Nahum Barnea
Nahum Barnea
Photo: Dana Kopel
A synagogue build illegally on private Palestinian land is occupied by extreme settlers to prevent its demolition, Nov. 2015

Likud will never be able to remove stain of Kahane

Opinion: By embracing Itamar Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu may believe he will secure the immunity he seeks in the criminal proceedings against him, but he is underestimating the extremists and racists if he thinks he can control them - and his party will pay the price

Nahum Barnea |
Published: 02.19.21 , 23:51
A number of years ago a synagogue was constructed on private Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem. After all legal avenues were exhausted by its builders, the synagogue was condemned and its demolition order issued.
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  • At that point the disciples of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane appeared on the scene. They occupied the condemned building and prevented authorities, including the police, from carrying out the court-ordered demolition.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    A synagogue build illegally on private Palestinian land is occupied by extreme settlers to prevent its demolition, Nov. 2015
    A synagogue build illegally on private Palestinian land is occupied by extreme settlers to prevent its demolition, Nov. 2015
    A synagogue build illegally on private Palestinian land is occupied by extreme settlers to prevent its demolition, Nov. 2015
    (Photo: Lior Paz)
    Kahane, who was murdered in New York in 1990, was banned from serving in the Knesset and his movement that called for the expulsion of Arabs was outlawed.
    I was there to cover the story and so was Itamar Ben-Gvir, Kahane's acolyte. After we spoke for a while the aspiring young politician exchanged words with his comrades and left the scene.
    Minutes later a coke bottle filled with stones landed on my head. The second bottle hit my back.
    When next we met, I told Ben-Gvir about the incident. He claimed to be shocked. He had no idea.
    Ben-Gvir lacks his hero's charisma but is much smarter than Kahane ever was. He is not yet as revered - but he is alive and present on the political stage.
    Kahane was kicked out of the Knesset, but his disciple will take his place there after the March 23 elections thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    And that is quite a departure from the years when Kahane's hatred and racism were shunned by all.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מאיר כהנה
    מאיר כהנה
    Racist rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the outlawed Kach movement
    (Photo: David Rubinger)
    Netanyahu's enablers are perplexed by the outcry after Ben-Gvir was so lovingly embraced by the prime minister.
    "He is not the only one with extreme views in the Knesset," they say as they attempt to draw attention to other controversial candidates.
    They should take their noses out of their social media pages and really look at what four years of Donald Trump has cost the United States.
    White supremacists and other criminal elements who were kept on the fringes were placed center stage by the former president, protected by the legitimacy he bestowed on them. Trump lavished praise on their support of him and believed he could control their worst impulses.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    A Trump supporter wearing a 'Camp Aushwitz' jacket during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6
    A Trump supporter wearing a 'Camp Aushwitz' jacket during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6
    A Trump supporter wears a 'Camp Aushwitz' sweatshirt during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    The Republican Party initially recoiled. They were suspicious of these groups and found their actions and words distasteful, but at the same time they understood that Trumpism was their only path to political survival.
    Even after the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, Republicans stayed loyal to Trump and his allies. But they will be forever tainted by these racists and Netanyahu is leading his Likud party down a similar path.
    Embracing Ben-Gvir and ensuring his political future by apparently signing an agreement between the Likud and his party, the prime minister mistakenly believes he will be able to control his extremist future partners.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בחירות 2020 עוצמה יהודית איתמר בן גביר שוק מחנה יהודה ירושלים
    בחירות 2020 עוצמה יהודית איתמר בן גביר שוק מחנה יהודה ירושלים
    Itamar Ben-Gvir campaigning in Jerusalem before the March 2020 elections
    He might be telling himself that they only need to provide him with the immunity he seeks from his criminal trial for corruption; he might be telling himself that he will then cast them aside.
    But he would be underestimating his new racist little friends.
    Netanyahu has already given Ben-Gvir the stamp of approval. And while his party has historically distanced itself from the likes of Kahane and his followers, Likud will never be rid of the stain of allying with them.
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