Kahanism Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kahanism

Flag of Kach, used by Kahanists

Kahanism (כהניזם) is an extremist Jewish ideology based on the views of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League and the Kach party in Israel. Kahane maintained the view that the majority of Arabs living in Israel are enemies of Jews and Israel itself, and believed that a Jewish theocratic state, where non-Jews have no voting rights, should be created.[1] The Kach party has been banned by the Israeli government and the U.S. State Department has labeled it a Foreign Terrorist Organization.[2][3]


The Kach party saw electoral success, winning 26,000 votes equivalent to one seat in 1984.[4] Early polls following the election, predicated that the Kach party would have become the third largest party, winning as many 12 seats in the following election.[5] However, In August 1985 the Kach party was barred from participating in elections.[4] Some Kahanist groups, such as the Sicarii decided to manifest their political goals violently as an alternative.[6] On November 5, 1990, Meir Kahane was assassinated by El-Sayyid A. Nosair, who was associated with terror cells that would eventually become al-Qaeda.[7]

The assassination of Meir Kahane led to the splintering of the Kach party. With Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane leading Kahane Chai from Kfar Tapuach, and Kach being led by Baruch Marzel, who eventually would become a member of Otzma Yehudit.[8] both groups would be banned completely from participating in elections in 1992. Eventually, due to the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, committed by Baruch Goldstein they were declared illegal terrorist organizations by the Israeli government in 1994.[9][10][6] Following the ban, leaders of Kahane Chai, created an extraparliamentary advocacy group, called "The Kahane Movement" which, went online, archiving media content from Meir Kahane.[6]

The next election where Kahanists received political representation was in 2009, with Michael Ben-Ari who ran on the National Union ticket. Ben-Ari split from the National Union after the election, forming Otzma Yehudit. Though Otzma Yehudit failed to pass the electoral threshold in the 2013 Israeli election.[11]

Kahanism would not gain any political legitimacy until the April 2019 Israeli election. as a result of the Israeli political crisis, which was ongoing at the time. then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to gain extra seats by appealing to Kahanist voters, by making a deal with the Jewish Home to have them run on a joint list with Otzma Yehudit as the Union of Right Wing Parties.[12][6] Though the party received enough seats for Otzma Yehudit to be represented, Michael Ben Ari, who was supposed to represent the 5th slot on the Union of Right Wing Parties list, was barred from running after the list was submitted, the party was not represented.[13] Otzma Yehudit would eventually see parliamentary representation in 2021, where Itamar Ben-Gvir won a seat as part of a joint list with the Religious Zionist Party.[14]


The term Kahanism has come to denote the controversial positions espoused by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane's positions spanned a broad range of subjects.

  • Aliyah: Kahane believed that every Jew should live in Israel.
  • Anti-Semitism: Kahane believed that anti-Semitism should be fought immediately and by all means necessary.
  • Democracy: Kahane wrote that democracy was the best form of government for those who lacked a divine truth and a standard of good and evil.
  • Hate and Violence: Kahane believed that hate and violence were terrible, but terribly necessary at the right time and place.
  • Holocaust: Kahane felt that the history of the Holocaust should be taught to youth with all of the lessons that it implied, including the need to fight spiritual assimilation, the need to physically defend the Jewish people and the importance of leaving what he termed "the Exile".
  • Israel: Kahane proposed that the State of Israel should enforce Jewish law, as codified by Maimonides,[15] under which non-Jews who wish to dwell in Israel would have three options: remain as "resident strangers" with all rights but national ones,[16] which would require non-Jews to accept resident-stranger status with all rights but political ones. Those who are unwilling to accept such a status will be required to leave the country with full compensation and, those who refuse to do even that, will be forcefully removed.
  • Judaism: Kahane stressed that Jewish is beautiful. He felt that the Reform and Conservative movements have been the leading causes of assimilation due to their discontinuation of the belief in mass Revelation as the cornerstone of Jewish theology.
  • Love of Fellow Jews: Kahane emphasized the importance of loving Jews and the willingness to sacrifice for Jewish brothers.
  • Pride: Kahane felt that Jews should embrace pride in their heritage and tradition.
  • Respect: Kahane stated that there is nothing more important than respect and he added that only one who respects himself can end up respecting others.
  • Torah: Kahane wrote that every Jew should have enough Torah knowledge to be a qualified rabbi.
  • Unity: Kahane felt that Jewish unity was of the utmost importance, and he believed that everything should be done in order to avoid a Jewish civil war.

