Meir Kahane

From Academic Kids

Meir David Kahane (Hebrew: מאיר דוד כהנא, Kahane being a variation on Cohen or priest) (August 1, 1932November 5, 1990), Rabbi and member of the Israeli Knesset was famed first and foremost for his strong views and activities. Among those are the establishment of the Kach party in Israel and of the Jewish Defense League in the United States.

 Meir Kahane.
Rabbi Meir Kahane.


His overall views have been called Kahanism. Kahane believed that the Palestinians sought the genocide of the Israeli Jews, and therefore he proposed the population transfer and even forcible deportation of all Arabs from Israel including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In his view this was the only acceptable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kahane also believed that Israel should become a theocracy governed purely by Jewish law known as the Halakha. He hoped that the Israeli government would pass laws, including a ban on marriages between Jews and non-Jews, in accordance with the traditions of Orthodox Judaism. Critics have compared this measure to Nazi Germany's Nuremberg Laws.

Early life

Kahane was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1932. He came from a family that adhered to Orthodox Judaism. Kahane was an ordained rabbi from the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, but he did not enjoy the thought of being a communal or pulpit rabbi. He was fully conversant with the Talmud and Tanakh. He subsequently earned a law degree from New York University.

He became an admirer of Zeev Jabotinsky and Revisionist Zionism as a teenager and joined its youth wing Betar. He personally led protests against Ernest Bevin the British Foreign Secretary who was visiting New York in the 1940s. Kahane organized and launched public demonstrations in the US against the Soviet Union's policy of persecuting Zionist activists and curbing Jewish immigration to Israel. He was a central activist in the "Free Soviet (Russian) Jewry" movement.

During the 1960s, Kahane joined the FBI and worked undercover in COINTELPRO against anti-Vietnam war movements. He presented himself as Michael King, a Presbyterian journalist from South Africa.

Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in 1968 in response to threats of violence against Jews by the Black Panthers and members of the Black Power movement of the 1960s.

Kahane was also in contact with the Joe Colombo, head of the Colombo mafia family and was with him in 1971 when Colombo was shot dead by the Gallo family. Kahane confirmed his connections on an interview he gave to Playboy magazine in 1972.

Kahane was a writer and journalist writing for the largest Anglo-Jewish weekly, Brooklyn's The Jewish Press and for a while one of its editors. He appeared often on American radio and television.


Missing image
Rabbi Meir Kahane speaking

In 1971 he emigrated to Israel. He established the Kach Party. In 1980 Kahane stood unsuccessfully for election to the Knesset, after which he was sentenced to six months in prison for plotting to attack Islamic buildings on the Temple Mount. Upon his release, in 1984 Kahane stood again for election to the Knesset, and was finally successful. The Central Elections Committee banned him from being a candidate on charges of racism, but the Israeli High Court found that the Committee did not have the legal power to do so.

Even in his first Knesset session, Kahane stood out as a provocator: he refused to accept the standard oath of office for the Knesset, insisting on adding Biblical quotations throughout it. In a later session, the Knesset Chairman had to demand, for the first time in history, that a parliament member repeat his oath.

Throughout his term as Knesset member, Kahane and his followers made several public visits to Arab communities, and cities such as Haifa with co-existing Arab and Jewish populations. During his visit to Um-El-Fahm, he intended to publicly invite the Arabs to leave the country; 30,000 Arabs turned up for a counter demonstration, and 1,000 policemen were called to secure the event, which was followed by a violent confrontation with dozens of Arabs injured, and the arrest of Kahane.

Kahane's legislation proposals centered on revoking Israeli citizenship from non-Jews, and banning Jewish-Arab marriages or sexual relations. These proposals were dubbed "Nuremberg Laws" by his opponents.

Kahane became shunned in the Knesset. His speeches were boycotted by Knesset members and were made to an empty parliament, except for the duty chairman. Kahane's legislation proposals (and motions of no-confidence in the Government) were all rejected by vote, until the Knesset modified its charter to outlaw racist legislation proposals, not requiring rejection by vote. Kahane himself called the other Knesset members "Hellenists" (in Hebrew, this is a historical term for Jews who assmilated in Greek culture after the occupation of Palestine by Alexander the Great, 332 BC), and commented "Thy Destroyers Shall Come from Within".

In 1985 the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel's Basic Law: The Knesset banned racist candidates from standing for election. The Committee applied it to Kahane, who appealed against the decision to the Israeli High Court. This time the Court found in favour of the Committee, declaring Kahane to be unsuitable for election.


Kahane was assassinated in 1990 after giving a speech at a New York City hotel, by El Sayyid Nosair from Egypt. Nosair was part of a terrorist cell involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

For a while Kach and Kahanism seemed to have disappeared, but several small fractions reemerged, one under the name of Kach and the other Kahane chai (Hebrew: כהנא חי, literally Kahane lives on). In 1994 following the massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs, Israeli government declared both to be terrorist organizations. Details can be found at [1] ( and [2] (

Kahane's son Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and daughter-in-law were murdered in 2000 when Palestinians opened fire on their car near the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

See also: Jewish Defense League, Kahanism, Jewish Task Force.

External links


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