Kach and Kahane Chai

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Kach and Kahane Chai
Kach and Kahane Chai.png
Fullname: Kach and Kahane Chai
Alias: The League List
Origin: Israel
Foundation: September 1971
Headquarters: Jerusalem, Israel
Commanders: Meir Kahane (1971 - 1990)
Goals: Gain a foothold in the Knesset (briefly successful, later failed)
Spread their views (partially successful)
Take total control of Israel (failed)

Kach (Hebrew: כ״ך) was a radical Orthodox Jewish, ultranationalist political party in Israel, existing from 1971 to 1994. Founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1971, based on his Militant Jewish-Orthodox-nationalist ideology (subsequently dubbed Kahanism), the party earned a single seat in the Knesset in the 1984 election, after several electoral failures. However, it was barred from participating in the next election in 1988 under the revised Knesset Elections Law banning parties that incited racism. After Kahane's assassination in 1990, the party split, with Kahane Chai (כהנא חי, "Kahane Lives") breaking away from the main Kach faction. The party was also barred from standing in the 1992 election, and both organisations were banned outright in 1994.

Today, both groups are considered terrorist organisations by Israel, Canada, the European Union, Japan, and the United States. The groups are believed to have an overlapping core membership of fewer than 100 people.

Baruch Goldstein, a longtime friend of founder Kahane, was heavily involved in Kach and is noted for perpetrating the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre during a Purim service in Hebron on February 25, 1994, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers and wounding another 125.

The movement is admired by several far-right Israeli political parties today, including the Jewish National Front, Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, and Otzma Yehudit. It also had connections to the Jewish Defense League (Kahane's first group) as several Kahanists were also members of JDL and vice versa.


Meir Kahane immigrated to Israel from the United States in September 1971, at first declaring that he would only involve himself in Jewish education. However, he soon became involved in controversy, initiating protests advocating the expulsion of most Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian territories. In 1972, Jewish Defense League leaflets were distributed around Hebron, calling for the mayor to stand trial for the 1929 Hebron Massacre.

In 1971, Kahane founded a new party, which ran in the 1973 elections under the name "The League List". The party won 12,811 votes (0.82%), just 2,857 (0.18%) short of the electoral threshold at the time (1%) for winning a seat. Following the elections, the party's name was changed to Kach, taken from the Irgun motto "Rak Kach" ("Only thus"). The party was less successful in the 1977 elections, in which it won 4,396 votes (0.25%), and in 1980 Kahane was sentenced to six months in prison for his involvement in a plan to commit an "act of provocation" on the Temple Mount. The 1981 elections were another failure, with Kach receiving only 5,128 votes (0.27%).

Events in the next couple of years increased the party's profile. In 1982, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, as part of the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty which involved evacuating Israeli settlers living in the peninsula. There was fierce resistance, particularly in Yamit, the largest settlement, where several extremists had barricaded themselves inside a synagogue and were threatening to commit suicide. Menachem Begin's government asked Kahane to act as an intermediary and convince them to give in.

Prior to the 1984 legislative elections, the party was barred by the Central Elections Committee for racism. It successfully appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the CEC's decision, ruling that the Knesset Elections Law (one of the Basic Laws of Israel) did not allow a party to be barred on the grounds of racism, but did suggest that the law be amended. In the elections, the party won 25,907 votes (1.2%), passing the electoral threshold for the first time, and winning one seat, which was duly taken by Kahane.

Kahane's legislative proposals focused on revoking the Israeli citizenship for non-Jews and banning Jewish-Gentile marriages and sexual relations, based on the Code of Jewish Law compiled by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah.

As his political career progressed, Kahane became increasingly isolated in the Knesset. His speeches, boycotted by Knesset members, were made to an empty parliament, except for the duty chairman and the transcriptionist. Kahane's legislative proposals and motions of no-confidence against the government were ignored or rejected by fellow Knesset members. Kahane often pejoratively called other Knesset members "Hellenists" in Hebrew (a reference from Jewish religious texts describing ancient Jews who assimilated into Greek culture after Judea's occupation by Alexander the Great). In 1987, Rabbi Kahane opened a yeshiva (HaRaayon HaYehudi) with funding from U.S. supporters, for the teaching of "the Authentic Jewish Idea".

Despite the boycott, polls showed that Kahane's Kach would have likely received three to four seats in the coming November 1988 elections, with some earlier polls forecasting as many as twelve seats, possibly making Kach the third largest party.

Kach was disqualified from running in the 1988 elections by the Central Elections Committee. The party once again appealed against the decision, with Kahane claiming that security needs were justification for discrimination against Arabs. This time the appeal was unsuccessful, with the court stating that the aims and action of Kach were "manifestly racist".

To protest their electoral ban, a group of Kach activists founded the Sicarii terrorist group in 1989. Their protests took the form of arson and graffiti attacks against Jewish left-wing political figures.

On 5 November 1990, Kahane was assassinated after making a speech in New York City. The prime suspect, El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian-born American citizen, was subsequently acquitted of murder, but convicted on gun possession charges. The party subsequently split in two due to disputes over tactics and personal conflicts within the party, with Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane (Kahane's son) leading a breakaway faction, Kahane Chai, based in Kfar Tapuach (an Israeli settlement in the West Bank), and Kach initially under the leadership of Rabbi Avraham Toledano (later replaced by Baruch Marzel) in Kiryat Arba. Both parties were banned from participating in the 1992 elections on the basis that they were followers of the original Kach.

Following both parties noting their support of a 1992 grenade attack on the butchers' market of Jerusalem's Old City, government minister Amnon Rubinstein asked the Attorney General to launch criminal proceedings against both Kahane and Marzel on the charges of incitement to terrorism.

In 1994, both groups were banned outright by the Israeli cabinet under 1948 anti-terrorism laws, following statements in support of Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs (Goldstein himself was a Kach supporter). Many of their leaders spent time in Israeli jail under administrative detention, particularly Noam Federman, who spent more than 6 months in lockup without being indicted. Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 who was in contact with "EYAL" (the Jewish Fighting Organization), a group established and headed by Avishai Raviv (a paid government informant) and portrayed as linked to Kach and Kahane Chai.

After being convicted for sedition for distributing pamphlets advocating violence against Arabs, Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane and his wife were both killed in a Palestinian ambush in December 2000.

Following the banning of Kach and Kahane Chai, the movements officially disbanded. The leadership of the former Kahane Chai formed an advocacy group known as The Kahane Movement. The group's activities consist mainly of maintaining the Kahane website, kahane.org. However, the Kahane Movement is listed on the United States' list of terrorist organizations as an alias for "Kach", though the group denies this.