Acts of Vengeance
Surveilance of right-wing
radicals and security increased following Jerusalem riot
By Eric Silver, Jewish
Binyamin Kahane, 34, son of the
late Israeli extremist Meir Kahane and leader of the movement carrying on his fathers
ideology on Nov. 16, 2000. Kahane and his wife were gunned down last weekend near the West
Bank settlement of Ofra. A group called the Intifada Martyrs took credit for the attack,
in which five of Kahanes children were injured. Photo by Gali Tibbon for AFP
|Twenty thousand mourners,
seething with anger, followed the bodies of Binyamin and Talia Kahane through downtown
Jerusalem to the Givat Shaul cemetery last Sunday night. Most of them were Orthodox
yeshiva students, admirers of Meir Kahane, the assassinated founder of the Jewish Defense
League and of the outlawed Kach party. The rabbis son and daughter-in-law, aged 34
and 31 respectively, had been shot by Palestinian gunmen as they drove home from a
Jerusalem Shabbat to the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuach. Five of their six children
The funeral procession rapidly degenerated into a riot. In King George
Street, young men burst into a kebab bar and chased terrified Arab workers up to the
second story, while the crowd outside chanted: Lynch! Lynch! In the Rehavia
suburb, the march paused outside Prime Minister Ehud Baraks heavily guarded official
residence. Kill the traitor! they yelled. Death to traitors! Hang him!
Ehud the murderer! Ten policemen were injured in the confrontations.
Baruch Kahane, the murdered mans brother, told the mourners: There is no
exemption from Gods obligation to take revenge. Noam Federman, a leading Kach
activist in Hebron, exhorted them: Wake up, Jews. Take your fate into your own
No one this week is dismissing their words as windy rhetoric. The Kach fanatics,
reduced to a bunch of spray-painting sloganeers since an Egyptian shot Meir Kahane in New
York 10 years ago, no longer feel isolated. The daily armed attacks on Israeli soldiers
and civilians are dragging the mainstream closer to the fringe. Settler rabbis, subdued
since one of their disciples, Yigal Amir, assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, are preaching
against the treason of ceding the Temple Mount to Palestinian rule. Opposition
politicians, reluctant to call Israels most-decorated war hero a traitor, say Barak
has merely gone insane.
The morning after Binyamin Kahanes funeral, political commentator Hemi Shalev
wrote in Maariv: The entire region is sitting on a powder keg, the Temple
Mount is the primed fuse, and all that is missing is a match... A divided people is united
in a rare consensus of despair at the present situation, and fear of what is to come.
The Shin Bet, Israels FBI, is stepping up surveillance of the radical right and
reinforcing the guard on sensitive sites like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Tomb
of the Patriarchs in Hebron. All scenarios are possible, said a senior
Three doomsday scenarios are being taken seriously. All three have been tried,
successfully or otherwise, over the past 20 years. They are:
An attack on a Muslim shrine, like Al Aqsa mosque, which the Jewish underground
once plotted to blow up so that the Jewish Temple could be rebuilt.
|A massacre of Palestinians, along the lines of the slaughter of 29 Muslims at prayer by
Baruch Goldstein, an American-born settler physician, in Hebron. |
|The assassination of Barak or other ministers identified with the peace process. |
Ehud Sprinzak, an expert on Israels radical right, said this week: The
motivation of the Kahane people to strike is very powerful. They may not do it today or
tomorrow, but I think theyre cooking something. They probably also feel they have a
public behind them, a lot of sympathy and support.
Sprinzak, dean of the Lauder School of Government at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary
Center, Israels first private university, argued that Kach had cultivated an
ideology of Jewish revenge even before the murder of Binyamin and Talia Kahane. For
them he said, its not a necessary evil, not a matter of self-defense; its
a virtue. They believe that striking a gentile constitutes a holy act.
At the same time, he went on, Kach had suffered a sense of guilt for failing to avenge
the blood of its charismatic rabbi. This would only intensify with the death of his son
and ideological heir. They did not live up to Kahanes legacy, Sprinzak
said. This is another powerful drive to take revenge now.
The professor was less sure about the broader settler right, who have surprised many
observers by their relative restraint during the three-month Intifada. They were, he
explained, very pleased that their job was being done for them by the army and felt they
were part of a consensus.
Now, all would hinge on whether there was a last-minute deal between Barak and Arafat.
If there is, theyll go bananas. If not, theyll sit back and say, We
told you so. You cant trust Arafat. Unless, that is, Palestinian
terrorism pushes their patience to the breaking point.