Twenty-five years have passed since Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al Khalil/Hebron. While Goldstein was viewed as an extremist at the fringe of Zionism, the very ideology he followed, Kahanism, is alive and well in Israel. Indeed, in the lead up to the upcoming Israeli elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced an alliance with the extremist Otzma LeYisrael – a successor of the banned Kach party. The controversies around Netanyahu’s move, however, should not distract from the fact that Zionism, itself, is extremist.
Kahanism goes back to Brooklyn-born rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the “Jewish Defense League” (JDL) in New York in 1968. Along with other JDL members, Kahane was convicted of domestic terrorism in the United States in the 1970s. Both Israel and the United States classified the JDL as a terrorist organization. In 1971, Kahane moved to Palestine, where he established the racist Kach party which openly rejected democracy and advocated for the expulsion of Palestinians. He was arrested over sixty times by Israeli authorities and charged with planning terrorist attacks against Palestinians. In 1984, Kahane was elected to the Knesset.
Brooklyn-born Goldstein, a friend and follower of Kahane and member of the JDL, emigrated to an illegal settlement in Palestine in 1983 and served in the IDF. On the morning of February 25, 1994, during Ramadan, Goldstein threw a grenade and opened fire on approximately 800 praying Palestinians in the Ibrahimi Mosque, killing 29 and wounding 125.
While the Kach party has been officially banned in Israel, its ideologies intersect with mainstream Israeli politics.
Since the 1994 massacre, the situation for Palestinians has worsened dramatically. The reality in Palestine/Israel is that of absolute Israeli control, with separate, but unequal segregation. Ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and creeping annexation are exercised by Israel, with international support, and in line with the Kahanist vision. Settler violence, as supported by both Kahane and the Israel government, continues to affect Palestinians in Hebron and beyond.
As the Netanyahu regime continues to move to the extreme right of the Zionist spectrum, aligning itself with fascists and anti-Semites internationally, it is unsurprising the Israeli prime minister has chosen to openly collaborate with Kahanists. Zionist voices, including AIPAC and the ADL, have condemned Netanyahu’s move. ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted: “There should be no room for racism & no accommodation for intolerance in Israel or any democracy[.]” However, none of them has a problem with Netanyahu, Shaked, Bennet, or other Israeli officials whose ideologies intersect very well with the Kahanists.
Racism and intolerance are the very structures on which the Israeli government is thriving. As Israeli writer Yoav Litvin has summarized, all versions of Zionism lead to genocide.