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Kahanism is a term used in Israeli political parlance to refer, specifically, to the ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and, more generally, to other right-wing Religious Zionist movements or groups that share a belief in the fundamental tenets of that ideology, chief among them being the idea that the State of Israel should be governed theocratically, should accord full citizenship exclusively to Jews, and that all gentiles should be either deported or allowed to remain as resident aliens with social and economic rights, but no right to vote, provided they accept Jewish religious law.[1]



The central claim of Kahanism is that all Arabs are, and will continue to be, enemies of Jews, 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] Kahanism is also associated with support for violence against Jewish opponents and against the Arab population generally.


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[3] were proclaimed illegal terrorist organizations in 1994 and the groups subsequently officially disbanded. Activities by followers with militant Kahanist beliefs continue to the present day, however, as seen below. The official Kahanist website ( has been designated as a hate site espousing racist views in which 'Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular are vilified.'[4]

Religious justification for violence and holy war

Kahane's followers state that Jewish law allows for two kinds of just war: obligatory (self defense) and permissible (when it seems prudent to do so).[5]:56 Mark Juergensmeyer writes:[5]:56

“ It is true that Judaism, like most religious traditions, justifies violence to some extent, at least in the cases of righteous warfare. In fact, some of the earliest images of the tradition are the most violent. "The Lord is a warrior," proclaims Exodus 15:3, and the first books of the Hebrew Bibleinclude scenes of utter desolation caused by divine intervention.

In later years Judaism was largely nonviolent, despite militant clashes with hellenized Syreans in the Maccabean Revolt (166-164 B.C.E) and with Romans in the revolt at Masada (73 C.E.). But at the level of statecraft, the rabbis did sanction warfare. They distinguished between "religious" war and "optional" war. The former they required as a moral or spiritual obligation: to protect the faith or defeat enemies of the Lord. They contrasted these battles with wars waged primarily for reasons of political expediency. Thus Kahane's reasoning, like that of Yigal Amir following the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, had some ties to traditional thinking.

Kahanist terrorist groups

  • Jewish Defense League: A "violent extremist Jewish organization" according to the FBI.[6] Although several members have been charged or convicted with offenses related to the handling of explosives, the group is not thought to have any current connection to terrorism.[7]
  • Gush Emunim Underground: (1979-1984) Sometimes called the (Jewish Terror Organization) [1]. Formed by prominent members of Gush Emunim. Planned to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The plan was aborted following the group's failure to gain explicit approval from leading Gush rabbis. On April 27, 1984, twenty-five Gush activists, mostly West Bank settlers, who were charged in connection with the placement of bombs under five Arab buses—a plan thwarted by Israeli police.[8]

Kahanist terrorism in Israel and the West Bank

Juergensmeyer 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."[5]:45 .

Baruch Goldstein

Main article: Cave of the Patriarchs massacre

The deadliest attack was when Dr. Baruch Goldstein, affiliated with Kach through the JDL, shot and killed 29 Muslims, 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.[5]: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 Israel, and was politically active for years - he saw Rabbi Meir Kahane as a hero,[5]:53 and had been Kahane's campaign manager when he ran for the Israeli parliament.[5]: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's slaughter of Muslims was praised by the leaders of religious 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."[5]:52 He and his fellow 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.[5]:51-52

After this attack, members of Kach 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 Kach, attempted to blow up the Dome of the Rock in order to rebuild the Temple Mount site.[5]:45 He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Mark Juergensmeyer identified him as a Jewish religious terrorist, writing that he "yeared 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."[5]: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.

Assassination of Primer Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Yigal Amir carried out the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin on November 4th, 1995, and was quoted as saying he had "no regrets" and had "acted alone and on orders from God."[5]:45 Juergensmeyer identified this as religious terrorism.[5]:45 Amir was associated with the radical Eyal movement, which had been greatly influenced by Kahanism.[5]:53 A former combat soldier who had studied Jewish law, Amir stated that his decision to kill the prime minister was influnced by the opinions of militant rabbis that such an assassination would be justified by the "pursuer's decree" of Jewish legal precedence.[5]:48 The principle morally obligates a Jew to halt someone who presents "a mortal danger" to Jews.[5]:48 According to Amir, allowing the Palestinian Authority to expand on the West Bank represented such a danger.[5]:48

Yoel Lerner and his colleagues had discussed a religiously justified assassination of Rabin months prior to the event, and felt that such an action was "morally justified".[5]:47 They believe in a form of "Messianic Zionism" - that the prophesised Messiah will come to earth only after the Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt and made ready for him. Jewish control over the sacred city is seen as essential to making this happen, and hence believers bitterly opposed the Oslo Peace Accord between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Lerner felt that an assassination might not have been justified under the "pursuer's decree", as it couldn't be shown that Rabin intended to kill Jews, but had concluded that an execution was justified on other grounds - the illegitimacy of a Jewish and Arab coalition government, the "anti-Jewishness" of Rabin's policies, and his "treason" in giving away state land - a crime that in wartime is punishable by death.[5]:47 Lerner and his colleagues believed that they were already at war, and therefore a death sentence was appropriate.

