Next Up: They Must Go by R’Meir Kahane

They Must Go by R'Meir KahaneThis summer, I walked into a bookstore in Jerusalem and asked the owner, “Do you carry any books by Meir Kahane?”

The response I got, aside from an awkward look, was something to the extent of, “Of course not. I suppose if we did we would get business, but not the kind of business we want to get.”

In a sense, it seems strange that I should have to justify what books I read. I am an aspiring academic and my research requires that I am familiar with a wide variety of sources. Indeed, no one would bat an eye or drop their jaw if I were to ask if a store carried Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, widely recognized as a key literature of both anti-colonial revolutionaries and post-colonial scholars around the world. Nor would anyone complain if I wanted to read the Communist Manifesto or perhaps even Mein Kampf. In fact, all three are readily available for purchase on Amazon directly from the company.

But when it comes to such polarizing figures as R’Meir Kahane, I find that I must justify myself.

For those unfamiliar with Rabbi Kahane, he founded both the Jewish Defense League in the United States and the Kach Movement in Israel. As a political figure in Israel, he advocated complete Jewish settlement of the West Bank and Gaza as well as the expulsion of all Arab residents of Israel and the territories.

He and his movement were considered so inflammatory some argue that the Israeli passed laws against sedition and incitement to racism to specifically target his political party and thwart his bid to be elected to the Knesset. Others point out that the right wing parties which supported this bid were in fact concerned that support for Kach would harm their electoral bids. Kahane himself was murdered in New York in 1990 by a Palestinian terrorist who was an associate of the Blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman who masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

After the 1994 shooting rampage in the Tomb of the Patriarchs by Kach member Baruch Goldstein in which 29 Palestinians were killed, the organization was declared a terrorist organization within Israel. Since then, the state has kept an active watch on its former members.

While Kach and its successor Kahane Chai are all but defunct organizations, the ideology of Kahane remains an important force among some yishuvniks. As one of my particular interests is parastatal security forces in Yehuda and Shomron/West Bank, encountering this political view is not uncommon. As such, I must read this man’s writings if I am to have any understanding of the ideology.

The book I am about to read, They Must Go, is Kahane’s argument as to why Jews and Arabs cannot coexist within the State of Israel. It was recommended to me by one of my interviewees. To say that one can approach such a book “objectively” is simply intellectually dishonest. Anyone who has heard of R’Meir Kahane will undoubtably come to his work with some form of bias. Yet in deference and respect to those who have assisted me in my own work, I will make the effort to read with an open mind.

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