Yes, Kahane lives
By Yitzhak Laor
On July 29, 1986, extreme right-wing MK Meir Kahane submitted another no-confidence proposal: “The government’s refusal to discuss the disintegration of Zionist ideology, which endangers the existence of the Jewish state.” According to Kahane: “Since the beginning of political Zionism, the movement’s thinkers have ignored and avoided the terrible and frightening truth of the basic contradiction between Zionism and enlightened Western democracy, to which all the Zionist leaders were indentured servants. Herzl, Nordau, Sokolow, Weizmann, Ben-Gurion – all of them, right and left, with their heads in the sand, one big ostrich. Not one of the progressives, the liberals, the enlightened waved a banner or blew a large shofar to warn of the terrible danger of the contradiction between the Zionist concept of a Jewish state and the democratic foundation of majority rule.”
He added: “How long will you skip between the two opinions? If [you want] Zionism and a Jewish state, say so and put an end to the insanity of political democracy for the Arabs, which will lead us to a war between the nations and suicide. And if democracy is God – follow it, but stop chattering about Zionism and a Jewish state.”
That was Kahane’s hobbyhorse. The contradiction. How did the Knesset deal with it? With a boycott. Every time he spoke the MKs left the hall, with the exception of a few nationalist Haredim. Shevach Weiss of the Labor Party responded to the proposal as follows: “We suggest that the no-confidence proposal be removed from the agenda.” That’s all. The parliamentary correspondents also took part in the impotent boycott. It was convenient to be disgusted by Kahane. He screamed, threatened, waved his fist, spoke in a foreign accent, but politically there was no difference between him and general and cabinet member Rechavam Ze’evi, though the latter had bridges and streets named after him because he was “one of ours” and Palestinians killed him.
It would be demagogic to take the speeches of Kahane – whose party was outlawed after two years due to its racism – to count the Kahanist MKs today and use their increasing numbers to explain the state’s attitude toward the Arab minority; for example, the attack on Arab MK Hanin Zuabi. The issue is almost the opposite. The racists’ broad representation in the Knesset is nothing more than a long-standing conclusion of an official policy whose language is the only thing about it that is not Kahanist.
From time to time, mainly during election campaigns, politicians speak in the future tense about overturning “past” discrimination, but the present is the real breeding ground of racism, because it is carried out by state institutions. That is the real common denominator of the parties in the governing coalition: They talk about equality and wink, and use up most of the pie for the Jews. The campaign against the racism of Hasidic settlers in Immanuel almost succeeded in camouflaging the real, profound and institutional racism against the Arab minority.
For example, Highway 6, the Trans-Israel Highway – you can’t get to the Arab town of Taibeh from it; the city has no exit of its own. For example, infant mortality in the Arab community and road accidents due to infrastructure. In every area where the national pie has to be shared the Arabs are discriminated against. Computers and air-conditioning for school children? Positions in the civil service? Community centers?
The battle in Europe for an academic boycott against Israel is missing out on a good excuse: Israel’s universities are leaders of the camp that discriminates against Arabs. Arabs make up 20 percent of the population, but less than 0.5 percent of university faculty members. The situation at the University of Haifa is a scandal: 20 percent of the students are Arabs, but not even 1 percent are faculty members. Here merit is usually cited as the reason, which is clearly racist: They aren’t good enough. That’s how big the appetite of the Jewish faculty is. (And in the universities’ administrative and technical staff? Not even 0.5 percent are Arabs ).
That is where Kahanism is flourishing. Not in the synagogues, but where the establishment’s future employees are trained. The education minister and MK Zevulun Orlev of the Knesset Education Committee can stand at the head of the right-wing Zionist student group Im Tirtzu, which objects to freedom of research. Their work is done mainly by Sadducees and Pharisees, left or right, Mizrahim or women – they won’t share the pie and the curriculum with the Arab minority.
Incidentally, discrimination at our universities as a reason for an academic boycott doesn’t apply in Europe for the simple reason that the universities there are no better in that sense. This reason will apply some day in the United States, and not only at the universities. It is very doubtful whether the most passionate defenders of Israel there could live under the unwritten Israeli constitution.