G~d’s Law: an Interview with Rabbi Meir Kahane
Question: Rabbi Meir Kahane, you have been politically active for many years, but only in 1984 were you able to win a seat in the Knesset. Compared to your objectives, is this not rather a disappointing result?
Answer: Tens of thousands would have liked to vote for me. If they didn’t, it’s either because they were afraid to, or because they thought that I had no chance of winning. But at the next elections, it would be a mistake to think that I’ll only have four seats. I’ll have double that.
From the start we have addressed ourselves to the Sephardic Jews. These people have lived among the Arabs. They know what Arabs are. They have no racist complexes. And they tell themselves that I know how to deal with their problems. The next time, every young Sephardi, especially those living in the development towns, will vote for Kahane.
Q: But people say that the young Sephardis, since they come from Arab countries, know nothing about democracy. That they are backward. And your success will depend on the votes of these backward people!
A: This is an arrogant comment, typical of European intellectuals. This really is nothing but intellectualism. The Sephardic Jew is an intelligent Jew. Thank G~d, the Sephardis are not spoiled by European culture. Thank G~d! They have not been corrupted by the teachings of college professors.
Q: But aren’t they Arabic, in culture?
A: The Sephardis came to this country with a culture, which is Judaism. But here their family structures have been shattered; their morale has been destroyed. Theirs is not an Arab culture. It’s a true Jewish culture. So, when a Sephardi says that he is against Western democracy, he knows what he is talking about.
Q: How do you see Western democracy?
A: First I’m going to give you a bit of background, to help you understand. Among all the controversy surrounding Kahane you’ll not find anybody prepared to take up the challenge that I have thrown down. Since people are not capable of debating, they attack me by putting labels on me. The first thing I want to say is that I couldn’t care less what they call me, and that’s what makes them so mad. The Left has always acted that way when they want to attack the Right. The problem is that these people don’t know how to debate. Let’s get to the point. First you must understand that Zionism and Western democracy are at odds. And according to Zionism, this country must be a Jewish state.
Q: What exactly is a Jewish state?
A: A Jewish state means that, at a minimum, there must be a majority of Jews; a Jewish sovereignty with the power to make our own laws. This is why Jews have left Europe and have come here. If we were now to apply to the letter the principles of Western democracy, we would have to agree that decisions are to be made by a majority. It’s at this point that I ask a question that sends Israelis crazy, both on the Left and on the Right. The question is as follows: if the Arabs settle among us and make enough children to become a majority, will Israel continue to be a Jewish state? Do we have to accept that the Arab majority will decide? Obviously, nobody in Israel can accept this. Because to accept this would amount to being anti-Zionist!
Q: Would you accept a situation in which there was democracy only for the Jews and not for the Arabs?
A: I’ll answer that question later. First let me explain why everybody is mad at me. It’s because I have confronted people with the following contradiction: you can’t have Zionism and democracy at the same time. And for those who criticize me, it’s very difficult to get out of this contradiction.
Now let me answer your question. First of all, Western democracy has to be ruled out. For me that’s cut and dried: there’s no question of setting up democracy in Israel, because democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins. Therefore democracy and Zionism cannot go together. And Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed this state to be a Jewish state, is a totally schizophrenic document. You just can’t, on the one hand, want a Jewish state and at the same time give non-Jews the right to become a majority. When Abba Eban makes beautiful speeches in twelve languages and starts talking about Jewish democracy-what on earth does that mean, Jewish democracy?
Let’s get back to your question and let me talk about democracy as far as Jews are concerned. Do I accept democracy for Judaism? My answer is: Judaism does not accept democracy unless it is within a structure that adheres to the law of the Torah. I challenge any rabbi to contradict me on this. My hope as a religious Jew, which is the hope of every sincere and religious Jew, is to have a state governed by the Torah. If one accepts the commandments of the Torah, then democracy is conceivable within the framework of those commandments. Of course, nobody could vote against these commandments. Nobody could question the fact that the government has to abide by the Torah. There is no question of letting people vote for or against the commandments of the Torah. This can’t be decided by a vote. However, if this objective cannot be reached without having a civil war in Israel, then I’d give it up. Therefore I hope that we’ll be able to convince a majority of Jews to create a state governed by the Torah, and that the minority will accept it. And then, if that means voting in elections every four years so as to have a government in compliance with the Torah, of course I’d accept it. But I can’t say that I’d be pleased with it.
