Meet Netanyahu's new, racist comrades
Netanyahu, who already leads what is considered the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, has moved even further to the right by affiliating with the Jewish Power party. Its leaders bear labels like “racist” and “terrorist”; its forbears include a mass murderer and a proponent of ethnic cleansing.
by Kathryn Shihadah, If Americans Knew
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is quick to call out perceived anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, is teaming up with an openly racist political party with a deeply problematic background, in hopes of snagging the next election.
Netanyahu’s newest partner, the far-right Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, would be a part of his next coalition government, bringing with it a stunning history of bigotry.
Leaders of Jewish Power are disciples of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose bio includes accomplishments in both New York and Israel.
The Godfather of Jewish Power
In New York, Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) labeled as racist, violent, and extremist, and which the FBI designated a terrorist organization. He was convicted for conspiracy to manufacture explosives and received a five-year suspended sentence.
In Israel, Kahane co-founded and won a Knesset seat with the political party Kach. Though the party became increasingly popular in the following years, the Israeli government banned Kach due to its “racist” and “anti-democratic” platform, which NYT reported“advocates forcible expulsion of all 2.2 million Arabs from Israel and its occupied territories.” (See this video from Ha’aretz for examples of Jewish Power’s platform.)
Israel identified the Kach party as a terrorist organization in 1994 after Baruch Goldstein, a party member, massacred 29 Muslims as they prayed in Hebron. Goldstein was immediately beaten to death by survivors of the attack.
This – Jewish Power – is the party with which Likud has now partnered, in a complete reversal of its 1990s-era opposition to Kach.
Netanyahu is reported to have signed an agreement promising Jewish Power two ministerial posts and two seats in the Security Cabinet.
Benzi Gopstein, a leader in Jewish Power, runs Lehava, an Israeli organization that works aggressively against intermarriage, business relationships, or any mixing between Jews and Palestinians. He is reported to have told a Lahava meeting that Palestinians were a “dangerous cancer” that “has metastasized everywhere.”
Gopstein has also referred to Christians as “bloodsucking vampires” – which earned him a censure from the ADL – and declared that Christmas should be outlawed.
Baruch Marzel was reported to have a long police record before he turned 30, including assaulting Palestinians and Israelis
Marzel served as Rabbi Meir Kahane’s “right-hand man” until Kahane was assassinated.
He has advocated violence toward homosexuals, going so far as to call for a “religious war” against them, and organizes a celebration at Goldstein’s grave every year.
Another top Jewish Power leader is attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who displays a picture of Baruch Goldstein (see above) in his living room. and whom Ha’aretz once described as the “go-to man for Jewish extremists who have allegedly run afoul of the law….[whose] client list reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of suspects in Jewish terror cases and hate crimes in Israel.” He has been retained by members of the “hilltop youth,” an extreme settlers group too right-wing even for most Israelis. Ben-Gvir calls these settlers the “salt of the earth” and “the biggest Zionists that exist.”
Asked about the challenges of living in Hebron, Ben-Gvir replied,
I believe we’re on an important mission there. To say that I don’t drive on the roads and think that any minute someone can shoot me? Of course I take that into account. But we own the place, and we should be there. That’s why I make a point of driving in an unarmored car with my windows wide open.
As a Knesset member, he has worked to call attention to the increased “infiltration” of Sudanese refugees, and blamed them for a rise in crime.
Ben-Ari has also publicly burned a Palestinian flag in response to the United Nations’ passage of resolution 67/19, which upgraded the status of Palestine to that of nonmember observer state.
In an interview this week, Jewish Power party leader Michael Ben Ari was asked if he would disavow Kahane’s ideology. The Times of Israel reports that Ben Ari “ridiculed the notion. Kahane, he said, was his teacher, his rabbi.”
As the Intercept reports, times have changed dramatically since Rabbi Kahane was in the Knesset:
Before he was assassinated in 1990, Kahane served in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, where he introduced legislation to strip non-Jews of their citizenship and called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the occupied territories. “At the time,” Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 13 news noted, “senior members of the Likud attacked Kahane’s policies and said they were similar to the Nuremberg Laws passed by the Nazis before the Holocaust.” When Kahane spoke, the other members of the Knesset, including the Likud party Netanyahu now leads, would boycott him by walking out of the chamber.
This new coalition, with Likud head Netanyahu at the center, was described by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid as the political equivalent of “a U.S. president cutting a political deal with David Duke.”