Ben-Ari, Marzel, Ben-Gvir, Gopshtain (Image credit: N. Sher)
As occurs every year, the memorials of two assassinated leaders of Israel fell just within days of each other this week. Two very disparate visions of the future of the Jewish state were embodied by the events, and indeed, by the two men for which they were held.
On Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, the memorial was held of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The vision on display there was that of the Oslo Accords for “peace” – a “peace” that removed the terror status of the PLO, gave it weapons and a government called the Palestinian Authority, and directly paved the way for the “Oslo War” or Second Intifada, in which over 1,000 Jews were slaughtered.
A very different leader was commemorated on Tuesday night. Former MK Rabbi Meir Kahane bitterly fought concessions to the enemies of the Jewish state and called for them to be transferred out, before being assassinated by an Arab terrorist in 1990. His spirit was alive and well in the packed hall in Jerusalem this week, and his call to recognize Israel’s reality and unflinchingly take action without reservations of “political correctness” was as apt as it was in his time.
It also was the target of those stifling free speech, just as it was in his time.
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the leaders of the Otzma Yehudit party that follows Rabbi Kahane’s vision, began the memorial by noting that in the lead-up to it, the self-professed “liberal” Israeli left used pressure and threats to have a large banner advertising the event pulled, in breach of contract.
Freedom of Speech – But Not For All
The banners were placed in prime locations on hotels at the entrance to the capital on October 30. Ben-Gvir revealed that the banners had been reviewed by the legal advisers of the ad company, who passed them on to the legal advisers of the hotel, and on to the legal advisers of the municipality. But despite their heightened efforts to screen the ads they could not block them, because they were completely legal.
Two days later – following an intense campaign by MKs Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Issawi Frej (Meretz), together with the radical New Israel Fund (NIF) which invests “millions to mislead” the public opinion in Ben-Gvir’s words – the banners were removed.
Rabbi Kahane memorial banner (Image credit: Otzma Yehudit)
Speaking at the memorial, Otzma Yehudit chairman and former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari discussed why the ads for an event in memory of Rabbi Kahane elicited such a backlash. According to him, the banners “drove those who deny reality crazy,” because they live in a “virtual reality of coexistence.”
That imagined coexistence is why the terror attack in Har Adar several weeks ago caught them by surprise, he said. In the attack, an Arab worker with an entry permit murdered three Israelis in a town just northwest of Jerusalem. Ben-Ari said the terrorist’s local Jewish employers never imagined their “friend” could turn out to be a terrorist – because such suspicions, and a policy of monitoring Arab workers as potential threats, would be an admission that Rabbi Kahane was right when he said “there is no coexistence with them.” Instead, the rabbi’s message is suppressed.
In light of the banners being removed, Ben-Gvir is leading a lawsuit against the ad company for breach of contract to the tune of half a million shekels. He previously said of the incident: “This is the end of freedom of speech in Israel.”
The Hypocrisy of the Left
During his speech at the rally, Bentzi Gopshtain, himself an Otzma Yehudit leader and founder of the Lehava anti-assimilation organization, spoke about how he was suddenly arrested just two weeks before the memorial. In an exclusive article in The Jerusalem Herald, Gopshtain detailed the ordeal, which he argues was a trumped up arrest for media points, as all he was “charged” with was telling a young Jewish woman that it was “not good for her to go out with an Arab.”
Bentzi Gopshtain (Image credit: N. Sher)
At the rally, Gopshtain spoke about how the judges gave the police a free hand to crack down on him merely for his positions, and let them search all of the computers in his home and office on suspicions they admitted were very weak at best. This is because the legal system is submitting to the pressures of the Reform Jewish movement, the radical leftist Haaretz newspaper, NIF, and leftist politicians according to Gopshtain.
He then gave an example to illustrate just how hypocritical the stance on free speech has become in Israel.
In late 2015, Haaretz ran an article by writer Nissan Shor in which he talked of his dreams of forming an Ashkenazi militia and assaulting Bentzi Gopshtain with baseball bats, while generally glorifying leftist violence against those with right-wing views.
Joking that if he said the same thing reversed he would immediately be arrested, Gopshtain noted that he submitted a complaint to the police following the article.
The response he received was telling – the deputy state attorney told him that nothing could be done because what was described in the article was just a “dream.” Noting the double standard on leftist incitement, Gopshtain vowed not to buckle to the pressure, emphasizing, “We will continue to dream of a Jewish state.”
Why the Crackdown?
Regarding the lawsuit over the banner, Ben-Gvir asserted confidently that the ad company “will pay, but the main question is what do they want?”
