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Kahane Chai is one of the nonwhite supremacist hate groups which is opposed to Arabs and Christians in Israel. Nowadays, it is declared a terrorist organization by the Israeli officials and the USA (Gerstenfeld, 2013). Like many other hate groups, Kahane Chai supports bigoted viewpoints that are not widely accepted both by the citizens of their country and the international community. The extremist behavior and the selection of illegal methods for supporting their ideology, e.g. the armed attacks on civilians and rebellion, are the major factors defining the terrorist nature of the group and its failure to gain widespread acceptance.
Historical Development of the Pro-Jewish Movement
The group’s founder is Benjamin Zeev, the son of Rabbi Meir Kahane who was the leader of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) founded in 1968 in the USA (Cohen-Almagor, 2007). The activities and philosophy of the JDL are directly linked to the emergence of Kahane Chai. When the Meir Kahane’s movement was restricted by the US federal law enforcement agency, he immigrated to Israel where he continued his proactive supremacist activities.
In 1984, Kahane entered the parliament with his Kach party and for a few years, he had undertaken many attempts to disseminate the anti-Arab ideology and had actively promoted the ideas of Jews’ superiority over Arabs and “the precedence of the Jewish law, the halacha, over the law of the state” (Cohen-Almagor, 2007, p. 83). Afterward, the government and the media took measures to reduce Kahane’s influence and prevent his activities – Kahane’s movement became de-legitimized and was banned from participation in the political decision-making. Then, in 1990 he was assassinated in New York.
After the failure to succeed in his father’s leadership in Kach, Benjamin Zeev Kahane established the Kahane Chai movement which can be translated as “Kahane is Alive” (Cohen-Almagor, 2007, p. 83). The splinter from the JDL and Kahaneism, Kahane Chai supported a similar ideology and maintained violent activities against Arabs.
Ideology and the Focus of Hatred
The group’s philosophy is rooted in the Zionist ideo-theology which combines the ideas drawn from the Jewish history and religion, as well as the values of justice and freedom for people with the Jewish identity (Jones, 2007). The members of Kahane Chai believe that Jews are God’s peculiar people, and they are chosen to live on the holy lands – the biblical homeland of the Jews. The Hebrew Bible takes a central position in forming the pro-Jewish worldview as the acceptance of the laws and commands written in the holy scriptures distinguish Hebrews and Jews from the rest of the nations that reject them.
According to Kahane Chai’s view, non-Jewish people cannot be the rightful citizens of Israel, and they are thus should be expelled. Since the Israeli territory is considered to be the historical and biblical homeland of Jews, the territorial concessions to Arabs are considered unacceptable and are regarded as the betrayal of the Bible and God who promised the possession of this land by Jews. Kahane Chai strives to protect the places of sanctity and deliver them from the presence of other ethnicities and religions. Hence, Jews’ control over Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount, is considered to be an indisputable truth.
Although Kahane Chai is against any foreign religion and traditions that do not support the supremacy of the Jewish nation and their historical rights, in the face of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the main focus of their fierce activities is made on terrorizing Palestinians. It was reported that the group members participated in organized attacks on Palestinian villages as well as individual murders of Palestinians (Cohen-Almagor, 2007). Additionally, the group members openly protest against the government officials whose decisions and views contradict Kahanist ideology.
Structure and Demographics
Meir Kahane is the founder of all Kahanist movements, and the supporters of his ideas often become the activists of both Kach and Kahane Chai. The organizational forces are primarily located in Israel and the occupied territories, but the group also receives support from the Jewish diasporas in Europe and the USA. Many followers of the Kahanist movement and the group activists were primarily students and youth who disseminated information by spreading leaflets.
The strength and influence of Kach and Kahane Chai started to decrease after the imposition of the official ban on the groups’ activities in 1994 and the death of Meir Kahane. In 2000, Benjamin Zeev Kahane was killed by the Palestinian gunmen, and currently, the strength of the group remains unknown (Kahane Chai, 2004).
After the massacre of twenty-nine Palestinians at the Cave of Machpelah in 1994 initiated by a close associate of Meir Kahane, the government decided to outlaw both Kach and Kahane Chai movements. The ban was justified and consistent with subsections 2 and 3 of the amendment to the Basic Law which prohibit “Denial of the democratic character of the State” and ” Incitement to racism” (Cohen-Almagor, 2007, p. 86).
Kahane Chai was declared a terroristic organization to introduce some boundaries to liberty and tolerance which are inherent in democracy and, at the same time, protect the major democratic values. In this way, the government prevented the participation of the anti-democratic group in the elections and eliminated the potential risks of their entry into the parliament.
It is possible to say that Meir Kahane’s efforts in the dissemination of pro-Jewish ideas in the country could find a significant emotional response among the citizens and could become widely accepted as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfolded. However, the official ban on the Kahanist movement interfered with the acceptance of the violent ideology by the population and the political empowerment of the group which could destroy the Israeli democracy.
Cohen‐Almagor, R. (2007). Combating right‐wing political extremism in Israel: Critical appraisal. Terrorism and Political Violence, 9(4), 82-105. doi:10.1080/09546559708427431
Gerstenfeld, P. B. (2013). Hate crimes: Causes, controls, and controversies. Los Angeles: SAGE.
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Jones, C. (2007). Ideo‐theology and the Jewish state: From conflict to conciliation? British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 26(1), 9-26. doi:10.1080/13530199908705675
Kahane Chai. (2004).