Q: Concretely, what kind of constitution would this state have?
A: Who says that a state must have a constitution?
Q: All right then, let’s talk about institutions.
A: In a state governed by the Torah, there must be a king, or if not a king, then a president. But the supreme authority must lie with a rabbinic court. The supreme laws of the country must be established by that court. I guess there could also be a parliament to take care of certain things, such as the army, or prisons. If the rules concerning the army or the prisons are not contrary to the Torah, there would be no problem.
However, obviously, the supreme law is the Halacha and it must be interpreted by the Supreme Rabbinic Court, which is the Sanhedrin. Applying the Halacha would entail great differences with the present situation. Respecting the Sabbath, for example, would be compulsory. All driving around in cars would be banned on the Sabbath. Obviously, you wouldn’t have a secret police force going round to people’s homes to check whether they eat kosher food or not. But kosher food would have to be compulsory in all public places such as restaurants.
And that leads me to the second thing that drives my opponents crazy. The biggest racist is the Jew who doesn’t see that to be a Jew is something special. When I say that I am a Jew, it means that I accept that there is a wall separating Jews and non-Jews. It’s a terrible thing to create a wall between people-between Jews and non-Jews in this case. But this is conceivable when there are reasons to be Jewish and to want to live one’s Jewishness. But for a secular Zionist, what reasons could he have, other than a point of view that is basically racist?
No secular Zionist in this country can quietly sit down and listen to his son telling him: ‘Dad, I’ve met a great girl…’ If that woman is not Jewish, no secular Zionist is going to tell him: ‘Son, don’t marry her.’ He would be called a racist pig. But under these conditions, what’s going to become of us? There would no longer be any reason to be Jewish. The only thing that distinguishes us from non-Jews is that we have the Torah. That’s all. We are not superior to others. The Chinese are intelligent too. There are stupid Jews. There are intelligent Jews. Other peoples may also have their Einstein. The biggest racism would be to create a Jewish state that isn’t Jewish, that has no reason for being. Without that reason of being Jewish, why create a Jewish state? Without that reason, why be a Jew and not just a human being?
I believe that there is a G~d and that this G~d led us into Sinai and revealed the Truth to us. This is the reason that makes one a Jew.
Q: This state ruled by the Torah would not guarantee freedom of speech, then?
A: Of course not! In a religious state, there can be no such freedom.
Obviously, I think that today it is not possible for us to have such a state without a civil war, and I’m not prepared to encourage such a conflict. What I am ready for, though, is to tell my voters that I want a religious state. And if the people vote for me, then we’ll have the religious state that I’m hoping for. And if four years later, at the next elections, they no longer want a religious state, they can vote against it.
My worst nightmare is to see Jews fighting other Jews.
Q: In this Jewish state, would you apply biblical punishments, such as the death penalty for incest or adultery?
A: The Halacha provides for a death penalty only if there is a Sanhedrin. Without a Sanhedrin, the Halacha does not allow capital punishment. And in present-day Israel there is no Sanhedrin. Therefore there cannot be a death penalty.
Q: In a religious state, will all public schools have to be religious?
A: If someone wants to send his children to a private school, he’s free to open a private school.
But in a religious Jewish state, all public schools will have to be religious. It’s through education that I want to achieve my objectives. What I want is not at all the Western state that some people would like to see. There are many rights which Western democracy considers fundamental and which I consider to be without foundation.
Q: What rights?
A: For example, the right not to respect the Sabbath. This right must not exist. In all public life, the Sabbath will have to be respected. Restaurants must be kosher. If you don’t want to eat kosher food, you’ll just have to eat at home. As for censorship, it already exists in Western democracies, and in the state that I want to see, there will obviously be censorship. The atmosphere in which this country lives must change.
Q: Will the members of that Supreme Rabbinic Court be elected by the citizens?
A: No. Very much not so. This is out of the question. The judges will have to be nominated, not elected.
