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In November of this year we will mark the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York. The fact that he is not forgotten and that his life and work still produce strong emotions of admiration in his supporters and hatred in his enemies is a testimony to the power of his personality.
JDL-Canada organized a memorial in his honour on October 26. It began with a prayer for Rabbi Kahane and a reading of quotes from his speeches and writings, which are still relevant. He had a simple message that was rooted in reality, he believed that Israel should remain a Jewish state in order to survive.
In an emotional presentation, Meir Weinstein, the National Director of JDL-Canada, summarized the work of Rabbi Kahane. He created the Jewish Defence League, which with its practical work has contributed to the Jewish cause more than many other personalities and organizations (like the Nazi hunters for example). In the early years of Israel, the young Jews knew what they were fighting for. Later, other people thought that they would have a better chance if they try to achieve Israel’s goals through diplomacy. Because of that, Kahane was ostracized, his road was lonely, but later the reality showed that it was the true road.
On the same day, similar memorial was organized in Israel. It was supposed to accommodate 500 participants, but over 1000 showed up, despite the leftist protests and the bad press. In November, there will be a Kahane memorial in the USA as well, it is also supposed to protest the Ground Zero mosque. The goal of these events is to reach out to non-Jews who understand the problems the Jews are facing, although the Jews must rely first and foremost on themselves to solve their challenges. An important step in continuing the legacy of Rabbi Kahane is the recent oath law in Israel, which is supposed to affirm the Jewish character of the state.
After that Rabbi Schechter from Israel gave a short talk. He knew Rabbi Kahane from the times when he started his political activities. His first experience with him was in the town where he lived at the time, Kahane just arrived unannounced at the central square and started to speak. The message was powerful and captivating and many people listened. He spoke against secularism, which threatened the survival of Israel. He wasn’t violent or anti-Arab, but definitely wanted to affirm Jewishness.
Next, Rabbi Schechter gave a synopsis of the Torah references, on which Meir Kahane based his ideas, especially the parts that deal with the defence of the national borders. In connection with that he read the minutes of the meeting of Golda Meir’s government, which took place only few hours before the start of the 1973 war. They were concerned about what the USA would say if Israel attacks first the Arab armies already at the border. The hesitation that stopped the army from striking first eventually cost many Jewish lives. The lesson is that the Jews must always follow what’s good for them, not for America.
The organizers also presented a video recording of Rabbi Kahane’s C-SPAN interview, which was conducted about a year before his death.
It was interesting to watch him. He creates the impression of a tough and very straightforward person, who is not afraid to confront his opponents. I guess he is not going to make an entertaining speaker at a Rotary Club convention.
He was not Mahatma Gandhi either. Kahane knew that the idea of showing your niceness and vulnerability with the hope that they will transform your opponent, would never work in the Middle East. In Gandhi’s times, the British had at least a basic rule of law in India and were much less likely to stab in the back or blow up their opponents, unlike the Arab neighbours of the Jews.
Rabbi Kahane knew that only strength is valued in the Middle East and gentleness is punished severely.
The Muslim peoples in the area have always fought with each other and against other peoples. There is no reason for Israel to be an exception. Kahane could see that. The liberal delusions can’t work in that environment.
Yet many liberal Jews and non-Jewish leftists from the USA and Europe can’t see the issue, their ideas have been formed in prosperous and quiet countries ruled for centuries by law, where a civilized discussion is sufficient to resolve even the toughest social issues. Then they naively try to transplant those ideas into the resolution of Middle East’s problems and become unpleasantly surprised that their recipes don’t work. Despite that, they insist that Israel must follow them and in this way they are playing a dangerous game with the lives of millions Israelis, because in that part of the world every weakness means death.
It is hard to assume that Meir Kahane was the only one who realized the importance of strength. But he was the only one who had the courage to state it openly.
The area has been volatile and unpredictable for centuries. The Jews there had been persistently persecuted and killed, it is hard to believe that the problem would magically disappear through negotiations.
Despite the warnings of Rabbi Kahane, the pursuit of concessions in exchange for peace continued for years after his death. Every time the socialist miracle makers wanted to believe that this was the last push before final success and every time they failed. The Oslo accords of 1993 were lauded as the greatest peace breakthrough. But all that they did was to legitimize the little bald terrorist Arafat, who not only didn’t stop, but also launched a new wave of terror that lasted for years.
Every single concession, instead of bringing peace, created new problems and brought new dangers and destruction.
In the very end of the memorial somebody from the audience quoted a thought of Rabbi Kahane: “I prefer to be in Israel hated by everybody than in Auschwitz loved by all.”
Maybe that’s his ultimate lesson – you can’t have a meaningful life without strength, self-respect and dignity.