Kahanism is loosely defined as an nationalist ideology of dedication and self-sacrifice for Jewish causes, such as physical and spiritual freedom and safety of Jews in Israel and worldwide. The term is derived from the name of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane (1932–1990), founder of the Jewish Defense League in USA and the Kach party in Israel. Based on fundamentalist Jewish beliefs, it influenced all types of Jews, from non-observant to Orthodox and Ultraorthodox; it has also drawn strong criticism and hostility from the Jewish establishment.

The Jewish Defense League was formed in 1968 to combat anti-Semitism in the United States and to fight for freedom of the Soviet Jews. Not all Kahane supporters were Zionists or even Jewish. However, the term Kahanism was coined later, reflecting the views Rabbi Kahane expressed while he was active in Israeli political life. Chief among these is the idea that the State of Israel should defend itself against Arab and Nazi enemies, and thus should accord full citizenship exclusively to Jews, and that all gentiles should be accorded equal rights except voting provided they accept Jewish Religious Law.[1]



The central claim of Kahanism is that the vast majority of the Arabs of Israel are now, and will continue to be, enemies of Jews and Israel itself, and that a Jewish theocratic state, governed by Halakha, absent of a voting non-Jewish population and including Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, areas of modern-day Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and even Iraq should be created.[2]

According to Kahane, the term "Kahanism" is used primarily by those ignorant of Torah Judaism to discredit his ideology[citation needed], which he asserted to be rooted in Halakha[citation needed] and the same as Torah Judaism.[3][verification needed][non-primary source needed] "Meir Kahane did not hate the Arabs – he just loved the Jews", said his widow Libby in her November 20, 2010 TV interview.[4]


Since 1985, the State of Israel has outlawed political parties espousing Kahane's ideology as being "racist", and forbids their participating in the Israeli government. The Kach party was banned from running for the Knesset in 1988, while the existence of the two Kahanist movements formed following Kahane's assassination in 1990[5] were proclaimed illegal terrorist organizations in 1994 and the groups subsequently officially disbanded. Activities by followers with militant Kahanist beliefs continue to the present today, however, as seen below. The official Kahanist website (kahane.org) has been designated as a hate site espousing racist views in which 'Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular are vilified.'[6]

Kahanist groups

  • Terror Neged Terror, an Israeli militant group founded by Kach members and followers of Kahane

Kahanist violence in Israel and the West Bank

Mark Juergensmeyer, a religious violence expert identified several of these as acts of religious terrorism, and wrote: "In the world view of Amir, Goldstein, and many of their colleagues, their people are caught up in a war with cultural, political, and military dimensions. In talking with Israel's religious activists, it became clear to me that what they were defending was not only the political entity of the state of Israel, but a vision of Jewish society that had ancient roots."[8]:45.

Baruch Goldstein

The deadliest Jewish terrorist attack was when Dr. Baruch Goldstein, supporter of Kach, shot and killed 29 Muslim worshipers, and wounded another 150, at the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron, in 1994. This was described as a case of Jewish religious terrorism by Mark Juergensmeyer.[8]:10

Goldstein was a medical doctor who grew up in Brooklyn and was educated at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. He resettled to the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank, and was politically active for years – he saw Rabbi Meir Kahane as a hero,[8]:53 and had been Kahane's campaign manager when he ran for the Israeli parliament through Kahane's Kach party.[8]:8 When Goldstein was threatened with court-martial for refusing to treat non-Jewish soldiers in the Israeli Defence Force, he declared: "I am not willing to treat any non-Jew. I recognize as legitimate only two religious authorities: Maimonides and Kahane."[9]

