Former far-right Israeli MP Meir Kahane was assassinated in New York 31 years ago

November 5, 2021 marks 31 years since far-right Israeli politician Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated in a New York City hotel in what some have considered the first act of Islamic terrorism on American soil. .

Born in New York before making Aliyah, Kahane was an extremely controversial figure, and remains so to this day. He had helped found the Jewish Defense League in 1968 to protect Jews against anti-Semitism, and later founded the Kach Party in Israel.

His far-right views were very pronounced, having advocated for the annexation of the West Bank, restricting democracy in Israel to only Jews, backing mass aliyah, making the state law of Halacha Israel, segregating Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, prohibiting relations between Jews and Gentiles and supporting violence against enemies of Jews, among many others.

Kahane faced criminal charges in both the United States and Israel for his actions and opinions, having been convicted in New York for conspiracy to create explosives and in Israel for conspiring to blow up the Libyan embassy in Belgium. In fact, in Israel, he was arrested more than 60 times, and during one of these incarceration periods he wrote his book. They must go.

The Kach flag (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

But he kept up his efforts and activism. By 1984, Kahane’s Kach Party had managed to win a single seat in the Knesset elections, making Kahane a deputy. This was despite the efforts of the Central Election Commission, which had tried to prevent him from running, although the Israeli High Court of Justice overturned this effort.

However, Kahane’s tenure was fraught with controversy as both the right and the left boycotted him, and the media run by the Israel Broadcasting Authority had done so. refused to cover everything he did in the Knesset, since their opinions are “contrary to the spirit of the Broadcasting Law”. This was tipped over in another court ruling of the High Court of Justice, and the Chief Justice of the High Court Aharon Barak ruled that, although Kahane’s views were terrifying, he nevertheless had the right to express them, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority had no right to censure him for such degree.

In 1988, during the First Intifada, Kahane’s popularity grew even more. However, the Knesset was able to bar him from running in the next election, as it had banned “racist” and “undemocratic” political parties from running, making Kahane the first person to be barred from running for office in Israel due to to racism.

After this, Kahane continued to travel to the United States and gave speeches. However, it all came to an end on November 5, 1990, when during a speech in New York City, an Egyptian-American named El Sayyid Nosair, disguised as an Orthodox Jew, shot and killed him.

Nosair was immediately arrested. However, the court acquitted him of murder, although it found him guilty of assault and possession of an illegal firearm. The acquittal was shocking, since the jury’s decision it was against the judge’s beliefs. This act of annulling the jury was “against the overwhelming weight of evidence and lacked common sense and logic,” and led him to sentence Nosair to the maximum sentences allowed: seven and a third to 22 years in prison.

Kahane’s murder was originally viewed by many to be anti-Semitic in nature. However, this view later changed.

Subsequently, Nosair was convicted of his involvement in a terrorist conspiracy and more assassination plots, and was sentenced to life in prison. This conviction, in connection with the Omar Abdel-Rahman trial for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, determined that a “seditious conspiracy” was taking place and the murder of Kahane had been part of it. This, in turn, has led many to view the murder not as an anti-Semitic hate crime, but as Islamic terrorism on American soil.

    Supporters pray at Meir Kahane's tomb in Jerusalem in 1995 (credit: REUTERS) Supporters pray at Meir Kahane’s tomb in Jerusalem in 1995 (credit: REUTERS)

Kahane was buried in the Har Menuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem. His party never ran again and was labeled a terrorist organization in both the United States and Israel, a fate that would also succeed the Kahane-Chai Party, founded by his son, Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane.

However, his legacy, and that of his Kahanism ideology, remains strong to this day, with many arguing that some of his views entered the Jewish mainstream.

Kahane always had many followers, many of whom are extremely controversial figures like Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron in what became known as the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre.

His followers also formed other organizations and parties that upheld their views, such as Lehava, a group that fights against mixed marriages between Jews and Arabs and has been associated with many criminal events, sparking a push for them to be labeled as terrorist organization.

Others formed political parties, the most famous Otzma Yehudit. Some of these parties were successful in the elections and made it to the Knesset.

Currently, the Religious Zionist Party, a union of the far-right parties Noam, National Union and Otzma Yehudit, occupies seven seats in the Knesset, sitting in opposition. One of these MPs, Otzma Yehudit’s leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is also a lawyer defending many right-wing extremists, remains a prominent Kahanist to this day.

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