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Kahanists: A Danger to Israelis and Israeli Democracy

The Jewish Labor Committee joins a range of Jewish communal organizations in condemning the unprincipled opportunism of Israel's Prime Minister in working to secure the participation of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party as part of the maneuverings leading up to the upcoming Israeli elections. Otzma Yehudit adheres to the racist policies of the late Meir Kahane. We specifically support the statement issued last week by eight kindred organizations -- Partners for Progressive Israel, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women, the New Israel Fund, Reconstructing Judaism, and T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights -- and we join in their call on the American Jewish community to affirm that "Kahanists Have No Place In The Knesset."

Encouraged by additional statements from a range of groups within the United States as well as in Israel, we invite our members and friends to join us in this, and join with tens of thousands of Israelis who are working to keep Kahanists out of public life - by signing the online petition here: https://secure.nif.org/onlineactions/L2Bxc4DgMEGB0FwO7wLKDg2?ms=via_JLC

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February 22, 2019

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, keen to shore up his electoral position, orchestrated the unification of the extreme right-wing party Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) with the National Union so that it could enter the Knesset in a consolidated right-wing bloc. This is dangerous and deeply concerning. Otzma Yehudit is the latest iteration of a political party based on teachings of racist demagogue Meir Kahane.

For decades, the consensus in Israel was that these racist extremist organizations should have no place in the Knesset. We are outraged that right-wing political parties and their leadership have reversed course and opened the door for Kahanists to enter into the Israeli political mainstream.

Our organizations do not advocate for or against any candidate or party in any election. We stand together for the principles enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Kahanism, empowered in government, represents a clear and present danger to those values.

Kahane’s party, Kach, was banned from the Knesset in 1988, was outlawed as a terrorist organization in Israel in 1994, and still appears on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Modern day Kahanists are working to divide Israeli society by stoking racial fears. They seek to strip all non-Jewish Israelis of basic rights; many encourage violence toward Arabs and LGBTQ Israelis. These Jewish supremacist organizations often use incitement to violence to promote their racist agenda. That’s why the US State Department, the EU and the Canadian government all list Kahanist organizations as terrorist groups.

Today's Kahanists have been convicted numerous times for support for terror organizations and incitement to racism. Michael Ben-Ari, a leader of Otzma Yehudit and candidate for Knesset, was denied a visa to enter the US due to the State Department's "prerogative to ban terrorists from entering the country."

As Americans, we have seen the devastating effects of elected officials embracing white nationalist groups. In America, deadly right-wing extremism poses a clear and present danger to our democratic society. In Israel, it is Kahanists -- and the political mainstream that embraces them -- that pose the most direct threat to Israel’s democratic fiber.

We call on our colleagues in the American Jewish community and Jewish organizations to stand for democracy and equality and join us in affirming that Kahanists have no place in the Knesset.