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Are voters about to send Kahanists back to the Knesset?

If the polls are accurate, more than 140,000 voters will vote the Kahanists back into the Knesset in next week’s election. Yet the desire for a pure Jewish state long ago moved from the margins of Israeli society to the mainstream.

By Ron Cahlili

Rabbi Meir Kahane. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Rabbi Meir Kahane. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

One week before Israel’s national election, nearly every major poll shows the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) winning enough votes to cross the threshold. Until recently, the party was widely considered the rotten apples of the Israeli political barrel — a fringe party that represented a tiny subculture. Now it looks likely to take four seats in the Knesset. To put the matter into perspective, the once-dominant Labor — Ben Gurion and Golda Meir’s party — is barely holding on.

The ideology of Otzma Yehudit is hatred of Arabs. Some, by the way, might remember that Netanyahu backed the Kahanist party in the last election. So now hatred of Arabs as a political ideology is part of the mainstream political discourse. More than 140,000 Israeli citizens will likely cast their votes against what is left of a sane and peace-seeking Israel.

More than 140,000 people will declare that they want a pure Jewish state, Arab-rein forever. They don’t actually mind a few Arabs here and there, as long as the latter know their place in the racial hierarchy. The Jewish Israeli is on top, and the Arab joins the leftists and the other foreigners at the bottom rung. No kuffiyeh or hijab. No mosque or muezzin. Only minimal presence, like a passing shadow.

If this does indeed come to fruition (and even if the Kahanists only receive 100,000 votes), the mechanisms of anti-Arab hatred that have been part of the State of Israel since its establishment will have reaped what it sowed.

This includes an education system that does not teach anything about Arab culture or history; an army that turned Arabs into targets that need to be “neutralized”; a mainstream media that presents Arabs as either terrorists or ignorant peasants; social media outlets in which hate speech against Arabs is posted every 71 seconds; a right-wing government that turned incitement against the Arabs into a legitimate tool of governance; the left-wing alternatives compete with one another over who killed more Arabs. All of these will receive a bonus next week, their work having exceeded expectations.

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Aside from the Joint List, Labor, and the Democratic Union, the other Israeli parties long ago shed the genteel hypocrisy that defined the first days of the post-1948 state. For them, there is no such thing as a “good Arab” or a “bad Arab,” the way David Ben Gurion — and even Yitzhak Rabin during his second premiership — saw it. For these parties, every Arab is an enemy. No nuances. We may still be living in an era of political correctness, but the Israeli right — from the Blue and White party to Otzma Yehudit to the ultra-Orthodox parties —long ago adopted Ehud Barak’s mantra that there is “no partner” for peace. And any way you look at it, the underlying meaning of this viewpoint is akin to saying, “death to Arabs.” Not in the practical sense, though this does happen as well, but in the declarative, ideological, and symbolic sense.

So yes, we are all immersed in hatred of Arabs. It has become the new patriotism, the modern Israeli identity, or at least one of its most significant aspects. This is equally true for long-term residents and new immigrants, in far-flung regions of the country and in Tel Aviv, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, religious and secular. No one can dodge the Zionist hate machine. Obviously this shocking; we are always shocked. But we keep moving forward, following the path toward the next horizon.

Cultural shifts always begin at the margins of society. Those who are defined today as marginal will tomorrow be seen as part of the mainstream. If yesterday the Kahanists were outlawed and boycotted by every media outlet, today they are pulling in Israeli voters.

I hate to admit it, but I prefer Otzma Yehudit speaking their truth to the political correctness of right-wing Israelis. At least we know who we are dealing with. And so do the Arabs.

Ron Cahlili is a filmmaker based in Tel Aviv. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Rivka Koen

      “Political correctness” is an invention of right-wing hysteria, and the facts mentioned in your article, which are also true in Arhav (even to a far greater extent), prove this.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Rivka Koen

      When the choice is between two solidly right-wing candidates (Netanyahu and Gantz), it’s pretty clear that the only thing “politically incorrect” in Israel is being left of Gantz. Even the centrist party (Labor) is “politically incorrect.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. itshak Gordine

      Kahana was against assimilation, which is forbidden in Judaism. He was for an education of young people in Jewish traditions. Let’s not forget that he was murdered by a hateful Arab in the USA.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        As Ron Cahlili says, at least with you we know who we are dealing with.

        Reply to Comment
      • Rivka Koen

        > Let’s not forget that he was murdered by a hateful Arab in the USA.

        Shkoyech, hateful Arab.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Jerry

      I am curious as to why the author has no problem with over 30 Muslim countries whose laws against Jews is even harsher than how he described Kahanists? Israel is part of the Middle East, not the 51st state in the USA. Jews have a very long history of being 2nd class citizens under Muslim rule. The entire purpose of a Jewish state is to make sure it remains Jewish. The only way to guarantee that status is to not allow non-jews voting status in national elections. I can assure you, that tons of Muslims would still prefer such a country over many if not most Muslim countries.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rivka Koen

        The author is Israeli, not a citizen of a Muslim country, and wrote the original article in Hebrew. He’s commenting on his own politics, not the politics of some other country he doesn’t live in.

