Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rabbi Meir Kahane - Was He Right?

Every Jew – a 22. That is one of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s more famous phrases. The idea being that if every Jew in the world was armed there would never again be a Holocaust. I believe he was the head of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) when he coined that phrase. The JDL was founded by him as a response to attacks against elderly and otherwise vulnerable and defenseless Jews by gangs and muggers – kind of a Jewish version of Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels.

As one might guess from all that - Rabbi Kahane was one of the most controversial Jewish figures of our time. His list of accomplishments are as legendary as they are controversial. Before he was assassinated he was in his most controversial period, having been banned from being a member of the Israeli Knesset as a racist – an appellation he and his followers vehemently denied. I have my own views of Rabbi Kahane which I have from time to time expressed here both in comments and in posts. But instead of repeating them again I wonder what the views of people who read my blog are about this man.

Was he an iconic hero to be worshipped as a visionary? … that if only his views and proposals had been implemented - Israel would have been far better off – stronger, safer, and bigger having annexed all of the West Bank and Gaza? …a fully Jewish Israel free of any Arab that did not accept Ger Toshav status which amounts to a sort of second class citizenship without voting rights? …a Jewish State where Halacha rather than a Jeffersonian style democracy reigned supreme?

Or was he a dangerous and misguided man whose views and actions would have led Israel down the path to destruction with Holocaust like consequences …and arguably has been responsible for some tragic consequences in the past – including both he and his son being assassinated?

It seems that now more than ever people – even many who doubted him in the past - have come around to believing that he was indeed a hero to be worshipped. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen signs that say ‘Kahane was right’ – both in Hebrew and English.

I wonder what the consensus of my readership is? Was he an iconic hero, a dangerous fanatic, or somewhere in-between? How do we view him now? How should we view him? How will history judge him? Are his views acceptable Halachic Jewish ones or are they a skewed interpretation of Halacha? What if anything do other religious Jewish leaders think about him… on both the right and left of the religious Jewish spectrum? What is the Orthodox consensus? Conservative? Reform? Secular? Indeed how does even the non Jewish world of the left or right view him?

Are his views more relevant now than ever or should they be once and for all discarded into the ash-bin of history?

This is an informal and unscientific poll but I am nevertheless curious what my readership thinks. If anyone is inclined to share their views about him, you need not identify yourself other than using an alias – although as always - I think one should stand by his views and not hide behind them. I would also ask - if you are so inclined - to tell us a bit about your background so we know where you are coming from.