Q: But supposing that the rabbis in this court don’t agree with each other. If Israel is not to become a totalitarian state, how can the rights of the minority, who disagree with the interpretations of the majority, be protected? In short, is there at least a democracy In the Jewish sense of the word, which would protect the rights of the minority?
A: Such protection exists, but only within limits. In the Halacha, rabbis have the right to write, to speak. But all their differences of rulings are based on interpretations of the Halacha itself. If someone speaks against the Halacha, he can of course not be protected. In the Sanhedrin Tractate, the Talmud says: at the time of King Hezekiah, the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem and encircled it. So the Assyrians made the Jews an offer: in exchange for their willingness to go into exile, they would be granted a quiet and peaceful life. O, the other hand, if they refused to give up, the city would be seized and they would be massacred. So then there was a debate among the Jews in Jerusalem, mainly between the scribe Shebna and the king. The king said: ‘G~d does not want us to surrender to the enemy. It’s the Halacha.’ And the scribe said: ‘We must surrender.’ Then it came to a vote. About 130,000 voted in favor of surrender. The king said: ‘Maybe we should surrender, since the Bible says that the decision of the majority has to be respected.’ Then Isaiah came and said to the king: ‘It is a vote of wicked people, and the vote of wicked people does not count.’ This is the true concept! That of Western democracy is not old enough to be mentioned when discussing the Halacha. As a matter of fact, democracy as we know it today is a totally new concept. It is based on the idea that we are incapable of knowing the truth. And since nobody holds the truth, nobody can say what is true. Therefore the majority has to decide. It’s a practical deduction.
Judaism is founded on the idea that we know the truth. So it’s absurd to have people vote on the question whether or not we should keep this truth. You don’t vote on a truth.
Q: Does that mean that, according to the Halacha, a Jew cannot individually choose his way of lift, his life style, and that he has to submit to a collective way of life?
A: A Jewish individual cannot choose a life style contrary to the Halacha. That’s the way it is. G~d created this world for a reason: to have people live in holiness. To talk about free choice, the freedom to be impure would mean that this world has no reason to exist. With such a freedom there would have been no reason to create this world. This is the essence of our conception of the world and the role of man.
The conception that says that the role of man in Israel is to develop himself, to be happy, to have a guaranteed right to work, etc can’t be the essential purpose of life, but only part of it. The true goal is to be good, to be holy, to make of this world what G~d wants. Otherwise I don’t see what could be the reason for living. At the age of 70 or 80, one dies. Then what?
Let me say it again: democracy and Judaism 3rc two opposite things. One absolutely cannot confuse them. The objective of a democratic state is to allow a person to do exactly as he wishes. The objective of Judaism is to G~d and to make people better. These are two totally opposite conceptions of life.
Q: Yet Judaism is supposed to have given the first example of democracy to humanity. For example, the Jewish people elected King Saul. So the king was elected, and not imposed on the people.
A: So what? This doesn’t prove anything. The first kings all over the world were necessarily chosen by the people. I’m a graduate in political science. I know what I’m talking about. You’re right-at the beginning, the first king is elected. Then the people agree to give up some of their rights, for the king to protect them.
The successors of this first king arc no longer elected. But that’s not the essential point. The essential point is this: a secular authority can undoubtedly also be chosen through democratic means, but supreme authority must be in the hands of a rabbinic court- It must be wielded by the judges and the rabbis. The Talmud is very clear on this. It says that even if the king wants war, if that war is against the Halacha, the people have the tight not to obey their king. One of the problems of secular Judaism, of modern Judaism, is that its ignorance is only surpassed by its arrogance. We live today in a world where ignorant people arc arrogant!
When the Jews in Europe were emancipated a century ago, when they came out of their ghettos, they rushed to become French, German or something else, and they immediately forgot that Judaism is completely different to democracy.
Q: Many Jews believe, though, that the objective off Judaism is to deliver a message to the world by living among non-Jews. The reason why there have been so many Jewish scientists, artists, etc is that they have been living among non-Jews.
A: All right. Go ahead. But don’t be Jewish. Don’t be Jewish! Just be a human being!
Q: Don’t you consider that people such as Einstein or Freud were Jewish?
A: They were born Jews. That’s all. There’s a difference between a Jewish writer and a Jew who is a writer; between a Jewish scientist and a scientist who happens to be Jewish.
