Three memorial events for the racist, far-right ultra-nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane are to be held throughout New York City this Sunday in ceremonies marking twenty years since the killing of Kahane.
The events are to be held at the Ocean Avenue Jewish Center in Brooklyn, at the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan and at the West Side Institutional Synagogue, which describes itself as a “warm and vibrant modern orthodox synagogue located in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.”
The Kahane memorial at Ground Zero is taking aim at “political Islam” and at the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero. A blog post promoting the event on the Jewish Defense League’s “Canada blog” states, “It has been 20 years since *Rabbi Meir Kahane* (HY”D) was murdered. He was the first Al Quida [sic] terror victim. And his vision is more important today than ever. The forces of Political Islam built a Mosque on the holiest site of the Jewish People-The Temple Mount. And today, the forces of Political Islam are determined to build a Mosque at Ground Zero.”
At the Upper West Side event, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn of the West Side synangogue will be speaking–despite telling someone organizing a protest against the event that the Kahane memorial is “not a west side institutional event” and that “somebody is renting our ballroom.” Also speaking will be Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel, a right-wing group that supports “Israel’s right…to the territories won in the 1967 war”; the talk-show host Barry Farber; and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a right-wing Orthodox Jewish follower of Kahane who has advocated for the racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims in New York City. Hikind is an advocate for illegal Jewish settlement in occupied Palestine, and his wife runs “Ateret Cohanim, one of the chief Jewish groups forcibly Judaizing East Jerusalem,” as blogger Richard Silverstein put it.
The honoring of Meir Kahane has sparked controversy among the Jewish community in New York City, and there are plans, led by Yeshiva students in the city, to protest the memorial events.
“We were pretty outraged to see that a synagogue in the Upper West Side–from what I understand, a relatively mainstream, Orthodox Upper West Side synagogue–would be holding a memorial to Meir Kahane, who is one of the most extreme, radical, right-wing Israeli leaders in the last few decades,” said Itamar Landau, a full-time fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, in an interview. Landau is a key organizer behind the planned protests this Sunday. “That’s not the Jewish community that I believe in, and that’s not the Jewish community I think we have.”
Kahane is a notorious figure. He founded the Jewish Defense League, a U.S. organization designated a “terrorist” group by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department and U.S. courts. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Jewish Defense League “has a long history of bombing, assaulting and threatening its perceived enemies. Its targets have included the Soviet Union, neo-Nazi activists, Palestinian leaders, prominent black Americans, and even Jewish moderates.”
Perhaps the most infamous act of violence by a follower of Kahane was the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli-settler born in Brooklyn, murdered 29 Muslims praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The Israeli government outlawed the Kach political party, which was founded by Kahane, and an offshoot party, in the 1990’s.
Kahane advocated for the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, an idea that still retains currency among Israeli political parties, as Avigdor Lieberman’s recent speech at the United Nations showed.
(Thanks to Jesse Bacon of Jewish Voice for Peace for tipping me off to this).