish exceptionalism only in  
ethnic or racial factors. Kahane thus turns the charge of racism back on those  
he sees as embodiments of the liberal Jewish establishment. They are racists  
because they have no definition of Jewish exceptionalism other than ethnic  
difference. And that ethnic difference justifies chauvinism toward another  
minority; what can be more racist than that?”  
In 1975, the United Nations adopted Resolution 3379 which declared that, “Zionism  
is racism.” This is a subject to which Meir Kahane gave much thought. He  
declared that, “If you define what Meir Kahane says as ‘racist’ and then ban it,  
you will legitimize the U.N. Resolution that delegitimize Zionism.” Magid  
provides this assessment: “Kahane equates his own views with Zionism rightly  
understood…The equation of Zionism with racism was so shocking to Jews in part  
because it associated their national movement with something (racism/anti-  
Semitism) they had been victims of for centuries. Kahane claims that the attempt  
to counter this equation by asserting Israel’s ‘Jewish and democratic’ character  
is incoherent, dishonest, and undergirded by a racism that Jewish secularists  
claim to abhor…Kahane’s point is sobering. It suggests that a true democracy is  
impossible in a Jewish state, which must, to ensure its own survival, assign non-  
Jewish individuals and communities, that is, Arabs, a second-class status….”  
Kahane had contempt for the idea of democracy in Israel, a contempt echoed by his  
admirers in Israel’s far-right contemporary government. Magid writes that,  
“Kahane’s focus was on Zionism’s alleged veneration of democracy above the value  
of Jewish exclusivity, dominance, and power. By promoting the equality of Jewish  
and non-Jewish citizens, he considered, Israeli democracy could undermine the  
survival of a true Jewish state. Kahane believed in democracy everywhere but in  
Israel. Israel had a different calling…The core of Kahane’s Zionism was that  
Israel’s right to the land should be viewed as a divine mandate and conquering it  
as a religious obligation…”  
For Kahane, Secular Zionism Is “Wrongheaded”  
Kahane’s view, Magid argues, appears similar to that of David Ben-Gurion who, in  
his address to the World Zionist Conference in August 1957, stated that there  
were three components of Zionism: attachment to the ancient homeland, the Hebrew  
language and the messianic promise of redemption. “For Kahane, however,” notes  
Magid, “Ben-Gurion’s secular Zionism was a wrongheaded and destructive force. It  
may have had its use in persuading Jews to settle in the land of Israel, but it  
was incapable of sustaining Jewish life in the Holy Land over the long term.  
Thus, Kahane’s Zionism was at war against the Zionism upon which the state was  
founded….the Zionism of Ben-Gurion, for Kahane, produces Hebrew-speaking goyim,  
gentilized Hebrews.’ And a liberal Hellenistic state of the Jews. A state run  
by such Jews is a tragic mixed opportunity.”  
Kahane had contempt for the idyllic view of Israel presented to Americans in the  
1958 book “Exodus” by Leon Uris, followed by the Otto Preminger film in 1961.  
Kahane’s book “Never Again!” in Magid’s view, “..gives an alternative history.  
Its Jewish heroes are not the pioneers farming in malaria-infested swamps and hot  
deserts but instead people like Shlomo Ben-Yosef. A member of the Irgun  
terrorist group found guilty of attacking an Arab bus in April 1938 and hanged by  
the British, he was the first Jew to be hung for terrorism in the Mandate period.  
Or Eilyahu Hakim and Eliyahu Bet-Zuri, the assassins of Lord Moyne (the anti-  
Zionist British politician Walter Edward Guinness) in Cairo in 1944. Kahane  
presents the Ben-Yosefs and Eliyahu Hakims of history as the heroic  
revolutionaries of the Jews—-like Jewish Eldridge Cleavers and Che Guevaras,  
except that they also fulfill the dream of the hapless zeyede who bore the weight  
of exile on his shoulders…Kahane refers to Zionism as the ‘Jewish National  
Liberation Movement’…an obvious gesture to the various liberation movements that  
were attracting the attention of the young idealists of the period.”  
Kahane had contempt for the classical Zionist goal of “normalcy,” establishing  
Israel as a normal nation-state that becomes part of the family of nations.  
