The election of Meir Kahane to the Knesset sent shock waves through Israel and the Diaspora. At the time, public relations pundits in Britain dismissed it as more or less a freak result. It was not regarded as part of a prevalent trend toward irrational policies in Israel. A year later, several opinion polls suggest that Kahane’s Kach movement has gained support at the expense of the Likud and religious parties. The Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem produced statistics which indicated that more than 40 per cent of Israel’s youth support Kahane’s policies. Researchers at Bar-Ilan University found that 45 per cent of Bnei Akiva youth in Israel agree with Kahane’s views. A poll conducted in mid-August by the Smith Research Centre amongst 1,300 Jews gave 9 per cent of the vote to Kahane. This was more than the ultranationalist Tehiya Party received and transformed into seats would mean ten Kach representatives in the Knesset.
Supporters of Kahane’s philosophy stir a primitive mix of religion and politics. This has prompted an active campaign against Kahane by moderate Jews belonging to the religious peace organizations, Oz V’Shalom and Netivot Shalom–movements which are supported by the Chief Rabbi, Sir Immanuel Jakobovits. Their first leaflet, distributed widely in Israel, is entitled “Kahane Manipulates You” and specifically refers to a commandment in the Torah which impels Jews to live in peace with all the residents of the land of Israel. It continues:
Kahane says: Deport them!
The Torah commands (Deut. 23:17): “He shall dwell with you, among you in that place which he shall choose within one of your gates, where it suits him best: you shall not oppress him”. The verse refers to a ger toshav, a non-Jew.
Kahane says: Fire them! Deprive them of income! Maimonides teaches us: “One behaves toward gerei toshav with civility and kindness, as one would toward a Jew; for we are commanded to afford them a livelihood, as it is written (Deut. 14:21)—You shall give it to the stranger who is within your gates, that he may eat it.
Jewish Quarterly Winter 1985