The central claim of Kahanism is the belief that the vast majority of the Arabs of Israel are now, and they will continue to be, enemies of Jews and Israel itself, and that a Jewish theocratic state, governed by Halakha, absent of a voting non-Jewish population that includes Israel, Palestine, areas of modern-day Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, should be created.[17]

According to Kahane, the term "Kahanism" is primarily used by those who are ignorant of Torah Judaism in order to discredit his ideology,[citation needed] which he asserted is rooted in Halakha[citation needed] and the same as Torah Judaism.[18][verification needed][better source needed] "Meir Kahane did not hate the Arabs – he just loved the Jews", said his widow Libby in her November 20, 2010 TV interview.[19]

Criticism and legal action[edit]

Since 1985, the Israeli government has outlawed political parties espousing Kahane's ideology as being "racist", and it forbids their participation 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 in 1990[20] were proclaimed illegal terrorist organizations in 1994 and the groups were subsequently officially disbanded. Activities by followers with militant Kahanist beliefs continue to the present today, however, as seen below. In 2001, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights described the official Kahanist website, which was kahane.org at the time, as a hate site espousing prejudiced views in which "Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular are vilified."[21]

Kahanist groups[edit]

Name Country Description Status
Kach and Kahane Chai Israel Original political parties Defunct
Jewish Defense League Global Militant activist organization, founded by Kahane Active
Terror Against Terror Israel Militant group Defunct
Sicarii Israel Militant student group founded in 1989 Defunct
Lehava Israel Activist organization Active
Jewish Task Force US US based Kahanist media organization Active
Otzma Yehudit Israel Political party Active
Jewish National Front Israel Political party Defunct
Hatikva Israel Political party Defunct
Jewish Defense Organization US Militant self defense organization Defunct

Notable Kahanist terrorists[edit]

Baruch Goldstein[edit]

The deadliest Jewish terrorist attack occurred when Dr. Baruch Goldstein, supporter of Kach, shot and killed 29 Muslim worshipers, 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.[22]: 10  Goldstein was a medical doctor who grew up in Brooklyn and he was educated at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. He resettled in the Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank, and he was politically active for years – he saw Rabbi Meir Kahane as a hero,[22]: 53  and he was Kahane's campaign manager when he ran for the Israeli parliament through Kahane's Kach party.[22]: 8  When Goldstein was threatened with a 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."[23]

Goldstein was denounced "with shocked horror" by Orthodox Jews,[24] and most Israelis denounced Goldstein as insane.[25] Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin condemned the attack, describing Goldstein as a "degenerate murderer", "a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism".[26][27][28] At the same time, Goldstein's actions were praised by some extremist settlers; Yochay Ron said that he "felt good" when he heard the news, and he also 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."[22]: 52  Goldstein and other 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.[22]: 51–52  After this attack, members of the Kach Party 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[edit]

In October 1982 Yoel Lerner, a member of Meir Kahane's Kach, attempted to blow up the Dome of the Rock in order to rebuild the Temple Mount site.[22]: 45  He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Mark Juergensmeyer identified him as a Jewish religious terrorist, writing that he "yearned 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."[22]: 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.

Eden Natan-Zada[edit]

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.[29] Zada was handcuffed by the Israeli police who arrived to the scene but then lynched by the mob.

Alleged Kahanist violence[edit]

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",[30] "The Sword of David" and "The Repression of Traitors" have been used. The US government claims that these are all aliases of "Kach".[31] In 2002, a Kahanist group known as "Revenge of the Toddlers" claimed responsibility for a bombing attack at Tzur Baher, an East Jerusalem secondary school for Arab boys, that wounded seven. The group also claimed responsibility for the 2003 bombing of a Palestinian school in Jaba that injured 20 and it was also thought to be linked to the 2002 Zil Elementary school bombing.[32][33]

Non-Jewish support[edit]

James David Manning, chief pastor of ATLAH World Missionary Church, has endorsed aspects of Kahane's ideology.[34]