Instead, Magid shows, “Just as Jews are a chosen people, the Jewish state is also  
divinely chosen. As chosen and thus exceptional, the state cannot and should not  
follow the dictates of the unchosen gentiles.” In Kahane’s words, “The state of  
Israel is not a western one or an eastern one; it is not a ‘secular state’; it is  
not one to be modeled after ‘the nations.’ It is a Jewish state with all the  
uniqueness that this implies…Any idea that a Jewish state must be dependent on  
non-Jewish allies is an error in understanding the core of Zionism: Indeed,  
there are no allies and the United States itself will cut its bonds to Israel as  
its interests dictate. In the end, Zion and Zionism stand alone with the  
Almighty God who created them.” Kahane’s point here is to challenge the very  
normalcy of the state as an aspiration.  
Kahane Targets The Concept of Democracy  
After he and his party were expelled from the Knesset, Kahane published the book  
“Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews” in 1987. Here, Magid writes,  
“Kahane…targets the concept and practice of democracy itself. Democracy arguably  
served as the political spine of the modern Zionist movement just as socialism  
was its prevalent economic theory early on. Yet the oft-repeated description of  
Israel as a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state was not part of its original  
Declaration of Independence. Rather, ‘democratic’ was added in a later amendment  
to the Basic Laws passed in 1985 (Amendment 9, clause 7A). This may be why  
Kahane spent so much time on democracy in Uncomfortable Questions…he viewed this  
amendment as undermining Israel’s ‘Jewish’ character as codified in the 1948  
Declaration of Independence…One rhetorical question posed early in this book,  
which strikes ‘terror in the heart of the Jew,’ is: ‘Do the Arabs in Israel have  
a right to quietly, peacefully, democratically equally become the majority?’ If  
not, Kahane contends, Israel cannot call itself a democracy.”  
When it comes to violence, on Feb. 25, 1994, the Jewish holiday of Purim, Baruch  
Goldstein, a Jewish physician who lived in the West Bank Jewish settlement of  
Kiryat Arba, woke up before dawn, got dressed in his IDF reserve uniform, and  
with a supply of firearms traveled to the mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs in  
Hebron where hundreds of Muslims were engaged in morning prayers. He entered the  
mosque, took out his automatic weapon, opened fire and murdered twenty nine men  
and boys before he was beaten to death by surviving worshippers. The event shook  
the foundations of Israeli society.  
While much of Israeli society shunned Goldstein’s murderous act, vocal groups of  
Kahane supporters viewed him as a hero. Magid notes that, “Goldstein himself had  
a relationship with Kahane and viewed himself as part of his circle of disciples.  
The continued sanctification of Goldstein, small as it is, is evident in numerous  
places in contemporary Israel. For example, his tombstone at his grave in Kiryat  
Arba, which some view as a holy site, bears the inscription, ‘He gave his life  
for the people of Israel, its Torah and land’; the grave is located, not  
accidentally, adjacent to Kahane Park. A book praising his alleged heroism,  
Barukh ha-Gever (Baruch the hero), a play on the verse from Jeremiah 17:7, was  
published in his memory in 1995.”  
Violence As Sanctification  
While Goldstein’s act may be singular, Magid shows that the attitude that  
motivated it is not. The idea of violence as sanctification is part of the  
modern eschatology of the later work of Goldstein’s mentor Kahane, appearing  
especially in his 1982 book entitled “Forty Years” that he wrote in Ramle Prison  
where he faced charges of sedition and playing a role in a plot to blow up the  
Dome of the Rock. The violence called for in Kahane’s vision, is not only or  
exclusively directed against the Arab enemy but against anyone who desecrates  
God’s name. Kahane, Magid shows, “becomes a self-appointed prophet of doom who  
foresees the destruction of the Zionist project—-unless he and his political  
allies attain the power required to stop it.”  
Throughout his later writings, Kahane argued that the Judaism of the Diaspora is  
tainted by the explicit experience and its having absorbed “alien culture.” For  
example: “Today, people have risen up to destroy us who are smitten with the  
alien culture. Tragically, these include even Torah scholars and learned Jews  
who have pronounced that, halakhically speaking, there is no state of war between  
us and the Arabs in our land, hence we are forbidden to treat them as enemies.”  
He further states that anyone who renders a halakhic ruling that Jews are  
obligated to treat the Arab mercifully is a rodef (one who attacks with the  
intent to kill) “who collaborated with the gentile in the killing of Jews.”  
