Beyond  /  Biography

False Prophet

Meir Kahane's Legacy in Israel and America.

Although Kahane paid lip service to “democracy” and “the American dream,” he evidently despaired of the Jewish situation in America, probably because Jews were just too well-integrated. (The JDL had also moved from “defensive” actions and harassment to overt terrorism, creating a potentially uncomfortable legal situation for Kahane.) In 1971, he moved to Israel and set up shop as a radical there as well. Kahane attacked establishment Zionism from the right. The premise of Herzlian Zionism was that the establishment of a Jewish nation-state would normalize the Jews in relation to the other peoples of the world. But for Kahane, antisemitism is an permanent, ontological reality—a doctrine that Magid compares to Afro-Pessimism—a permanent reality of the world that can only be managed and defied, not defused. Likewise, Kahane pointed to the inherent contradiction of Israel attempting to be simultaneously a Jewish state and a liberal democracy. Either Israel is a Jewish state or a democracy it cannot be both: equal citizenship for its residents would mean the end of its Jewish character The attempt to offer non-Jews citizenship in the land of Israel is a hypocritical farce: it must be a theocratic state for Jews, Arabs must leave—“They must go” as he would entitle his 1980 book, which he wrote while serving time in jail for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock. His argued that while conventional Zionist labeled him a racist, they were the real racists: his Zionism was rooted in the Jewish religion, not in a secular, European concept of ethnicity or peoplehood. And perversely much like Jabotinsky before him, his radicalism evinced more respect for the permanence of Arab nationalism than the moderates—“[We]—more than the Jewish leftists and liberals—understand and respect the reality of Arab nationalism, that we realize the futility of expecting the nationalist to give up his dream:”

No nationalist was ever bought by an indoor toilet and electricity in his home. And that is exactly what those who preach peace through materialism are doing. They are buying, or attempting to buy, the Arab nationalist and his love and pride in nationhood and state. Such an attempt is immoral and self-defeating. What the “moderates” and “compromisers” do not realize is that the Arab nationalist is as committed to his own people and to what he considers his own land as the Jews of Israel are to theirs. The Western colonialists who sincerely and honestly believed that they were benefiting the Asians and Africans whom they ruled, found that their arguments fell on deaf ears of native peoples who preferred poverty with independence to high living standards under foreign rule. Why should we expect Arabs to be different? Why should they not have the same pride that Israelis expect their children to have.