Q: Take Freud for example. He wasn’t just a psychoanalyst; he was a member of the B’nai-B’rith in Vienna.
A: The fact is, the Jews in Vienna were living in a state of great confusion. The only reason they remained Jewish was because they lived in an anti-Semitic environment. Otherwise they wouldn’t have remained Jewish. As a matter of fact, you’re just repeating the great insanity of Zionism. Herzl, this country’s big hero, admitted that if the Jews had been given the opportunity to assimilate, they would have accepted assimilation. And it was because the Gentiles wouldn’t let us assimilate that Herzl wanted a Jewish state. Now that’s not really a very positive reason for founding a state. So we’re going to tell our children that if we’d been allowed to assimilate, we would have done so? Is that a good reason for creating a Jewish state? If you say that to a young child or a young person, he’s going to tell you: ‘If I can get assimilated, I’m going to do it. I’ll go to Los Angeles with a US immigration pass, and I’ll become an American.’
Q. Would you have preferred that people like Einstein, Freud, Saul Bellow or any other famous Jew…?
A: I’m not interested in Einstein.
Q: Would you have preferred these people to have been rabbis?
A: By all means. I’d have preferred Einstein to be a rabbi. There are enough people around inventing things in physics. I have nothing against universities: I went to university myself. If someone can be a great scientist within the framework of Judaism, all right, then I agree! But if a Jewish scientist is not a practicing Jew, there’s no difference between him and any other scientist as far as I am concerned. Oppenheimer is a great scientist. But what do I care? If there’s nothing Jewish about him, what’s the difference between him and a non-Jew? None. The big swindle of our time is to have twisted Judaism, to have changed it into something that it has never been and that it isn’t. G~d delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt and gave them a land: the Promised Land. If G~d’s aim had only been to deliver them, and if he hadn’t told them to go and build this country, there wouldn’t have been this commandment in the Torah ordering us to live in Eretz Yisrael. The theory that consists of forgetting this commandment is a theory of fraudulent Jews who don’t believe in Judaism and who don’t have the courage to say so. And so as to justify themselves, these people say that Judaism is a universal value. But they are wrong. Judaism is not a universal value.
Q: So you don’t believe that Judaism could be bipolar?
A: Of course not!
Q: I mean to say that there can be a religious pole and a secular pole and that these two poles could be complementary.
A: Absolutely not! Absolutely not! Of course, a person born a Jew is a Jew. There’s no doubt about that. But if he doesn’t respect the Torah, he’s not a good Jew. The only reason to be Jewish is the Torah. There’s no other logical reason to be Jewish. Otherwise he is a Jew by accident, that’s all. By accident or for intellectual reasons.
Q: Yet Maimonides, the famous Jewish philosopher, lived in Spain among Arabs. He lived in symbiosis with them.
A: That’s absolutely false. You’re talking nonsense. People who talk about Maimonides like that don’t know what they’re talking about. The greatness of Maimonides was to have written a book called The Guide to the Perplexed. His greatness came from the fact that he was a rabbi. He codified the Jewish laws. If you had read the laws written by Maimonides, you certainly wouldn’t have imagined him to be an enlightened and progressive philosopher. Maimonides was bound by the laws of Judaism. Because that is what Judaism is. I am not free to decide what I want. There is the Halacha; there is a law that decides what is G~dly and what is not. I live in this country because it is an obligation ordered by G~d. Otherwise, why would I want to live in a country, which, from my point of view, is miserable and uninteresting? If G~d hadn’t ordered us to live in this country, I really wouldn’t want to have anything to do with it. Because this country is an absolute disaster, from a geographical as well as a material viewpoint. I only live here because it is a holy commandment to be here. When Maimonides comments on the Halacha, he speaks about the non-Jews living in Israel, and he says very clearly that there cannot be Jewish citizenship for a non-Jew in this country. It’s not only Maimonides saying this. It’s G~d saying it.
Q: Yet the principal difference between Judaism and Christianity is that, for a Christian, a supreme authority decides what is right to do and what not, and that such an authority does not exist for Jews. Each rabbi interprets the Halacha in his own way, and there are several legitimate ways of interpreting Judaism.
