In Response to Jerusalem Anti-Arab Violence, Rabbis Cite Connection to Recent Far-Right Electoral Successes

RELEASE DATE: April 23, 2021

NEW YORK — In response to anti-Arab violence in Jerusalem, a rabbinic human rights group cited the connection between the violence and the ascension of far-right and Kahanist parties in the recent Israeli election. A statement condemning the violence was released by T’ruah, representing over 2,000 rabbis and cantors and their communities in North America. 

Several Israeli political parties, including Otzmah Yehudit and Noam, are considered the reincarnation of Kach, the party formed in the 1970s by terrorist Meir Kahane, which was later outlawed in Israel and deemed a terrorist group by the United States government. These parties and their leadership are deeply tied to Lehava, a group that engages in violence against Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, released the following statement: 

“We are disgusted and horrified by the ugly right-wing violence led by the terrorist group Lehava that injured more than 100 Palestinians in Jerusalem last night, including 22 who were hospitalized as a result. These deliberate, planned attacks resulted from years of hateful rhetoric, as well as the more recent entrance of Kahanists to Knesset. Itamar Ben-Gvir, newly elected to Knesset as a leader of Otzmah Yehudit, administers several of the WhatsApp groups on which the calls for violence went out, and has defended last night’s violence

“Last night’s violence was ostensibly a response to a series of attacks by Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem on Jews in Jerusalem and Jaffa over the last few weeks, some likely spurred by TikTok videos celebrating such violence. No political aims or personal vendettas justify such attacks. Nor is there any justification for counter-protesters last night beating a Jewish driver and setting his car on fire. 

“There is no question, though, that Lehava and their enablers in Knesset bear responsibility for last night’s violence, which included mobs marching through the street chanting ‘death to Arabs,’ terrorizing Palestinian families in their homes, and assaulting both Palestinians and Israeli progressive activists. 

“T’ruah has long warned that the inclusion of Kahanist parties in Knesset would lead to increased violence. Ben-Gvir himself has been indicted multiple times for support of terror and has been known to display in his living room a portrait of Baruch Goldstein, who carried out a massacre of Palestinian worshipers in Hebron in 1994. In the 1980s, Israel banned Meir Kahane’s Kach party from Knesset, based on their incitement and virulent racism. This precedent should have blocked the parties Otzmah Yehudit and Noam from the most recent elections.

“T’ruah has a long history of working to stop U.S. funding of Kahanist organizations, including by initiating a series of IRS complaints to stop U.S. money from flowing through foundations such as Central Fund of Israel, American Friends of Yeshivat Haraayon HaYehudi, Jewish Heritage Movement, and Charity of Light to Lehava and other groups that promulgate the genocidal teachings of Meir Kahane and actively engage in violence. The State Department lists Kach and Kahane Chai, the organizations created by him and in his memory, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Lehava is simply the same organization with the same ideology, some of the same leadership, and a different name. Last night’s violence only reaffirms our commitment to ensure that U.S. taxpayer money does not go toward violent extremism.

“T’ruah rabbis and cantors will continue to be moral voices committed to standing up for human rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. We continue to stand with our Israeli partners, including human rights and civil society organizations, in fighting for human rights for all people in the region.” 

 

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.