Elchanan Poupko

Meir Kahane’s deadly bankruptcy 

A scene on Israel's satirical "Eretz Nehederet" TV show featuring an impersonation of Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, aired on Channel 12, September 21, 2022. (screenshot)

If there’s anything the events of the past few months teach us, it is that the greatest threat to Israel’s survival is not Palestinian nationalism or Israel’s Jewish majority being challenged; the most existential challenge Israel faces, one which might bring about its ultimate destruction are the followers of Meir Kahane and their self-destructive ideology. The carnage that this Kahane-inspired government has brought on Israelis domestically, economically, and internationally is one that will not be forgotten soon.

Even as Itamar Ben Gvir is serving as a “minister of national security,” Israel’s national security has plunged to tragic lows Israel has not seen since the early 2000s. Millions of Israelis have taken to the streets in the past few months because they rightfully detected Kahanist totalitarianism on the cusp of overwhelming Israel’s democracy, and they will not stand for that kind of destruction.

Meir Kahane famously said: “Western democracy has to be ruled out. For me, that’s cut and dried: There’s no question of setting up democracy in Israel because democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins.” Kahanism being so closely tied with the totalitarianism and oppression of their fellow Jews, echoed ominously as Itamar Ben Gvir’s advisor Yishei Fleisher boasted about the desire to establish a “Davidic Monarchy” in Israel. What the Kahanists do not tell you about their “monarchy” or abolishing democracy, is that it includes a plan to enslave their fellow Jews. No, not like Pharaoh, having the rest of us slaving in the fields, just having them control Israel, run the show, and its residents not having much of a say on what is going on there.

Kahanism and its various current manifestations are the greatest existential threat Israel faces, and while they will not say it, it is also one of the most anti-Zionist ideas our people have seen. The moment Kahano-fascists are allowed to take over Israel, a large portion of Israel will no longer be able to make its own decisions. For the first time in 75 years, Israel will cease being a Western ally, Israel’s military edge will quickly disappear, Israel’s most talented will leave, and Jews will no longer view the state of Israel as our collective and shared homeland.

Just like their very own hero, Kahanists are great at taking credit for the work others do, excel in backseat driving and Monday morning quarterbacking, and, most importantly, are a huge headache to the people actually doing the job of defending Israel.

Of course, Meir Kahane couldn’t leave the job the Mossad did with professionalism that was second to none for Israel’s finest, most dedicated, and least bombastic to do; he had to stumble like a drunk from one police department to the other with childish and hardly even amateur plans to bomb embassies and ambassadors, plans which to everyone’s luck usually landed him in prison before he was actually able to do something.

Mr. Ben Gvir does not follow far behind. He fans the flames of tension on Temple Mount and East Jerusalem, leaving the cleanup to Israeli police, and yells about the need for a death penalty for terrorists even as terrorism flourishes under his guard. Time after time, there are news reports about security experts and Netanyahu himself, having to brief Ben Gvir on his actions imperiling Israel’s security, leaving one to wonder how it is that the Kahanist ideology, which claims to care so much for the safety of the Jewish people, keeps being itself a threat to the security of the Jewish people.

Headlines from Afghanistan recently reported “Taliban Bureaucrats Hate Working Online All Day, ‘Miss the Days of Jihad,'” a headline which very must reflect the reality of Kahanism. They love the rallies, the protests, and grandstanding. The Taliban are great at blaming America for the ills of Afghanistan, but once America leaves and the mosques keep blowing up while the country keeps running out of bread, they seem to have less of a philosophy to share.

Kahanism, like ISIS in Netflix’s Caliphate series on Europeans who travel to Syria to join ISIS, sounds great to some in theory until they see the hellscape it produces in real life. The horror we have been watching unfold in Israel over the past few months is what happens when people realize what that ideology looks like in real life. Kahanism in real life is a betrayal of Zionism and an anathema to Judaism. Kahanism means robbing the Jewish people of our shared homeland, enslaving our fellow Jews to a capricious, poverty-inducing violent ideology, and the destruction of what has been the project of the Jewish people for more than one hundred and twenty years.

While attempting to celebrate the holiday of Passover, someone approached me and said: “Rabbi, a war has broken out between Israel and Lebanon. Hezbollah has been firing rockets at Israel”. A day later, still on Passover, someone came to me and whispered: “Rabbi, we must say a special prayer; two sisters were murdered in Israel.” The past few weeks have been a roller coaster of bad news from Israel. Lives lost, economic losses, diplomatic chaos, and unprecedented internal division have been a sneak peek at what a Meir Kahane-inspired government looks like.

After its first one hundred days, this government has seen eighteen innocent people murdered by Palestinian terrorism as it failed to fulfill a government’s most basic obligation–protecting its own civilians. Iran has come uninterrupted to its goal of nuclear ambitions, Syria is back in the Arab League, Saudi Arabia has reconciled its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah is firing rockets into Israel’s north, Hamas is firing rockets into Israel’s South, and every day has reports of new terrorist attacks. Israel’s minister of economics, Smotrich, is a persona non-grata in any part of the world that I can name, something that is certainly having a negative impact on Israel’s economy, and Netanyahu can hardly show his face abroad.

Following news from Israel in the past few weeks has been heartbreaking. Yet we cannot stand helplessly and watch these events unfold and see Israelis living in horror. We must hold Kahanists who are in government accountable for their failures; we must educate the youth, which tends to fall for Kahanism’s cheap ideas, on the dangers of Kahanism; we must stand with Israeli democracy and make sure that Israel always remains the homeland of all Jewish people from all different backgrounds never to be hijacked by those who want to enslave the rest of us to their totalitarian aspirations. Kahanism’s bankruptcy and path of destruction should not be left unnoticed. We must make sure cheap Kahanist ideology is uprooted from our communities and that its path of destruction never repeats itself again. Happy Passover and Chag Cherut Same’ach.

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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