I offer this response to Emily Burack’s essay on the life and legacy of Rabbi Meir Kahane z”l in last week’s Jewish Star (“Rabbi Meir Kane and Israel’s far right”).
Ms. Burack uses the term “racism” over and over again without any understanding of the word, nor its insidious implications. According to her perspective, if one’s opinion differs from another’s opinion, that, ipso facto, is racism. Rather, if one’s opinion differs from anther’s, that is a difference of opinion.
In the mid-1960’s, black nationalists, including the Black Panthers, accused American Jews of spearheading slavery three hundred years earlier. To atone for this alleged sin, American Jews, along with other whites, were to pay reparations to African Americans. Black Panthers vowed to break into synagogues on Shabbos and extract these reparations. Who can ever forget Rabbi Kahane and members of the Jewish Defense League surrounding synagogues in New York City, armed with baseball bats, to protect those religious institutions? Was this racism?
Similarly, from 1948 onward, Arabs in the Middle East vowed to destroy the state of Israel and drown Jews in the Mediterranean. Arabs refused the creation of a Palestinian country in 1948, and subsequently, despite the efforts of President Carter and President Clinton, among others, refused to recognize a Jewish state. Two full-scale wars, several intifadas, countless barrages of rockets launched into Israel, wreaked havoc among Jewish residents of Israel.
Unlike most Israeli politicians, Rabbi Kahane fully understood Arab actions for what they were: a relentless effort to destroy the state of Israel. Instead of pacifying Arabs (i.e. turning the Gaza Strip over to Hamas), Rabbi Kahane argued that these steps were fruitless, and, instead, Isarael’s secure future rested on removing militant Arabs, not coddling them. Is this racism? Or is the racism that of the Arabs, who wished to kill every Jew on sight?
Kach was excluded from the Knesset because other Israeli politicians feared the growing strength of Rabbi Kahane’s party, and feared the loss of their own seats. It is telling that when Kach was outlawed, the Communist Party and Arab parties were allowed to remain. Is this racism?
To conclude, I quote from Rabbi Kahane’s book, Listen World, Listen Jew (1978): “Enough weeping and wailing and the following of leaders and rabbis who are pygmies of little faith and less understanding. … O G-d, keep not Thou silent, Hold not Thy peace and be not still, O G-d. … Sing O Jew, O Zionist, and gird your loins and flex your muscles. … And turn to the world to proclaim: Listen! I am a Jew! I am a Zionist!”
Gary S. Laveman is a resident of the Upper West Side and a member of the Lincoln Square Synagogue.