'Kahane Effect' in Israel

Most democracies do not know how to preserve their liberties from destruction by militant nationalists operating from within the democratic process. Israel, to its great credit, has found a way to preserve its democracy by banning Kahane and his Kach party from participation in the Nov. 1 general election. As the editorial states, "Kahane stands quite simply for the destruction of Israel's democracy."

Anti-democratic factions can manipulate the openness of any democratic society to its systematic destruction. Extremists of every sort, left and right, present themselves as legitimate political parties who seek to participate in the give and take of the electoral process. Yet, just as soon as one of these extremist parties gains control of the government, it will quickly outlaw all parties and opinions with which it disagrees. We have seen that process unfold in Russia, Italy and Germany with devastating results.

Israel's commitment to democracy is so strong that the overwhelming majority of its large and small political parties were able to agree that Kahane's party had no legitimate place on the Israeli ballot.

Only in Israel, among all the countries of the Middle East, do 800,000 Arab citizens participate in open, democratic elections. Not one of the 22 Arab nations surrounding Israel ever has a free election. Syria and Egypt are one-party dictatorships; Jordan and Saudi Arabia are monarchies. If there is a parliamentary body in any Arab state, it exists at the will of the ruler and never as the result of openly contested elections.

Israel is an advanced technological society committed to respect for human values. Even in the face of a powerful rebellion by Arab Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israeli society will not let itself be tricked into betraying its democracy.

The wild threat of the intifada does lead some Israelis to turn to the simple extremism of Kahane. But the overwhelming majority of Israelis cling strongly to their faith in the compatibility of Judaism and democracy. For that, Israelis deserve great praise and support from democratic nations everywhere.



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