A: Nonsense again! To start with, you use the word ‘Christianity’. Which Christianity are you talking about? There are 6,000 Christian sects. And even if you’re talking about the Roman Catholics, you’ve got some bishops who want this and others who want that. There’s the Pope. But in France, for example, you’ve got Father Lefebvre who opposes the Pope. So don’t talk to me about single authorities in Christianity. True Judaism implies the existence of a Sanhedrin. So there is a supreme authority in Judaism: the Sanhedrin. I must insist on this: the liberal Jew commits a terrible fraud, and he commits that fraud because he would like to be able to decide for himself. In the same way, a communist Jew does not practice Judaism. He practices communism. The Jew may be called Cohen, so then he practices Cohenism! If he’s called Goldberg, he practices Goldbergism! Myself, I practice Judaism. If one is not bound by the Torah, by the Halacha, then one has no reason to be a Jew.
Q: When you say that, aren’t you talking like Khomeini?
A: OK. Let’s say you’re right. So what? Who cares? People who stick labels on you are refusing to talk about the content. What’s the problem? Anyway, I can tell you that in certain respects Khomeini and Islam are a lot closer to Judaism than Jean-Jacques Rousseau or John Locke or Thomas Jefferson. In my mind, there’s no doubt about that. If you start from the fundamental concept that it was G~d who created man, and that one has to obey G~d’s law, then, sure, I’m like Khomeini, or the Pope, or any spiritual leader. I feel much closer to them than to any Rabbi Schindler, who is the leader of liberal Judaism. What this rabbi calls Judaism is just atheism wrapped in a talith. Sticking labels on people doesn’t lead anywhere. Let’s talk about the content.
Q: You have written that the Jews feel guilty about being Jewish, and that they were doing anything they could to please the non-Jews, to get themselves pardoned for being Jewish. Yet in many countries, especially in France, there is a kind of Jewish renaissance. Jews feel proud to be Jewish. Would you call this a new phenomenon?
A: France is a special case. France has three types of Jews. First, the French Jews of old descent, who have always been ashamed of being Jewish. The second category also consists of shamefaced Jews. These are the ones who came from Poland after World War II. Then you have the third category, those who came from North Africa – Morocco and Algeria; this large influx of Jews has brought about a great change in France. I don’t know, though, what their children are going to be. There are already many cases of mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews. The historical perspective must not be viewed in terms of ten or twenty years, but in terms of centuries. Indeed, there are cycles in history, and today one sees a Jewish renaissance in France. But don’t forget that today there is also a Jewish state, and that is already a big difference from the past. The big phenomenon, though, is still the mixed marriages, where Jews marry non-Jews while at the same time continuing to say that they are proud to be Jewish; this, to me, is total insanity.
Q: So you make a distinction between being a Jew and being an Israeli.
A: Of course. And that’s where the great insanity of this country, the great sickness, comes from. The problem here is not so much the Arabs but the Jews. The secular Jew has a problem of identity. He doesn’t know who he is. So he says he is an Israeli. Not a Jew. This is insanity. Because an Arab can also be an Israeli. To be an Israeli means having citizenship of this country. It’s not a nationality. So the sabra lives in a state of complete confusion. He doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t know where he’s going. People in this country are sick. Intellectually sick. For me, there are no Israelis. There are Jews. Some of them live in Israel. Others live in France. Others live somewhere else. There is a Jewish people. Because there is a Jewish people, we have the right to come to this country, and to take it from the Arabs.
If the sabra isn’t a Jew, then I don’t know why his grandparents came to this country and took it from the Arabs. It isn’t because the Jews lived here 2,000 years ago that they have the right to come back. Who the hell cares whether they lived here 2,000 years ago?
The biggest fascism is precisely that: to believe that one has a right to conic back here solely because one lived here 2,000 years ago. The legitimate reason why we have the right to come back here is that we are Jews and because we are Jews we have a 2,000-year bond with this land. We have always prayed three times a day to be able to come back to this land. And we have never given up this hope. It’s not the fact that we have come back and that we have created an Israeli state. That’s not the reason. The reason is that, first and foremost, we are Jews.
Q: There are supposed to be two traditions. One is Joshua’s Judaism, which is a Judaism of conquerors; then there is the Judaism of the prophets, which has a pacifist thread.