Kahane, Magid shows us, makes clear his contempt for such Western values as  
democracy and equality. In “Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews,” there  
are two long chapters on democracy: “A Jewish State versus Western Democracy”  
and “Judaism versus Western Democracy.” Each, Magid declares, “is marked by what  
is arguably Kahane’s most sarcastic, caustic, and vicious prose defending himself  
against the secular-Zionist enterprise that was trying to eject him from the  
government. Later in the book, Kahane’s critique of Israeli democracy…moves from  
a political argument to a theological one.”  
Democracy and Jewish Values At Odds  
In Kahane’s view, liberal democracy and Jewish values are clearly at odds with  
one another. He writes: “The liberal west speaks of the rule of democracy, of  
the authority of the majority, while Judaism speaks of the Divine truth that is  
immutable and not subject to the ballot box, or to majority error. The liberal  
west speaks of the absolute equality of all peoples while Judaism speaks of a  
spiritual status, of the chosenness of the Jews from and above all other peoples,  
of the special and exclusive relationship between G-d and Israel…But, above all  
else, Judaism differs from liberal and non-liberal western values in that the  
foundation upon which it rests is that of ‘the yoke of Heaven,’ the acceptance of  
God’s law and values and concept of truth, without testing them in the fires of  
one’s own knowledge , choice, desire and acceptance.”  
For Kahane, the goal is not only removing Arabs from Israel, but democracy as  
well. Both the presence of Arabs and the existence of democracy, Magid explains,  
makes impossible the achievement of Kahane’s ideal Jewish state: “Each prevents  
the process of purification required for the coming end-time. In Kahane’s  
estimation democracy is the best form of government for a ‘normal’ country but  
not for Israel, which needs to embrace its ‘abnormality’ to fulfill its destiny.  
Here he twists the anti-Semitic trope of Jews abnormal by conceding the point and  
then using it to justify why Israel could not be a democracy…”  
Following his assassination on Nov. 5, 1990 in New York City, after he gave a  
talk to a group of mostly Orthodox Jews, Kahane received what seemed to be  
something of an official state funeral in Israel. Magid writes that, “Despite  
his pariah status in Israel after his expulsion from the Knesset, his funeral was  
one of the largest in the country’s history, attended by almost 150,000 people.  
He was eulogized by many respected figures of the time such as Rabbi Moshe  
Tendler of Yeshiva University, the Sephardic chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and  
popular singer Shlomo Carlebach. This occurred well after he was deemed racist  
by the Israeli government and his political party declared illegal.”  
Sharply Antiliberal Mindset  
Israel has changed dramatically since Meir Kahane arrived in 1971. He brought  
with him a sharply antiliberal mindset which, Magid shows us, was largely absent  
from Israel at that time: “…the country’s now robust religious right was nowhere  
in sight; it would emerge soon after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 with the  
founding of Gush Emunim. At the time, Israel was largely left-leaning social-  
democratic, struggling to come to terms with occupying a large Palestinian  
population after 1967. What radical movements existed in the country were almost  
all of the left.”  
When Kahane emigrated to Israel, Magid points out, “…he did not settle there to  
integrate into the country that existed but rather to transform it. His  
intention was to found an international JDL in Jerusalem that never materialized.  
His contentious political aspirations emerged almost immediately…He took the  
radical politics of the American streets in a more religious direction,  
developing in his final years an apocalyptic, militant political theology  
targeting not only Arab Israelis but all of secular Israel.”  
Although this book was written before Kahane supporters became leading members of  
Israel’s current far-right government, the influence of this group was already  
evident. Kahane, writes Magid, “built an ideational infrastructure that outlived  
the now-outlawed Kahanist organizations. We see the effects of this neo-  
Kahanism…among settler youth who go by various names: ‘price-taggers,’. ‘hilltop  
youth,’ the Lahava (Prevention of Assimilation in Israel) movement…Kahane’s  
demise did not erase his legacy…He constructed his own counter cultural Judaism…  
He often said , ‘I don’t hate Arabs, I love Jews.’ But that was not true; in  
some macabre sense, he hated both. He was his own worst enemy, but his influence  
Kahane’s Influence Has Grown Dramatically  
Since this book was published in 2021, the influence of Meir Kahane has grown  
dramatically in Israel as his disciples are an important part of the new far-  
right government. State Department spokesperson Ned Price in Nov. 2022 slammed  
Israeli Cabinet member Itamar Ben-Gvir for praising Kahane at a memorial event.  
“Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent,” declared  
Price. “There is no other word for it—-it is abhorrent. And we remain concerned  
about the legacy of Kahane Chai and the continued use of rhetoric among violent  
right-wing extremists.” Kahane Chai remains on the Treasury Department’s list of  
“specially designated global terrorists.” Israeli media outlets reported that  
Ben-Gvir lauded Kahane, saying on Nov. 10, 2022 that the late rabbi was about  
“love for Israel without compromise.”  
On May 9, 2023, the European Union (EU) canceled an event in Israel at which Ben-  
Gvir planned to speak. Ben-Gvir had not been invited but volunteered to speak at  
the event celebrating Europe Day. Rather than permit him to speak, the EU  
canceled the event. EU officials asked him not to attend because, an embassy  
spokesman said, “many of his previous statements and views contradict the values  
the EU stands for.” The embassy still held an event for the Israeli public.  
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (May 6, 2023), “Nearly all ambassadors  
reportedly opted to cancel the event, save for those of Hungary and Poland which,  
like Israel, have right-wing governments.”  
Israel has endured a history of right-wing terrorists but, until now, advocates  
of terrorism were not leading members of the government. The mindset of these  
right-wing extremists can be seen in the beliefs of Yigal Amir, the assassin of  
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In their book “Murder In The Name of God: The Plot  
to Kill Yitzhak Rabin” (1998), authors Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman describe  
the thinking of Amir: “There is only one guideline for fixing the borders of the  
Land of Israel: the Divine Promise made to the Patriarch Abraham: ‘To your  
descendants. I give this land, from the River of Egypt to the great river, the  
river Euphrates’ (Genesis 15:17). Today these borders embrace most of the Middle  
East, from Egypt to Iraq…zealots read this passage as God’s Will, and God’s Will  
must be obeyed, whatever the cost. No mortal has the right to settle for borders  
any narrower than these. Thus negotiating a peace settlement with Israel’s  
neighbors is unthinkable.”  
“Not worth a Jewish fingernail”  
Few Americans understand the extreme views which characterize Israel’s now  
dominant right-wing. At the funeral of Kahane follower Baruch Goldstein, who  
murdered Muslims at prayer in Hebron, Rabbi Yaakov Perrin stated that, “One  
million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” Shmuel Hacohen, a teacher in a  
Jerusalem College, said that, “Baruch Goldstein was the greatest Jew alive, not  
in one way, but in every way. There are no innocent Arabs here.” Rabbi Yitzhak  
Ginsburgh, who wrote a chapter in a book in praise of Goldstein and what he did  
declared that, “…every simple cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part  
of God…Therefore something is special about Jewish DNA…If a Jew needs a liver,  
can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah  
would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite value.” Rabbi Menachem  
Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who headed the Chabad movement,  
declared, “The body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the  
body of (members) of all nations of the world…A non-Jew’s entire reality is only  
vanity…The entire creation of a non-Jew exists only for the sake of the Jews…”  
The Jewish community has yet to confront this level of intolerance. While it  
launches vigorous campaigns against the intolerance of others, it has,  
unfortunately, largely ignored the bigotry which has come to the forefront in  
“Grammar of Race”  
Professor Shaul Magid sheds new light on Kahane’s political views and his use of  
the “grammar of race” as a tool to promote what he calls “Jewish pride.” He  
describes Kahane’s theory of violence as a measure to assure Jewish safety. He  
examines how tradition and classical Jewish texts profoundly influenced Kahane’s  
thought. He argues that Kahane’s enduring legacy lies not in his Israeli career  
but in the challenge he posed to the liberalism and assimilation inherent in  
American Jewish life. Here, Magid may be mistaken. In America, Zionism and  
Jewish separatism are in retreat, while in Israel, Kahane’s influence has never  
been greater. Zionism, it seems clear, never understood the nature of the  
American society and erred dramatically in telling Jewish Americans that they  
were in ‘exile” and that their real “homeland” was Israel. Meir Kahane believed  
all of this and acted upon it. Israel must now confront the influence his  
movement has achieved. It is, unfortunately, a sad story, one whose end is, at  
this time, difficult to predict. *

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.