Extremism on Rise in Israel

Though the situation in Jerusalem has now calmed, Ariel Gold says the floodgates of Jewish extremism have already been flung wide open. 

Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, 2017. (Piotr Rokita, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Ariel Gold
Tikkun Magazine

After neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then President Donald Trump responded by saying there were “good people on both sides,” people who abhor white supremacism stood up, took notice, and condemned the marchers. Anti-racists would be wise to do the same about the far-right march that recently took place in Jerusalem.

The situation in Jerusalem began with clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces over restrictions placed on the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City. Then, in response to TikTok videos showing two Palestinian youths slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, the far-right Jewish group Lahava called for a “demonstration of national dignity.” Leaked WhatsApp messages revealed calls to lynch Palestinians. 

As the Jewish-Israeli extremists marauded through the streets on Thursday, April 22, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian counterprotesters. The remarks of a young orthodox Jewish girl went viral on social media. “I don’t want to burn your villages, I just want you to leave and we’ll take them” she said. On her shirt was a sticker reading “Rabbi Kahane is right.” Kahane’s group was placed on the U.S. terror list in 2004.

“Gas the Arabs! JDL” graffiti in Hebron, 2008. (Magne Hagesæter, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

One hundred and five Palestinians were injured, 22 requiring hospitalization. Twenty Israeli police officers were also injured. The next morning, Israel’s Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana released a statement condemning “attacks by Arabs.” He said nothing of the violence committed by Jews.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price condemned the “rhetoric of extremist protestors.” However, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem’s statement that they were “deeply concerned” declined to weigh in on the issue of Jewish extremism. 

Avi Mayer of the American Jewish Committee tweeted: “The individuals perpetrating it are as foreign to me and my Judaism as are skinheads, white supremacists, and other racists around the world.” But those who chanted “death to Arabs” in Jerusalem are a normalized, accepted part of Israel’s government.

Supremacist Ideology

Members of Lehava, the group that organized the extremist march in Jerusalem, are followers of Kahanism, a Jewish supremacist ideology based on the views of Rabbi Meir Kahane. Inspired by Kahane, in 1994, Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians in the West Bank Ibrahimi mosque. As recently as 2014, three members of Lehava were charged with setting fire to an integrated bilingual Palestinian-Jewish school. 

In 1988, the Kach party was banned from running for the Israeli Knesset. In 2004, the U.S. State Department labeled Kach a terrorist organization. However, the Kahanist movement has recently made its way back into Israel’s government where it is being met with open arms. 

During Israel’s recent election, Benjamin Netanyahu, willing to do anything to hold onto his prime ministership, encouraged voters from his own Likud party to cast their ballots for the anti-Arab Religious Zionism slate, which included the Kahanist-inspired Otzma Yehudit party, so that they could make it over the election threshold. Religious Zionism won six seats, bringing Kahanism back into Israel’s Knesset for the first time since the 1980s. 

As Netanyahu is proving unable to form a coalition, attention is now turning towards Naftali Bennett, the next most likely candidate to become Israel’s prime minister. 

Naftali Bennett in 2013. (The Israel Project, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

In 2016, Bennett called on Israelis to be willing to “give our lives” to annex the West Bank,” evoking the Kahanist view that terrorist acts against Palestinians are a patriotic act of martyrdom. Bennett’s negotiations as he hopes to form a government have included meetings with Religious Zionism.

Such statements as Bennett’s call for violence have surely led to increased levels of unrest in the Holy Land. After last week’s extremist march in Jerusalem, clashes continued between Palestinian protestors and Israeli forces. In addition, rockets were launched from Gaza and the Israeli military responded with bombings, Finally, on Sunday, April 25, in order to deescalate the situation, Israel’s police commissioner ordered the barricades at Damascus Gate be removed. 

Though the situation in Jerusalem has now calmed, the floodgates of Jewish extremism have already been flung wide open. 

The neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville and Trump’s response rightfully alarmed the world. Though Trump has been ousted from office, we all know that the violent racist movement that blossomed during his presidency did not begin with him and is far from gone. We would be wise in the aftermath of last week’s “death to Arabs” march in Jerusalem to also speak out against Kahanism in Israel.

Ariel Gold is the national co-director and senior Middle East policy analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

This article is from Tikkun Magazine.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


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3 comments for “Extremism on Rise in Israel

  1. Em
    May 5, 2021 at 14:53

    With an international civil right to opine on any subject, I offer this personal point of view:

    This, after more than half a century of close first-hand empirical observation of an unremitting and tragic repetition of yet another display of inhumanity’s historical barbarity.

    In scriptural terms Leviticus 19:18, what is being witnessed is those who experienced ‘it’ done to them; blindly doing unto ‘others’ today – innocent Arab Palestinians, attempting with ruthless vengeance to do what was done to them, on an identical geographical pretext, while ‘racially’ scapegoating an entire community in the name of creating a sanitized “lebensraum”.

    Problem is that today, almost a century on, irrational minds – devoid of the faculty of lucid reason can no longer sanely perceive and accurately distinguish the precarious reality of the world, with an understanding of what is at stake for the entire global populace, other than how they misperceive themselves in it.

    Unlike the tepid water that was Zionism, pre-Herzl, the Israeli state today is the boiling water. The frogs are the populace; well beyond extricating themselves. The mad professor, incognito, running the experiment is the lead hegemonist of the oligarchic faculty.
    As humane beings, they died long ago, because of the permanent traumatic scarring aftereffects of the holocaust, passed unconsciously down through the narrative of multiple generations, onto the entire societal body; not unlike what PTSD syndromes affects leave on an individual psyche.

    Apparently, their righteous indignation translates into practicing a “Supremacist Ideology” of the Right – Apartheid. We are justified in our behavior, because of what was inflicted upon ‘us’ even if the atrocity was committed by a third party, who happen NOT to be our immediate neighbors.

    Our relationship with those who actually carried out the attempted genocide has long ago been reestablished and routinized into good business practice.

    Human behavior is all tongue-in-cheek political correctness, after all!?

  2. Anne
    May 4, 2021 at 12:00

    When, Ms Gold, was the position of Zionism anything BUT extremist? Anything BUT into genocidal ethnic cleansing? Anything BUT profoundly Orientalist (a specific form of “racism”)…From BEFORE Herzl – an utter barbarian in sheep’s clothing…

  3. Piotr Berman
    May 3, 2021 at 17:28

    “…the floodgates of Jewish extremism have already been flung wide open. ”

    And when did it happen? Now? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Israel political scene is completely dominated by Likud and numerous offshoots led by people who worked for Netanyahu but got disenchanted on purely personal grounds (or on “principles” that have nothing to do with being more or less accommodating with Palestinians), or yet earlier offshoots of Likud, plus retired generals, plus religious parties that may be divided into ultras, always ready to riot against Arabs, and more close-minded who care only to get a piece of patronage to sustain their poor followers — and nothing about accommodating with Palestinians or not. And there is ca. 5% of Israeli Jews who think differently.

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