A: That’s not true at all! Not true at all! These are things that people think when they know absolutely nothing about Judaism. I can quote you the prophets and these quotes will make your hair stand on end. For example, Isaiah spoke of peace, but you should read what he said on the subject of the day when the Messiah will conic, and the brutal and bloody way in which he will treat the nations. There are not several messages in Judaism. There is only one. And this message is to do what G~d wants. Sometimes G~d wants us to go to war, and sometimes he wants us to live in peace. The Halacha tells us when we should make war and when we should make peace. People who say that there are two messages in Judaism do not actually believe that the Torah was given to us by G~d. If the Torah was made by men, then it isn’t Jewish! There are intelligent people everywhere. Among the Christians, among the Buddhists, among Jews. Among atheists too. But there is only one message: G~d wanted us to come to this country and to create a Jewish state.
And this Jewish state has been founded so that we can live Jewish values. The Jewish values of peace, among others. The G~d who addressed Isaiah is the same as the one who spoke to Joshua. The same G~d gave the same orders to the one and to the other. Just imagine, in Jewish schools in Israel, they teach Joshua according to the Bible! Secular Jews teaching Joshua! If I were a secular Jew, I’d tear out the chapters on Joshua.
Q: For you, does Zionism mean that the Messiah will come soon?
A: Of course, Zionism accelerates the coming of the Messiah. I’m not a nationalist!
Q: What do you mean, you’re not a nationalist?
A: I’m not a nationalist. I’m a religious Jew. In Judaism, there is a commandment, which says: the Jews are a nation only by the will of G~d. To be a secular Zionist is absurd. Why should I go to war, fight for one flag rather than another? It’s insane. What difference is there between a Finn, a Swede, a Spaniard and a Belgian? For a religious Jew, nationalism is only one part of Judaism. A part which is under the authority of G~d.
Q: Do you mean to say that if Zionism is not religious, there ‘is no point in having a state of Israel?
A: For me, the word Zionism means G~d’s order that we live in Israel. And to have this state is a miracle that comes from G~d. As far as I’m concerned, we are living the end of time. We are living a messianic era. We survived 2,000 years without a state, without an army, without power, scattered to the four corners of the world. Think of the pogroms, of Auschwitz, the concentration camps, the Inquisition – we survived all that! People who believe that we have survived all that, being atheists, are completely blind. The Jews have come back from hundreds of countries just as the Bible said they would. We had a brilliant victory in the Six Day War, and a few years later, during the Yom Kippur War, we lived through three terrible days. The difference between these two wars is explained by G~d’s will.
If the Jews become religious again and do what G~d wants, then the Messiah will come today. The creation of the state of Israel only marks the beginning of the messianic era. The Messiah will come. For my part, I don’t doubt it for an instant.
The question is: how is he going to come? In the Jewish tradition, be may come in two ways. If we deserve him, he may come at this instant, in glory and in majesty. And if we don’t deserve him, he’ll come all the same, but in the midst of terrible sufferings. This is why I am fighting today. I am fighting so that the Jews become good Jews, so that there is not a catastrophe at the coming of the Messiah.
Q: When you say that you are not a nationalist, does that mean that the state has no importance?
A: The state is important but it is only as important as any of the divine commandments, for example the commandment concerning the Sabbath. It is neither more nor less important. The state is a divine commandment. It is one means to have a properly Jewish culture. And not to have a culture influenced by that of the majority. Or by cultures in which we are in a minority. That’s why G~d has ordered us to live not in France or in the United States, but in Israel. Just so as not to be influenced by majority cultures. G~d wants us to live in a country of our own, isolated, so that we live separately and have the least possible contact with what is foreign, and so that we create as far as possible a pure Jewish culture based on the Torah. This is why I am a nationalist, why I want a state: this is what G~d wants. And not so as to have a flag like the one you see outside.
Q: You have said several times that you want to purify Jewish culture from any goy influence.
A: That’s what true Judaism means. I say it very clearly and very precisely. And all the rabbis say it just as clearly when you discuss it with them in private. In private they’ll tell you: ‘Of course, Kahane is right.’ But these rabbis don’t have the courage to say it in public. So what I say comes as a shock to the Jews.