Goldstein was denounced "with shocked horror" by Orthodox Judaism,[10] and most in Israel denounced Goldstein as insane.[11] Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin condemned the attack, describing Goldstein as a "degenerate murderer", "a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism".[12][13][14] At the same time, Goldstein's actions were praised by the some extremist settlers; Yochay Ron said that he "felt good" when he heard the news, and stated that Jews were "at war with the Arabs" and "all Arabs who live here are a danger to us... they threaten the very existence of the Jewish community on the West Bank."[8]:52 Goldstein and other religious settlers at Beit Hadassah (both Kahanist and Gush Emunim) believe that the biblical lands on the West Bank are sacred, that Jews are required by God to occupy them, and that the presence of Muslims desecrates the holy land.[8]:51-52 After this attack, members of the Kach Party praised Goldstein's actions, and in the ensuing political turmoil, the Knesset banned Kach in Israel. The Shamgar Commission in Israel concluded that Baruch Goldstein acted alone.

Yoel Lerner

In October 1982 Yoel Lerner, a member of Meir Kahane's Kach, attempted to blow up the Dome of the Rock in order to rebuild the Temple Mount site.[8]:45 He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Mark Juergensmeyer identified him as a Jewish religious terrorist, writing that he "yearned for a Jewish society in Israel. He hoped for the restoration of the ancient temple in Jerusalem, the exclusive right of Jews to settle on the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the creation of a state based on biblical law."[8]:45 Lerner had previously served a three year sentence for heading a group that plotted to overthrow the government and establish a state based upon religious law.

Suspected Kahanist violence

Roadside shootings, stabbings and grenade attacks against Palestinians have been carried out in Jerusalem and the West Bank by individuals or groups suspected of having ties to the former Kach group. Aliases such as "The Committee for the Safety of the Roads" [3], "The Sword of David" and "The Repression of Traitors" have been used. The US government claims that these are all aliases of "Kach", [4].

The Israeli group Yesh Din, founded in 2005 [5], has published a report documenting extensive settler violence against Palestinians [6]. Their website includes testimony of a deadly drive-by shooting of a Palestinian factory owner in the West Bank on August 6, 2006 [7]. Yesh Din does not name settlers suspected of committing these assaults. This attack is consistent with the description of "Jewish terror cells" in a 2003 Foreign Broadcast Information Service report [8], part of the unclassified administrative record submitted by the US Department of State as a basis of its classification of Kach, Kahane Chai and their aliases as foreign terrorist organizations:

It is thought that there are at least three Jewish terror cells currently active. Their operations are divided into two main areas: the first is the most lethal and involves shooting attacks. Eight Palestinians have been killed and many others injured in such attacks. The second front, the “less successful,” has tried over the last two years to put together explosive devices and set them off in the heart of the Palestinian populace.

In 2002, a Kahanist group known as "Revenge of the Toddlers" claimed responsibility for a bombing attack at Tzur Baher, an East Jerusalem secondary school for Arab boys, that wounded seven. The group also claimed credit for the 2003 bombing of a Palestinian school in Jaba that injured 20 and was thought to be linked to the 2002 Zil Elementary school bombing.[15] [16]

Eden Natan-Zada

On August 4, 2005, Eden Natan-Zada, an AWOL Israel Defense Forces soldier, killed four Israeli Arab citizens and wounded several others when he opened fire on a bus in the northern Israeli town of Shfaram. Natan-Zada had recently moved to the settlement of Tapuach, site of a Kahanist yeshiva.[9] Zada was handcuffed by the Israeli police who arrived to the scene but then lynched by the mob.

Israel today

Baruch Marzel, former Kach leader in Hebron is the head of the Chayil Party.

Former Kahane Chai leaders in Kfar Tapuach are today split between the factions of Mike Guzovsky and David HaIvri.


