On this day: Rabbi Meir Kahane is killed

November 5 1995: The assassination of a Jewish extremist

By Jennifer Lipman, November 5, 2010

To his followers, he remains a hero, to many; he was a right-wing fanatic with dangerous, even racist views.

Born Martin David Kahane in New York City in 1932, as a teenager he was involved in the right-wing youth movement Betar. He entered rabbinical college and in 1968 set up the Jewish Defence League in Brooklyn.

The organisation was a response to street violence against Jews, and had as its symbol a clenched fist with the words “never again.”

In 1971 he moved to Israel where he became involved in politics there, creating the Kach movement. Funded largely by sections of American Jewry, the party won one Knesset seat in 1984 before it was banned for racism.

For Rabbi Kahane, it was a mouthpiece for his virulent and extreme views, including a call for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. In 1981, the Home Office barred him from entering Britain on the grounds that his visit “would not be conducive to the public good.”

In 1990, following a speech in New York, he was assassinated by an Egyptian-born American gunman outside the Marriot Hotel in Manhattan.

There were thousands of mourners at his funeral in Jerusalem, while his supporters lived up to their promise of “rivers of blood” in revenge. One Arab was stabbed and others beaten, despite police presence.

Jewish leaders across the political spectrum condemned the murder, even as they distanced themselves from his ideology. Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem, said: “I detested his policies, but his murder was abhorrent,” while the then president of the Board of Deputies, Dr Lionel Kopelowitz, said: “I never shared his vies but I deplore the fact that he should have been gunned down.”

What the JC said: Rabbi Meir Kahane’s death, like any death, was a tragedy; his murder, like any, a heinous crime. Our mourning or anger, however, should not blind us to the fact that he embodied the wrong, and futility, if fighting cancer with cancer. No one who ever watched Meir Kahane work the crowds at an election rally could have failed to notice: in his eyes burned the ecstasy of hatred; from his mouth poured the obscene ideology of racial purity. His enemies will say he contributed to antisemitism. Even his friends, if honest, must at least acknowledge that he did nothing to defeat it.

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Last updated: 9:37am, November 5 2010