Ben-Gvir, who entered parliament in 2021, leads a far-right party called Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power. His role model and ideological wellspring has long been Meir Kahane, a Brooklyn rabbi who moved to Israel in 1971 and, during a single term in the Knesset, tested the moral limits of the country. Israeli politicians strive to reconcile Israel’s identities as a Jewish state and a democracy. Kahane argued that “the idea of a democratic Jewish state is nonsense.” In his view, demographic trends would inevitably turn Israel’s non-Jews into a majority, and so the ideal solution was “the immediate transfer of the Arabs.” To Kahane, Arabs were “dogs” who “must sit quietly or get the hell out.” His rhetoric was so virulent that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle used to walk out of the Knesset when he spoke. His party, Kach (Thus), was finally barred from parliament in 1988. Jewish Power is an ideological offshoot of Kach; Ben-Gvir served as a Kach youth leader and has called Kahane a “saint.”
Ben-Gvir, who is forty-six, has been convicted on at least eight charges, including supporting a terrorist organization and incitement to racism, compiling a criminal record so long that, when he appeared before a judge, “we had to change the ink on the printer,” Dvir Kariv, a former official in the Shin Bet intelligence agency, told me. [Continue reading…]
Ten percent of Jewish Israelis think Baruch Goldstein, the American-Israeli terrorist who massacred 29 Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs on Purim in 1994, was a “national hero,” although a majority think he was a terrorist, according to a poll by the left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence.
The survey was conducted through the Smith Institute ahead of the 29th anniversary of the massacre. That year, Purim fell out during Ramadan. Goldstein entered the section of the Cave of the Patriarchs used as a mosque and opened fire on 800 Muslim worshipers, killing 29 and wounding 125. He was beaten to death by the survivors.
Riots broke out in Hebron and across the West Bank after the massacre, and a curfew was implemented on Palestinian residents of Hebron. Knesset members from across the political spectrum condemned the massacre at the time. A plaque near Goldstein’s grave states that he “gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel.” A resident of Kiryat Arba, he was active in Meir Kahane’s Kach Party, and was third on the party’s list.
Some 57% of the Jewish Israelis polled said they thought Goldstein was a terrorist, while about a third of respondents did not know whether to regard him as a terrorist or a national hero.
Among right-wing voters, about 20% of respondents said they saw Goldstein as a hero. Among left-wing voters, 91% said they saw Goldstein as a terrorist. Over a quarter of Jewish Israelis (27%) said they knew someone who sympathized with Goldstein’s actions.
“A direct line runs between the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein 29 years ago and the current threat from the government to basic democratic values,” said Breaking the Silence about the results of the survey.
“The survey results are not surprising. They are a direct result of a policy of turning a blind eye to settler violence and Jewish terrorism that has been going on for years,” added the organization. “The survey makes it clear: Jewish terrorism is not a matter of ‘random weeds,’ and has significant support in the Israeli public, which cannot be separated from generations of military control over a civilian population. [Continue reading…]