Sascha D. Freudenheim on 7 Jan 2001 20:58:14 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Mourning Kahane

Originally published on  Please
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"Mourning Kahane," By A.D. Freudenheim   –   7 January 2001

On 31 December 2000, Binyamin Kahane was murdered in a Palestinian
ambush on the West Bank.  Kahane’s death is tragic not just because
his is another, senseless death suffered in a conflict that should
have stopped years ago, but because of what Kahane represented while
alive, what he may come to embody now that he’s dead – and because
his murder is a Palestinian duplication of an abysmal Israeli policy.

Binyamin Kahane was the son of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the
Jewish Defense League (in the US) and the Kach Party (in Israel);
among other things, these groups advocated the removal of all Arabs
from Israel as the only sound solution to maintaining Israel’s
internal and external security and the purity of the Jewish people.
After Meir Kahane was murdered in 1990, his son founded Kahane Chai
(literally, “Kahane Lives”) and began to advocate similar policies,
drawing on the image of his father as a martyr to “the cause,” and
expanding the presence of Kahanist organizations and ideas among
Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.  Kahane Chai and its
related splinter groups are considered by the United States
government to be terrorist organizations and are prohibited from
organizing here; in Israel, the Kach Party was eventually prevented
from running for Parliament because it was deemed to be undemocratic
and because it advocated racist policies.

On the same day that Kahane was murdered, Israeli soldiers
assassinated a high-level Palestinian government official, a man that
the Israelis believed to be associated with terrorist groups.  Dr.
Thabet Thabet’s death is not the first of its kind; it is one result
of a policy that the Israeli government began enforcing many weeks
ago, in what Prime Minister Barak has referred to as “action against
the direct perpetrators of terrorist attacks.”*  This assassination
policy was designed by the Israeli government to be acceptable to
left-wing Israeli and American interests; it suggests that the
Israeli approach is different, carefully strategic, and it hopes to
exchange our outrage at actions that add to the violence for the
reassurance that those “direct perpetrators” are being responsibly
and adequately handled.

In the end, Kahane’s death is senseless for precisely the same reason
that the Israeli assassinations of leading Palestinian terrorists is
senseless.  While Kahane and Thabet are irreplaceable to their
families, they are completely replaceable to the ideologies and
movements they were associated with.  In the case of Kahane, some of
his followers were quoted in newspaper interviews stating that his
death would not go un-avenged.  On the Palestinian side, Thabet’s
funeral will likely become another in a series that have served to
inflame anti-Israeli passions – which will help to drive more people
(including children) into the streets for violent protests, and in
turn provoke further violent responses from the Israeli side.  These
murders also increase the strength of the terrorist groups the
Israelis wish to remove, fueling their recruiting efforts by creating
more noble martyrs for the cause – and in this case, both the
Kahanist and the Palestinian causes.  With Thabet and Kahane gone,
how many more will be emboldened to replace them?

The Thabet and Kahane murders may make a momentary political point,
but it is a statement without long-term value.  It places the killers
and the killed on the same moral level and brings the Israelis and
the Palestinians to the status of terrorist at exactly the moment
when both sides should be working to overcome that role and all that
it represents.  When the Israelis murder those they label
“terrorists,” they are still murdering humans.  These actions
de-legitimize the stated Israeli position on respect for human rights
– and circumvent a judicial process that does not permit the death
penalty.  For the Palestinians, it only adds to the view that for
their cause, violence is the only solution; but this is a
fundamentally false position, as their negligible achievements in the
last 53 years have shown.  In murdering Kahane, the Palestinians have
suggested that the Israeli position on killing those they believe
responsible for the violence is an effective one – as much as they
many not like it when Palestinians themselves are the targets.

If there is to be peace, both sides must renounce violence.
Self-defense is a legitimate application of force, but the
assassination of opposition leaders is not.  As it stands, these
murders do not stop the violence – they only crystallize the belief
in the fundamental inhumanity of the opposition.  These actions
perpetuate the values of revenge and retaliation, damage Israel’s
claims to the values of human rights and equal treatment for both
Arab and Jew, and reinforce the view that Palestinians are incapable
of making peace.  These are exactly the positions for which Binyamin
Kahane gave – and lost – his life.

*“Son of Slain Rabbi Kahane Dies With Wife in West Bank Ambush,” by
Deborah Sontag, The New York Times, 1 January 2001.

Copyright 2001, by A.D. Freudenheim

Sascha D. Freudenheim
Doubt is humanity's best friend.

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