THE KACH MOVEMENT – BACKGROUND
In 1968, Rabbi Meir Kahane established the Jewish Defense League, the forerunner of the Kach movement. The declared goal of the movement at the time was to combat black antisemitism.
In September 1969, Kahane immigrated to Israel. Though he had declared that once in Israel he would not engage in politics, he spoke out against the black Jews in Dimona, and later openly advocated the expulsion of Arabs from Israel. One of his first campaigns against Arabs was in 1972, when he distributed pamphlets in Hebron calling upon the mayor to stand trial for his part in the massacre of the Jews in Hebron in 1929.
The Kach movement first sought election to the Knesset in 1973, but received only about 13,000 votes, which were not enough to win a seat. Two years later Kahane returned to his activities in Hebron, this time calling for the expulsion of the Arabs from the city.
In the 1977 Knesset elections, Kach received less than 4,500 votes. In 1980, Kahane was sentenced to six months in prison for plotting with others to commit a grave act of provocation on the Temple Mount. In 1981, Kach once again failed to introduce any of its members into the Knesset.
During the evacuation of the Israeli settlers from Yamit in 1982, Kahane gained popularity. At the government’s request, he helped convince some extremists in Yamit who had barricaded themselves in the synagogue and threatened to commit suicide to withdraw their ultimatum.
When the Kach movement submitted its list for the 1984 Knesset elections, the Central Elections Committee ruled that could not participate in the elections. Kach appealed to the High Court of Justice, and its appeal was upheld. The court ruled that the existing electoral law did not allow for the debarring of a party on the grounds of racism. The Court further suggested that the law be amended.
The Kach movement thus ran for election in 1984, winning 26,000 votes, and Kahane became a member of Knesset. He announced that Kach would not support any government that did not advocate the expulsion of the Arabs from Israel.
In August 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset, in accordance with the High Court’s comment in the Kach case. The amendment added incitemnet to racism as grounds for barring a party from participating in elections. The law now states as follows:
‘A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:
1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people; 2) negation of the democratic character of the State; 3) incitement to racism.’
Accordingly, in 1988, prior to the elections to the 12th Knesset, the Central Elections Committee disqualified the Kach list, basing its decision on the above amendment. In his appeal to the High Court of Justice, Kahane claimed that security needs justify severe measures of discrimination against Arabs. The Court rejected the claim and the appeal, stating that the aims and actions of Kach are manifestly racist.
On November 5, 1991, Meir Kahane was murdered in New York. There are two movements which follow in his footsteps: ‘Kahane Lives’, led by his son Benjamin Kahane, based in the settlement Tapuah; and ‘Kach’ led by Baruch Marzel, based in Kiryat Arba.
Both movements were disqualified by the Central Elections Committee in the 1992 elections. Both appealed to the High Court of Justice, which rejected their appeals, ruling that they are followers of the original Kach movement.
In November 1992, following the movements’ support of the grenade attack in the butchers’ market in the Old City of Jerusalem, Minister Amnon Rubinstein asked the Attorney-General to initiate a criminal proceedings against the leaders of the two movements, on the charge of incitement to terrorism.