Meir Kahane. My recollections of his murder in New York are a little vague. It was the first week of November in 1990 and I was in Jerusalem visiting my then girlfriend who was a medic in the IDF. With Saddam Hussein threatening to use chemical weapons to attack Israel, the army had set up locations throughout the country to distribute gas masks. She had been assigned to a distribution center in the orthodox neighborhood of Shmuel Hanavi, where Rabbi Kahane had established a yeshiva. It's quite possible that I was there not on the day he was killed but when his body was brought back to Jerusalem for burial a few days later. What I remember is a call from my friend Ayelet who asked me what it was like being in Shmuel Hanavi at the time. So looking back over twenty years it seems that there must have been some demonstrations by his followers in the streets when I was there, but if there were I didn't see them. I really haven't spent much time thinking about the man since.
Short and to the point: Kahane was a racist and he wanted to expel Arabs from Israel. His political party, Kach, was outlawed because of its virulent racism. After his death, his followers established a new party, Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives). In 1994, one of his adherents, Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Arabs worshiping at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Kahane's murder was just that, a murder and a crime that cannot be justified by his loathsome views. Conversely, his murder does not wash away what he stood for. His followers understand that and so should we.
Last week when I saw the video of a Jewish mob chanting, "Death to Arabs," I posted it here under the title "Their Jerusalem is Not My Jerusalem," and wrote a few words. In my first entry on this blog I included an open letter I had written in which I described how on the shores of the Kinneret over twenty years ago I heard the same chant and dismissed it as an aberration. In the years since I became well aware that it was no aberration. But when I posted last week's video, I addressed the matter more as an aberration than with the gravity it deserved.
I was reminded of that fact when I saw a new version of the video (watch it below). The video shows throngs of young Jews marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City continuing their repugnant chants into the early hours of the morning. Would it be an exaggeration to say that had there been glass windows on the Arab shops, the glass would have been broken that night?
We cannot dismiss this as an aberration. We must confront it. We must condemn it. Because right now, Kahane lives.