Amir is today considered a martyr figure and national patriot by other religious militants, as "the man who stopped the train and delivered the nation of evils".[5]:48

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" [2], "The Sword of David" and "The Repression of Traitors" have been used. The US government claims that these are all aliases of "Kach", [3].

The Israeli group Yesh Din, founded in 2005[4], has published a report documenting extensive settler violence against Palestinians [5]. Their website includes testimony of a deadly drive-by shooting of a Palestinian factory owner in the West Bank on August 6, 2006 [6]. 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 [7], 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.

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.[8]

Asher Weissgan

On August 17, 2005, Asher Weissgan, 38, a settler who drove Palestinian workers for a living, stole a soldier's gun and shot to death four Palestinian workers near the settlement of Shiloh in the West Bank. An analysis in Ha'aretz, a major daily newspaper, concludes that "The new murderer is another of the wild grapes produced by Israel's extreme right. Under the circumstances, it is almost impossible not to generalize. It cannot be forgotten that the murderer of a prime minister also came from those extremist circles. From there sprang the AWOL soldier, Eden Natan Zada, who murdered four people he encountered on a bus in Shfaram... Baruch Goldstein, who killed dozens of worshipers in a mosque in Hevron, also came from these groups." [9] Weissgan committed suicide in Ayalon Prison on December 22, 2006.[10]

Israel today

Former Kach leaders in Hebron today run the Hilltop Youth, particularly Noam Federman and Itamar Ben-Gvir. Noam Federman and his Hilltop Youth are affiliated with a group called "HaYamin HaAmiti", Hebrew for "the real Right Wing". "HaYamin HaAmiti" is the Israeli branch of the Jewish Task Force[citation needed]. Baruch Marzel, another 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 Guzofsky and David HaIvri. Guzofsky runs the Jewish Legion, the Voice of Judea media, and Referendums For Israel. HaIvri runs Revava and an online bookstore called HaMeir - A Light Unto The Nations.


This article needs additional citationsfor verification.
Please help improve this articleby adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challengedand removed. (March 2007)

Kahanist groups in the United States include Kahane Net which runs the Website, the Jewish Defense League, B'nai Elim, and the Jewish Task Force. Kahane Net was formed out of the remnants of "the Kahane Movement" of Mike Guzofsky. The latter was formed by former Kahane Chai leadership after its disbanding.[citation needed]

Bnai Elim, the Jewish Task Force, the Jewish Defense League and the website claim to be separate organizations, though Michael (Yekutiel) Guzofsky, administrator of, is listed as "Director of Israeli Affairs" by B'nai Elim[11].

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 magic marker the name "," which was and is still listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State and the Treasury Department. [12][13]

The appeal[14] 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.".


In the early 1970s, Bob Dylan was "accused of being a supporter" of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League.[10] In a Time Magazine interview, Dylan said about Kahane, "He's a really sincere guy. He's really put it all together."[11]

According to Rabbi Meir Kahane, Bob Dylan did attend several meetings of the Jewish Defense League in order to find out "what we're all about,"[12] and started to have talks with the rabbi.[13]

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 the Lebanon and certain parts of Syria, and part of Iraq, all the way to the Tigris river."
  3. ^ Terror Label No Hindrance To Anti-Arab Jewish Group New York Times, 19 December 2000
  4. ^ UN report on the use of the Internet for incitement to racial hatred
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 0520240111
  6. ^ TERRORISM 2000/2001. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2004). Retrieved on 2008-03-14. “Rubin and Krugel were active members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a violent extremist Jewish organization. Statements by Rubin and Krugel indicated that they had planned the attack against the mosque to demonstrate the militancy of the JDL.”
  7. ^ Jewish Defense League (JDL). Group profile. MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base (2008). Retrieved on 2008-03-14. “Today, JDL is not actively engaged in terrorist actions.”
  8. ^ Lustick, Ian S. (1988). The Evolution of Gush Emunim. For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved on 2008-03-14.
  9. ^ Arych Kizel in Yediot Aharonot, 1 March 1994.
  10. ^ Talkin' Hava Nagilah Blues by Seth Rogovoy
  11. ^ Bob Dylan interview
  12. ^ The Wandering Kind by Douglas Wolk
  13. ^ Heylin, Clinton (2001). Bob Dylan Behind the Shades. The Biography-Take Two. London: Penguin Books, 328. ISBN 0-1402-8146-0

Kahanist and Kahane related websites

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