Ben-Gvir booed after saying he doesn't want to deport all Arabs at Kahane memorial

The Otzma Yehudit leader shared a post praising the Jewish extremist and convicted terrorist who was assassinated 32 years ago today.

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir prior to his entry into politics can be seen speaking Israeli attorney Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a ceremony marking the 27th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Meir Kahane, November 7, 2017 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir prior to his entry into politics can be seen speaking Israeli attorney Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a ceremony marking the 27th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Meir Kahane, November 7, 2017
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Otzma Yehudit chairman and Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir was booed after he said that he does not want to deport all Arabs from Israel and disagrees with some of the actions and statements of Jewish extremist and convicted terrorist Rabbi Meir Kahane, during a ceremony commemorating 32 years since Kahane's death on Thursday.

"Like most of us, rabbi Kahane went through a lot. There were years in his history and various actions and things that today I less agree with them," said Ben-Gvir, sparking boos from the crowd. "There were periods when he wanted to enter politics, and periods when he was less [interested]. There were periods when he spoke about most of the Arabs, and there were periods when he spoke about just some of them. There was Rabbi Kahane in yeshiva, in classes and in study and there was the rabbi Kahane in public, in speeches and in the squares."

"It's not a secret that today I am not rabbi Kahane and I do not support the deportation of all the Arabs," added Ben-Gvir, sparking more booing from the crowd. "But I will of course work for the deportation of terrorists from Israel, for the Jewish character of the state, for the settlements and the Jewish identity."

"From the age of 16 I have attended the memorial to honor and recognize those who were murdered for sanctifying God," wrote Ben-Gvir in a now-deleted post earlier in the day. "Those who worked for the Jews of the Soviet Union and saw to the opening of the Iron Curtain, those who fought antisemitism against Jews in the United States and worked to enact a death penalty law for terrorists."

Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the ''Kach'' movement, speaking against terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, May 8, 1984 (credit: NATI HARNIK/GPO)Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the ''Kach'' movement, speaking against terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, May 8, 1984 (credit: NATI HARNIK/GPO)

The Otzma Yehudit leader stated that he owes much to rabbi Kahane, "that [Ben-Gvir] repented and started studying in the yeshiva he founded." Ben-Gvir lamented, however, that he "unfortunately didn't get to know [Kahane]" as he only started studying there after Kahane's death. 

He concluded by expressing his appreciation for Kahane's lessons and writings, which include the book They Must Go which he wrote while serving a six-month prison sentence.

Who was rabbi Meir Kahane?

American-born rabbi Kahane started down the path of extremism in 1968 when he founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a far-right religious-political organization that has been classified by the FBI as a domestic terrorism group since 2001.

Then, in 1971, the same year as he was convicted in New York for conspiracy to manufacture explosives, Kahane founded his new Israeli political party, Kach. All the while, he was initiating protests and rallies advocating for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel, and from Israeli-controlled territory in the West Bank.

Kahane's Kach party first stood in the 1973 Knesset elections, winning 12,811 votes, just 2,857 votes short of 1% threshold that existed at the time. In 1977, he tried again, but the party garnered even less support than it had the first time.

By 1980, Kahane had been arrested no less than 62 times and had been sentenced to six months in prison after a detention order that was based on allegations of him planning armed attacks against Palestinians in response to the killings of Jewish settlers. 

However, support for the Jewish extremist continued to grow on the fringes of Israeli society, and by the 1984 elections, Kach received enough votes to win one seat in Knesset, which was taken by Kahane himself. During his time in Knesset, Kahane was boycotted by the majority of Israel's government, with MKs walking out whenever he spoke, leaving him to address an empty room.

His legislative proposals mostly focused on Jewish education, an open economy, transferring the Arab population out of the Land of Israel, revoking Israeli citizenship from non-Jews, and banning Jewish-Gentile marriages and sexual relations.

By 1988, however, Israel's Supreme Court disqualified Kahane from running for Knesset, making him the first person in the country's history to be barred from Knesset for racism.

Kahane was assassinated by El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian-born US citizen. in November 1990 while giving a speech in Brooklyn, New York.