Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Member Michael Ben-Ari is organizing, with other legislators and supporters, a commemoration this month of the death of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose organization, Kach, was declared a ‘terrorist cell’ by the US and Israeli governments in 1994 after a follower of the movement massacred a group of Palestinians praying in a mosque.Ben-Ari is the first Knesset Member who has openly declared his past affiliation with Kach to be elected since the Kach movement was banned 15 years ago. But other legislators in the current Knesset, as well as Cabinet members like Avigdor Lieberman, the Minister of Strategic Affairs, have openly declared their support for Kach’s principles.
The US Consulate in Tel Aviv has issued a rare condemnation of the proposed commemoration, saying that it will increase tensions at a time when US Envoy George Mitchell is attempting to negotiate a peace agreement.
Ben-Ari has been on Israeli radio promoting a commemoration of Kahane’s death, and posters for the event have circulated around Jerusalem, with the text, ‘We all know now – Meir Kahane was right.’
The poster campaign has had a chilling effect on the Palestinian population of both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as Kahane openly advocated for the transfer of the Palestinian population off their land into neighboring countries, going so far as to say that if they refused such transfer, they should be killed.
Kahane promoted a reading of Jewish religious texts that many Israelis and Jews around the world found unconscionable – he argued that the Talmud allowed for the killing of Arabs, saying that according to the Talmud, Jews who kill Arabs should not be punished. He also called for the robbing of Palestinian land, attempting to use Jewish holy texts to justify this act as well, saying that such confiscation is not actually stealing, but is actually a redemption of the land from the satanic sphere to the divine – adding that force is justified when “redeeming” land in this way.
The Speaker of the House of the Israeli Knesset, Reuven Rivlin, said that he had turned down Ben-Ari’s proposal for a commemoration of Kahane. Ben-Ari responded with a public statement condemning Rivlin, saying ‘I was elected to the Knesset by citizens of the independent state of Israel. The flagrant involvement of [US Envoy George] Mitchell has crossed a red line and it testifies to the bowed head of the Knesset speaker that is turning the Knesset into a dish rag.’
The head of the Likud party in the Knesset vowed to pressure Rivlin to overturn his decision.
Meanwhile, according to Israel-based British journalist Jonathan Cook, “Last week Ben-Ari had to cancel a trip to the United States, his first overseas visit, after he was refused a US visa. He had intended to speak to American Jewish groups to encourage emigration to Israel.”