The Jewish Chronicle

Briton leads fight against Kahanists


HUNDREDS OF religious Israelis will take to the street in Jerusalem this weekend to protest against Kahanists, in a demonstrat­ion organised by a British Bnei Akiva graduate.

Anton Goodman emerged this week as one of the most eloquent critics of there Kahanist ideology. The peace activist is in demand on Israeli media and even went head-to-head with a Jewish Power member Itamar Ben-Geir — who describes Kahane as his “rabbi and teacher” — on Israeli radio.

“Every society is going to have its hooligans,” Mr Goodman told the JC when asked why he decided to organise Saturday night’s rally. “The issue here is when they get to be part of the mainstream. I’m not scared of these Kahanists, I’m scared of how the mainstream relates to them.”

The chosen venue, opposite the Prime Minister’s residence, is to express dismay with- Benjamin Netanyahu who brokered the controvers­ial deal as well as with the political representa­tives of the religious-Zionist establishm­ent who agreed to it.

“It’s not just about Jewish Home,” he said. “The minute Netanyahu more than gave his blessing, this became about value-based leadership, about the soul of the Jewish people.”

“It’s hugely important to me where the red lines are drawn,” he added.

Mr Goodman said that ever since he was a Bnei Akiva member in the UK, and then part of the movement’s profession­al team, he was concerned about a push to the right in Israel’s religiousZ­ionist establishm­ent.

After making aliyah in 2002 he worked for World Bnei Akiva for a decade, and became increasing­ly worried. He believes that the deal with Kahanists shows how far religious-Zionist leaders have strayed from their roots, and soon after hearing about it decided that the dovish religious-Zionist group that he helps to lead, Oz V’Shalom, needed to take a stand. Within 24 hours of announcing the rally, more than 1,000 people said they wanted to attend.

“It is about creating a new discourse among religious-Zionists, and we’re going to see a wave, an avalanche of relies people coming out of the closet and saying: ‘I have progressiv­e values and, while I have been quiet since Oslo, I’m not scared to share them.’ They will say this because they are seeing now where their silence has led things.”

He added: “It’s hugely healthy for the national discourse that you have religious people facing off against each other. The Kahanists are getting massive air time and there needs to be a voice standing against them.”

Mr Goodman rejects the argument that Jewish Home has only made a strategic or tactical alliance, as it is asking its supporters to use their votes to put Kahanists — who are mixed in with more moderate candidates on the joint list — into the Knesset. “It’s the first time ever that the religious-Zionist establishm­ent has given a hechsher to this ideology,” he said.

The Oxford-raised father-of-four wants to seize on the discussion about values prompted by the latest developmen­ts, and get more religious-Zionists distancing themselves from extremists and thinking instead about their potential to help social cohesion.

“I have a deeply held belief that there is so much good in the religious-Zionist community,” he said.

IN THE early 1970s, Rabbi Meir Kahane visited Britain to establish a Jewish Defence League to advance the cause of Soviet Jewry. I worked to stop him.

This was because I had seen what had happened in New York, where he formed the JDL in 1968 to target perceived antisemite­s and oppose homegrown criticism of Israel.

A few decades after the Shoah, the JDL’s slogan “Never Again” had real meaning. For the impression­able, Kahane exuded authentici­ty in his militancy. In the UK, many local Jewish taxi drivers were attracted to him.

At one of his mass meetings, I stood on a chair and made a speech against him. Kahane told his irate followers to allow me to speak and invited me up on to the stage. I asked whether he would be prepared to offer himself in exchange for the prisoners of Zion, then in strict-regime labour camps in the USSR.

It was at this point that everyone in the hall wanted to lynch me.

Kahane taught that “vengeance, hate and violence” had its place in Jewish tradition and should be used accordingl­y when necessary — and especially against non-Jews, Arabs and leftists.

Long after that UK visit, Kahane wrote in his book Uncomforta­ble Questions for Comfortabl­e Jews: “The liberal west speaks of tolerance and the obligation to respect all views regardless of their rightness or wrongness, while Judaism demands that the Jew choose truth and the path of right and not tolerate evil in his midst.

“And so the homosexual, the prostitute, the abortionis­t, the addict are not permitted the tolerance of living their own lives as they see fit, for Judaism is not a certificat­e of licence, but of obligation.”

Three years after he published that book in 1987, he was shot dead at the end of a talk in a New York hotel.

Following Kahane’s killing, Robert I. Friedman published his book, The False Prophet. It revealed another side to the militant rabbi, who removed his kippah in 1963 to act as an FBI informant often targeting Jewish liberals.

Using the pseudonym Michael King, he co-authored a book attacking many Jews who opposed the Vietnam war. As Rabbi Meir Kahane, he defined the war as a milchemet mitzvah — an obligatory war — and advised his students to enlist to fight in Vietnam.

Unknown to his family and community, his activities in the intelligen­ce underworld led to womanising and an affair with Estelle Donna Evans.

Two days before their marriage, he informed her that he was already married. A few hours later, Evans threw herself off the Queensboro Bridge and subsequent­ly died on the operating table. She was pregnant.

Kahane later explained it away by suggesting that Evans had killed herself because she had terminal cancer.

Following his emigration to Israel, Menachem Begin tried to cultivate him as a source of dynamism to invigorate the new Likud. Yet even the Right began to fear his penchant for paranoia and self-promotion.

In 1980, he was imprisoned without trial for nine months because of a plan to blow up the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

Four years later, his party Kach was elected to the Knesset. Yehuda Richter, number two on its list, was serving a five-year prison term for shooting Meir Kahane (centre) arriving in the UK from New York in September 1971

It is wrong to speak ill of the dead — with exceptions

Arab bus passengers. Kahane called him “a true Maccabee”. By 1988, even Likud was willing to ban Kach.

Kahane’s followers have belonged to a number of different far-right groups since then. In the 1980s, Kahane’s disciples formed the group TNT (“Terror Against Terror”) to attack Palestinia­n militants.

Later, there was the “Kahane Lives”, led by his son Binyamin until he and his wife were killed in an ambush by Palestinia­n nationalis­ts.

The latest faction, Jewish Power

(Otzma Yehudit), has merged with Jewish Home, seemingly egged on by Benjamin Netanyahu to fortify his ability to form a future coalition.

It is, of course, wrong to speak ill of the dead — but there are exceptions. Today we face the dire prospect of Kahanists in a future Knesset.

A case indeed of Kahane Chai Kahane Lives.

Colin Shindler was involved in the campaign for Soviet Jewry between 1966 and 1975

 ??  ?? The Kahanist Jewish Power party could win seats
The Kahanist Jewish Power party could win seats
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