Q: Don’t terms like purity, purification, bring back bad memories for Jews…
A: Let me tell you just one thing: does it mean we shouldn’t use tanks, just because the Nazis used tanks? Just because the Nazis used a certain word doesn’t mean that this word is bad. It depends on how one uses the word. If I say money’, the word is not in itself satanic. If I use money to help, I’m making a good action. It makes no sense to ban a word just because the Nazis used it.
Q: But the Nazis didn’t use the term ‘purification’ only as a word. They wanted to ‘purify’ Germany of any Jewish presence.
A: Of course! But if the Germans, during World War II, had bombed the Jews, and if the Jews had bombed the Germans, does this mean that Jews and Germans were doing the same thing? No. The Germans had no legitimate reason for wanting to drive the Jews out of Germany. The Germans had stupid, racist ideas. For me, a non-Jew can become a Jew. He has the absolute right to become a Jew. We don’t have a blood monopoly. I don’t believe in blood. I believe in a culture, an idea. The Germans had no ideal. They based themselves on a concept that was solely racist. To me, a black Jew from Africa is just as Jewish as I am. Last Sunday, I made a speech at Yeruham [a development town] and I attacked the president of the town council because he had refused to admit black Jews to his town. So for me it’s not a question of race. It’s a matter of ideals. And these ideals are G~d-given; therefore these ideals have to be propagated here in Israel. Anyone who accepts these ideals is welcome among us.
Q: But it is very difficult to convert to Judaism.
A: Without doubt it is difficult to become a Jew. But it’s even more difficult to buy a diamond! It’s difficult because we want to be sure that the person who wants to become a Jew does it for sincere reasons… And not just because he’s met a pretty Jewish girl and wants to marry her. We have enough bad Jews who were born Jewish; we don’t want to add bad converted Jews.
Q: What would you say if all Israeli Arabs decided to convert to Judaism tomorrow?
A: Obviously, we wouldn’t agree to it, because they wouldn’t want to convert for honest reasons. It takes years to convert a person, don’t forget that. Anyway, the Arabs won’t do it. They think that Jews are their enemies.
As a matter of fact, leftist Jews despise the Arabs. I don’t despise the Arabs. Liberal Jews think that they can buy the Arabs. Jewish racists think that there can be good Arabs, nice Arabs. They believe that they can educate them to be good Arabs. What the leftist Jews call good Arabs are not what I call good Arabs. For me, the good Arab is a proud Arab. And I understand this good Arab. Because I too have national pride.
At the bottom of their hearts, the Israeli Left has this feeling that it is not entirely natural for Jews to be living here in Israel.
So they feel guilty. They feel obliged to defend the Arabs on all the questions they raise, including the end of the Jewish state. But you won’t buy the Arabs by raising their standard of living. The Arab is proud and he is concerned about the way his Arab brothers live. And when certain Jews say to the Arabs: ‘Look what we’ve done for you, all the good we have done… We found a desert here and we transformed it into a garden,’ the Arab replies, with good reason: ‘This may be true, but it was my desert and now it has become your garden.’ So I understand the Arabs completely. It’s insane to believe that you can buy them, that because you send them to Hebrew university they are going to turn into ‘good Arabs’ in the sense that the Israeli Left means. It’s quite simply false. On the contrary, they will turn into the most dangerous Arabs. Revolutionaries are recruited among the very intellectuals whom we are educating in our universities. We have such a sense of guilt that we keep saying: ‘Let’s buy them.’ You can’t buy everything. That’s why I say the Arabs must leave Israel, precisely because I believe that if the Arabs stay, they’ll become the ‘good Arabs’ as I understand the term.
Q: So that means war, then?
A: No, that doesn’t mean war. At the present time, right now, we have the means to show them the door. Twenty years from now, we won’t have the power to throw them out.
Q: Why won’t you have that possibility twenty years from now?
A: Because in twenty years from now, we’ll have as many Arabs as Jews in this country. We have a terrible problem in Israel. It’s not the Arabs of the Occupied Territories who are the problem. We can get rid of those Arabs now. The real problem is that there are many Arabs in Israel who have Israeli citizenship. And these Arabs are making many, many children.
Q: Professor Neeman has written that the demographic ratio between Jews and Arabs has not changed since 1967.