Kahanist groups and organizations in the United States are largely inactive, with the bulk of their supporters immigrating to Israel over the years. Kahane Net, the Jewish Defense League and B'nai Elim (formed by former JDL activists) are occasionally associated with Kahanism. Kahane Net was formed out of the remnants of "The Kahane Movement" of Mike Guzofsky, chiefly for legal defense fundraising purposes. The latter was formed by former Kahane Chai leadership after its disbanding.[citation needed] Mike Guzofsky, former administrator of Kahane.org, was listed as "Director of Israeli Affairs" by B'nai Elim.[17]

Less than a month after the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the redesignation of Kach and Kahane Chai as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Kahane Net sent out a fundraising appeal, crossing out with a black marker the URL www.kahane.org printed on the envelope. The web site at this URL, subsequently shut down, was the first to be listed as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" by the US Department of State and the US Treasury Department. The appeal cited the Kahane Chai Legal Defense Fund, a special fund licensed by the Treasury Department specifically for their legal appeal, and administered by Kach and Kahane Chai counsel Kenneth Klein, in a call for donations for "other legal battles." The letter emphasizes that

"All money collected for this purpose will be forwarded to the appropriate parties with no expenses deducted," and instructs donors to "simply include a separate piece of paper indicating the purpose of your donation so that it will be designated appropriately."

Christian Kahanism

Some Christian Zionists, including James David Manning, have also endorsed aspects of Kahane's ideology. [18]

See also


  1. ^ God's Law: an Interview with Rabbi Meir Kahane: "Any non-Jew, including the Arabs, can have the status of a foreign resident in Israel if he accepts the law of the Halacha. I don’t differentiate between Arabs and non-Arabs. The only difference I make is between Jews and non-Jews. If a non-Jew wants to live here, he must agree to be a foreign resident, be he Arab or not. He does not have and cannot have national rights in Israel. He can have civil rights, social rights, but he cannot be a citizen; he won’t have the right to vote. Again, whether he’s Arab or not."
  2. ^ God's Law: an Interview with Rabbi Meir Kahane: "The southern boundary goes up to El Arish, which takes in all of northern Sinai, including Yamit. To the east, the frontier runs along the western part of the East Bank of the Jordan river, hence part of what is now Jordan. Eretz Yisrael also includes part of Lebanon, and certain parts of Syria, and part of Iraq, all the way to the Tigris river."
  3. ^ [1] : "I am committed to Judaism and real Jewish values, and every word in this book – disagreeable as it may be to most – is Judaism."
  4. ^ Special: Meir Kahane's widow regrets Rabin murder (Heb: מיוחד: אלמנתו של מאיר כהנא מסתייגת מרצח רבין), Channel 10 (Israel), November 20, 2010
  5. ^ Terror Label No Hindrance To Anti-Arab Jewish Group New York Times, 19 December 2000
  6. ^ UN report on the use of the Internet for incitement to racial hatred
  7. ^ Extremism in the Name of Religion Anti-Defamation League 1995
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 0520240111. 
  9. ^ Arych Kizel in Yediot Aharonot, 1 March 1994.
  10. ^ The ethics of war in Asian civilizations: a comparative perspective By Torkel Brekke, Routledge, 2006, p.44
  11. ^ 1 Wilson, Rodney. 2007. Review Article: Islam and Terrorism. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 34(2):203-213. [2]. (accessed 29 August 2010).
  12. ^ West Bank Massacre: The Overview; Rabin Urges the Palestinians To Put Aside Anger and Talk. Haberman, Clyde. The New York Times. March 1, 1994.
  13. ^ Alan Cowell (March 2, 1994). "WEST BANK MASSACRE; In 'Tragic Error,' Soldiers Kill a Settler". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E03EFD8153AF931A35750C0A962958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. 
  14. ^ Youssef M. Ibrahim (March 6, 1994). "The World; Palestinians See a People's Hatred in a Killer's Deed". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800EEDF1E3AF935A35750C0A962958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. 
  15. ^ The Israeli-Palestinian war: escalating to nowhere By Anthony H. Cordesman, Jennifer Moravitz 2005 pg. 159
  16. ^ Israelis Kill Five Palestinians in Gaza Strip New York Times April 10, 2003
  17. ^ JTF Forum
  18. ^ Yonah, Tamar (December 21, 2009). "Audio: Reverend Manning Talks About American Black-Jewish Relations". Arutz Sheva. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/News.aspx/1727. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 

External links

Kahanist and Kahane related websites

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