  1. ^ "God's Law: an Interview with Rabbi Meir Kahane". Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link): "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. ^ "U.S. Dept. of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2004. April 2005" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Country Reports on Terrorism 2004" (PDF). State.gov.
  4. ^ a b "Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs". www.mfa.gov.il. Retrieved 2021-12-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "12 Years Since the Assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane". Arutz Sheva.
  6. ^ a b c d "Why Racist Rabbi Meir Kahane Is Roiling Israeli Politics 30 Years After His Death". Haaretz. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  7. ^ "I Grew Up the Son of an Islamic Jihadist". Time. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  8. ^ Auerbach, Jerold S. (2009-07-16). Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7425-6617-0.
  9. ^ "Terrorism - In the Spotlight: Kach and Kahane Chai". 2006-11-22. Archived from the original on 2006-11-22. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  10. ^ "U.S. Treasury - Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI)". 2010-02-03. Archived from the original on 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  11. ^ "Otzma Yehudit". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  12. ^ Gur, Haviv Rettig. "Kahane lives? What does Itamar Ben Gvir, backed by Netanyahu, really stand for?". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  13. ^ staff, T. O. I. "High Court bars far-right party leader Ben Ari from running in elections". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  14. ^ "Itamar Ben Gvir, the ultra-nationalist accused of stirring up violence in Jerusalem". France 24. 2021-05-15. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  15. ^ Maimonides. Mishne Torah, Laws of Kings, Ch. 6.
  16. ^ Meir Kahane. Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews. p. 250. All Arabs who are prepared to accept the State of Israel as the exclusive state of the Jewish people and of no one else, will be allowed to remain in the land with the status of "resident stranger," as per Jewish laws. They will be granted personal rights but no national ones. They will have general economic, social, cultural, and religious freedom but will not be citizens of the Jewish State and will have nothing to say in its future in any way. Accepting this status, they are welcome to remain and are entitled to all the respect and decency that Judaism demands we grant to all humans who are resident strangers in our land and who bow to its laws and concepts.
  17. ^ "God's Law: an Interview with Rabbi Meir Kahane". Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link): "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 Lebanon, and certain parts of Syria, and part of Iraq, all the way to the Tigris river."
  18. ^ [1]: "I am committed to Judaism and real Jewish values, and every word in this book – disagreeable as it may be to most – is Judaism."
  19. ^ Special: Meir Kahane's widow regrets Rabin murder (Heb: מיוחד: אלמנתו של מאיר כהנא מסתייגת מרצח רבין), Channel 10 (Israel), November 20, 2010
  20. ^ Terror Label No Hindrance To Anti-Arab Jewish Group New York Times, 19 December 2000
  21. ^ UN report on the use of the Internet for incitement to racial hatred
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Mark Juergensmeyer (September 2003). Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24011-7.
  23. ^ Arych Kizel in Yediot Aharonot, 1 March 1994.
  24. ^ The ethics of war in Asian civilizations: a comparative perspective By Torkel Brekke, Routledge, 2006, p.44
  25. ^ Wilson, Rodney (2007). "Review Article: Islam and Terrorism". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 34 (2): 203–213. doi:10.1080/13530190701427933. S2CID 144867169.
  26. ^ West Bank Massacre: The Overview; Rabin Urges the Palestinians To Put Aside Anger and Talk. Haberman, Clyde. The New York Times. March 1, 1994.
  27. ^ Alan Cowell (March 2, 1994). "WEST BANK MASSACRE; In 'Tragic Error,' Soldiers Kill a Settler". New York Times.
  28. ^ Youssef M. Ibrahim (March 6, 1994). "The World; Palestinians See a People's Hatred in a Killer's Deed". New York Times.
  29. ^ "Jewish Settler Kills Four Israeli Arabs In Attack on Bus". The Washington Post. 2005-08-05. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  30. ^ "MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base". 2007-08-27. Archived from the original on 2007-08-27. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  31. ^ "Background Information on Foreign Terrorist Organizations". 2011-08-15. Archived from the original on 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  32. ^ The Israeli-Palestinian war: escalating to nowhere By Anthony H. Cordesman, Jennifer Moravitz 2005 pg. 159
  33. ^ Israelis Kill Five Palestinians in Gaza Strip New York Times April 10, 2003
  34. ^ Yonah, Tamar (December 21, 2009). "Audio: Reverend Manning Talks About American Black-Jewish Relations". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved December 13, 2010.

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