        As for me? I’ll keep commenting on Israeli politics until Israel stops calling itself a Jewish state. As long as it claims to represent Jews, I’ll be entitled to say whatever I want about it.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          But you are free to say the nonsense you want from abroad. In fact everyone does not care .. It’s here that everything happens and it is the Israelis who decide what is good for them. Do not forget that more than half of the Jews live in Israel. Assimilation makes liberal and conservative Judaism disappear.

          Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            I wish Israel would practice “not caring” more and dissolve AIPAC and other organizations devoted to strictly controlling the range of acceptable discourse in the U.S. and elsewhere. And I expect to see you advocating for this any minute now.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Jerry: 25% of Israeli citizens – repeat, citizens – are not Jewish; roughly 20% of citizens are Palestinian, 5% are neither Palestinian nor Jewish.

        You’re saying they shouldn’t be allowed to vote? Just want some clarification here.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          25% of Israelis are NOT Jewish except…

          5% of these have a Jewish father, grandparent or spouse. So they are NOT orthodox according to strict orthodox law. But they are Jewish in a “practical sense”, in terms of belonging to the greater Jewish population.

          Another 2% are Druze who NOT identify to the ficticious “p” non-people.

          So overall, the Jewish (& Druze) majority is 82% of the Israeli population.

          Reply to Comment
          • Rivka Koen

            Lmao, so they’re Jewish when they’re in Israel but not in the Diaspora? Almost like you manipulate the figures to portray yourself in the best possible light.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Of course Rivka. That is obvious.
            In the diaspora, “partial Jews” generally assimilate into the majority, Non-Jewish population.
            In Israel, the same group of “partial Jews” generally assimilate into the majority Jewish population.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Firentis

      “Those who are defined today as marginal will tomorrow be seen as part of the mainstream.”

      Hasn’t that been the line used to motivate radical leftists in Israel for a while? That they are currently marginal but tomorrow they will be seen as some sort of righteous prophets? How is that working out for you? Part of the mainstream yet?

      “…long ago adopted Ehud Barak’s mantra that there is “no partner” for peace. And any way you look at it, the underlying meaning of this viewpoint is akin to saying, “death to Arabs.” Not in the practical sense, though this does happen as well, but in the declarative, ideological, and symbolic sense.”

      What a turd. Saying that the Palestinians aren’t ready to make the required concessions to make peace with Israel is a statement of fact. Turning this into some sort of statement of genocidal intent is the logic of a lunatic.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “radical leftists”

        The game you’re playing here is obvious and silly.
        The Israelis political landscape of today has three factions: Right, Far Right, and Lunatic Right.
        This article is about all three. And the shedding of genteel hypocrisy in regards to that.
        Now, in this context liberals appear to you to be peggable as “radical leftists.”
        It’s a matter of perspective.

        “How’s that working out for you?”

        Well, the article is about how it is working out quite well for frankly neo-nazi Kahanists in Israel these days. Got a few right here in these comment sections merrily chirping away on this theme. Apparently, that is working out quite well for you. Doesn’t gainsay the point of the article, it only reinforces it.

        “Ehud Barak’s mantra…the required concessions”

        Thanks for stating this succinctly. Because it does fit well. You have a long history in this forum of defining “the required concessions” to be abject surrender on the part of the Palestinians. And expressing with a sneer your disbelief that they can’t agree. Ehud Barak’s cynical election ploy (he lost anyway), in which he used Camp David to make a non-offer and yell “no partner!” so as to position himself against Sharon, has been reviewed many times here. Even his own political aides regretted Barak’s cynical maneuver which they later admitted was an egregious lie.

        When will the Israelis ever stop pulling tricks? Why can’t they ever be honest with themselves and others? What’s up with that? Refusing to look at hard truths is a radical form of avoidance that has never worked out well for anyone anywhere in the long run.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          The point is that the argument that the margins become the mainstream is as stupid here as it was when used by leftists crowing about their inevitable victory.

          As for the rest, yeah, the Palestinians aren’t willing to make the required concessions. You can define that as surrender if that makes you feel more righteous in defending their refusal to accept peace, but it is what it is, a refusal to make peace and to accept the concessions required to do so.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “accept peace”

            Thanks for the choice Orwellianism.

            “if that makes you feel more righteous in defending their refusal to accept peace”

            I’m just describing reality to you. It’s not about my feelings. Or yours.

            “it is what it is”

            Brünnhilde has not yet sung. The Götterdämmerung finale of the Israeli Lunatic Right Ring Cycle opera is in full sway and the fat lady is going to sing for a long tragic time.

            Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        I’m not done with this Barak at Camp David “no partner for peace” thing and “they’re plotting to destroy Israel” thing because it is such a central lie in the Israeli right wing lexicon and such a central lie in the right wing American Jewish diaspora lexicon. And you, Firentis, purvey it unrelentingly.

        Abe Silverstein lays this all out clearly.

        Are the Palestinians Really Still ‘Plotting to Destroy Israel’?
        Will Ehud Barak, a founder of Israel’s ‘pro-peace’ party, renounce his infamous ‘no [Palestinian] partner’ remarks, a myth that’s now doctrine for the Israeli right, U.S. Jewish groups – and the Trump administration?
        Abe Silberstein

        Reply to Comment