Answering his own question about the motive for the attempt to silence Rabbi Kahane’s memorial, he said those who cracked down on the event are afraid because they know “they can’t buy us.” Contrasting Otzma Yehudit to Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, who said 99% of Israel’s Arab citizens are “loyal” to the Jewish state, and Jewish Home Minister Uri Ariel, who attended Rabin’s memorial this year, Ben-Gvir said Rabbi Kahane’s followers won’t compromise because “we speak the truth.”
This fear of Rabbi Kahane’s heritage of not selling out was also emphasized by Meir Ettinger, a grandson of the rabbi and a regular columnist at the Hebrew-language news site Hakol Hayehudi.
Meir Ettinger (Image credit: N. Sher)
Ettinger revealed that during his arrest by the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) in 2015-2016, when he was held for almost a year without trial under administrative detention, he had a revelation about the nature of the firm crackdown against those following Rabbi Kahane’s path. Every time the Shin Bet interrogators mentioned Rabbi Kahane’s name they began shouting, Ettinger said. He said that from this he realized they were angry because despite all of the establishment’s efforts to erase the rabbi and all he stood for, they are unsuccessful and his ideology lives on.
He added that this ideology is based on following the path of the Torah, and only by doing so is success possible. Ettinger concluded by saying his grandfather believed the people of Israel deserve a lot more, and believed the truth will be victorious.
The Plan for Victory
The memorial also included a call for action, which was briefly spelled out by Ben-Ari. He emphasized that Otzma Yehudit calls on Israel to wield an iron fist to deter potential terrorists so they dare not attack – for if they did, the neighborhood or town they came from would be turned into “a parking lot.”
Michael Ben-Ari (Image credit: N. Sher)
He briefly outlined the party’s three-point plan, which focuses on Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel), construction, and migration out of Israel for enemies of the state.
In terms of Aliyah, he stated the party has a plan to reach a goal of at least half a million new Jewish immigrants in five years through various benefits and opportunities. As for construction, he called for a five-year focus of building permits in Judea and Samaria to turn the Biblical heartland of the Jewish state into a real estate paradise. Finally, he outlined a plan to encourage enemies of the state to leave through monetary incentives and strict enforcement of the law.
Ben-Ari noted the party plans to launch a campaign to spread awareness of the plan.
The call to action was continued by Baruch Marzel, a leader of Otzma Yehudit and activist from Hevron. He said followers of Rabbi Kahane’s vision need to mobilize like soldiers in order to spread the idea and not let the establishment silence them. To that end, he stressed the importance of social media and making efforts to spread the word, saying, “our sacrifice gives us more power than all of the money of the left that wants to harm Israel.”
Marzel added that Otzma Yehudit will run in the next elections, not because they want to be in the Knesset but because the truth must be heard and no party is representing that truth. He said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is dividing Jerusalem and releasing terrorists more than anyone has before.
If right-wing support is divided and the left takes power, he said that at least everyone knows that those in power are the left, and in opposition Likud can return to being a right-wing party. But while in power, Likud has brought only destruction according to Marzel, and only they can truly harm the country. This is why Otzma Yehudit needs to be on the political field, he said.
Marzel also spoke on Saturday night at an English-language memorial event at Yeshivat Haraayon Hayehudi, the yeshiva that Rabbi Kahane founded three years before his murder. His speech can be seen below.
At that same event Rebbetzin Libby Kahane, the rabbi’s widow, also spoke and gave highlights from the second volume of the biography about her husband that she just recently completed writing.
Never Rule Out the Minority
At the memorial on Tuesday, former Hebron and Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior stated that Rabbi Kahane’s message was unique in that he called for the Jewish people to stand up for itself and restore its national pride.
After a long exile the Jews have had their capabilities as a nation with an independent state returned to it, he said, but they do not know how to realize the needs of the people of Israel. That is precisely what Rabbi Kahane sought to change with his call to action.
Rabbi Dov Lior (Image credit: N. Sher)
Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer, dean of Yeshivat Haraayon Hayehudi and chief rabbi of Mitzpe Yericho, spoke about the struggle being fought by Rabbi Kahane’s followers in the context of Jewish history.
He noted that every time there was a need for progress in the process of redemption, the majority of the Jewish people opposed it. Rabbi Kroizer cited the midrash that four fifths of the Jews opposed leaving Egypt during the Exodus saying the desert was dangerous, and they died during the plague of darkness. Likewise, 10 of the 12 spies opposed going into Israel saying it was dangerous, and they died in the desert while the two who were in favor entered. Similarly, only a handful returned to Israel after the 70 years of the Babylonian exile had ended.
Now again the majority of the Jews are not acting due to fear, said the rabbi. But he emphasized that the minority is always victorious in fulfilling the divine plan, while the majority do not merit being part of its fulfillment.
While being an often maligned minority is no easy task, those present at the memorial were visibly full of vigor to continue spreading the message and moving the process forward.
Rabbi Meir Kahane's 27th memorial (Image credit: N. Sher)