The Israeli elections commission on Wednesday barred the Kach party of American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane from competing in the Nov. 1 general election on grounds that Kach, which favors the expulsion of Arabs living under Israeli rule, is racist and anti-democratic.
The decision had been expected. The commission’s members are drawn from parties represented in the Knesset, or Parliament, and most of them oppose Kach. Kahane said he will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Kahane, founder of the militant Jewish Defense League in the United States, said he will defend his party by citing the Bible and Jewish philosophy.
“If I am racist, Judaism is racist, and I want the high court to say so,” he said.
Kach official Rahamim Cohen, outlining his party’s legal argument, said there are “no generally accepted definitions of democracy or racism.” Kach’s attitude toward Arabs is based on security concerns, Cohen said, adding, “Arabs are a hostile population and identify with the enemy.”
If the commission’s decision stands, it will deprive Kach of the gains it expected to make in the Knesset. Kahane is now the party’s lone representative in the Knesset, which has 120 members in all, and many experts had predicted that Kach would win up to four seats.
According to some experts, support for Kach, which means “Thus” in Hebrew, has grown as the Arab uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has fueled ill feeling and frustration in Israel. The party is said to have been attracting many first-time male voters who have served with the army in the occupied territories, trying to put down the revolt.
“The authority to disqualify is the only weapon capable of preventing this muddy wave of racism from inundating the Israeli Parliament,” the independent newspaper Hadashot said.
Kahane and Kach campaigned on a pledge to expel not only the 1.5 million Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza but also the 800,000 Arabs who live in Israel proper and have Israeli citizenship.
Kahane, 56, refers to Arabs as “dogs.” In the Knesset, he proposed legislation that would forbid marriage between Jews and non-Jews and campaigned to prohibit sex between Arab men and Jewish women.
In 1984, Kahane won a seat in the Knesset after overcoming a challenge to his party’s legal status in the Supreme Court. The court ruled that no law forbids parties from holding racist or undemocratic principles.
After Kahane was seated in the Knesset, it passed a law banning parties that incite racism or reject “the democratic nature of the state.”
Wednesday’s decision was the first application of that law.
Kahane’s program worries many Israelis on several counts.
For one thing, they say, his notions of Arab inferiority echo Nazi thinking.
“It is intolerable that Nazi ideology should have a place in Israeli society,” said David Sasson, an official of the centrist Shinui party.
Kahane also promotes creation of a theocracy based on religious law that many see as a Jewish version of Islamic fundamentalism.
Parties on the right as well as on the left opposed his candidacy.