Death of an Extremist

November 07, 1990

If Meir Kahane's death is avenged in blood as some of his followers have exhorted, the victory will be his assassin's.

This troublesome rabbi operated on the fringes of Israeli public life as he had on the fringes of American life. He never spoke for Israel. Indeed, a law banning the racism on which he campaigned succeeded in its express purpose of driving his splinter party from the Knesset.

And in this country, he never spoke for Judaism. No onappointed him to do so. Whoever was offended by what he said and the postures taken by his organization would have been wrong to attribute those views and postures to anyone else.

Meir Kahane's education was forged on the tough streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., and teachings of the revisionist Zionist, Vladimir "Zeev" Jabotinsky. The result surfaced in the mid-1960s when he organized community patrols in a crime-plagued section of Brooklyn where Jews and blacks lived near each other.

Then he founded the Jewish Defense League to retaliate against violent anti-Semitism in kind. And soon he was in Israel as an immigrant, founding Kach, more militant than anything pre-existing. He managed to get elected to the Knesset in 1984, serving four years, campaigning for expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the West Bank. While PLO propagandists misrepresented Meir Kahane's view as Israel's, the great body of Israeli politics repudiated that view.

There was always a clear and terrifying logic to Meir Kahane. It derived from the simple proposition that Jews, so often victimized through the ages, should fight back. This was his answer to the street-corner thug, to the Holocaust and to Israel's problems with neighbors and minorities. He was personification of a Palestinian terrorist's racist stereotype of Israelis, as the terrorist is of his stereotype of Arabs.

Meir Kahane was never a terrorist on the level of those who kidnap and torture and hijack and bomb, but he talked an extreme, violent game and inflamed followers and had blood on his head. He was shot at a Manhattan hotel while speaking to a small group of admirers. The assassin, evidently a Palestinian acting alone, is captured and will face the justice of the State of New York. Reprisals against anyone who did not do it only extend the terrorism. Enough is enough.

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