A: Another fraud. A statistical fraud. It’s a lie by the Tehiya [nationalist party], because this party has a very serious problem: it wants to annex the Occupied Territories and keep the Arabs living there. The real question is the following: do we need another million and a half Arabs? In fact, the latest statistics show that Arabs from the West Bank territories go to work in Kuwait because there’s work there and there’s no work here. Besides, Neeman is talking about the Arabs living in the Territories, but I’m talking about the Arabs who have Israeli citizenship. And this Arab population is growing twice as fast as the Jewish population. Israel’s Arabs are high-quality Arabs; they all go to school, they are intelligent; they have tremendous qualities. Northern Israel will be completely Arab in the near future. Galilee already has an Arab majority. Umm el-Fahm [a village in Galilee] already has an overwhelming Arab majority.
We’re sitting here doing nothing, watching what is happening without lifting a finger. Once the Arabs have a majority in this country, they’re going to do what any self-respecting nationalist would do. They are not going to accept living in a country called a Jewish state, in a country with a Law of Return that applies solely to the Jews. Once the Arabs have gained a majority, they’ll change the laws and the nature of this state, and they’ll be right. Completely right. And this is why I want to move them all out now. I say now, because we need a minimum of force to do it.
If I were the minister of defense, if I were talking to you now as minister of defense, the mere fact of hearing me say what I just said would sow panic among the Arabs. The Arabs are afraid of me, because they know that I understand them.
Q: Are you intending to drive the Arabs out by military means?
A: Yes, obviously, but that won’t be necessary for most of them. I’d offer financial compensation for those who want to leave the country voluntarily. I would only use force for those who don’t want to leave. I’d go all the way, and they know that.
Q: Do you have the money to offer them that kind of compensation?
A: That money could come, from Jews all over the world.
Q: Do you really believe that the Jews would pay?
A: Of course, because the Arabs have property, and that property would remain behind.
Q: If an Arab came to you right now and said: ‘OK, give me some money to leave,’ would you give it to him?
A: No. I don’t have any money, and it’s not my job to make such payments. It’s the job of the Israeli government, of the Jewish people, to give the money. It’s not mine.
I’d like to raise another question here: the Arabs owe a lot of money to the Sephardic Jews who were obliged to leave Arab countries without compensation. I want an account of everything the Jews from Arab countries left behind them. Then we’ll see who owes money to whom.
In any case, I am prepared to offer compensation, and the amount of the compensation will depend on what the Jews from the Arab countries left behind. But in any event, we’re going to have to offer the Arabs something so as to stimulate them to leave.
The real problem is that I am not about to ask them to leave. I want to make them leave. I’m saying to them that they must leave, and I’ll make them leave. As to the circumstances under which they are going to leave, this is not up to them to decide.
Q: Therefore it won’t be your party that will expel the Arabs, What you want is to force the government to do it.
A: Of course! Because there are no other practical means of doing it. You need government means for an action like this. But I’m convinced that my party will be in the government. I have no doubt about that.
Q: In the meantime, you engage in, actions such as in Umm el-Fahm or in Taibeh, to scare the Arabs and to force them to leave.
A: Absolutely. I want to scare them and I want to make them realize that, contrary to what they have believed for fifteen years, time is not on their side. That it is completely false that time is on their side. They are convinced that it is the Jews who are afraid. But I, I go to see them in 13mm el-Fahm, and I tell them: ‘You must leave now.’ And that changes everything.
I’m smart enough not to use force. Because that’s just what the police would like to see me do. I believe that within five years, we’re going to be part of a coalition government, at least.
Q: Your party, the Kach, has been accused of having close links with the Jewish terrorist group TNT. You are believed to have planned attacks on mosques and other similar actions.
A: I don’t like to talk about these accusations. When someone calls me a Nazi, I don’t answer him. I’m not obliged to answer every dog that barks. If you come to see me with proof that I have committed such acts, then I’ll discuss it with you. This doesn’t mean that I believe that such actions shouldn’t have been committed. But I think that such actions are not opportune for the moment. Because we’re soon going to be in the government. That’s why people on the Left are afraid of us.
They believe that I have no political future in Israel, but they’re still obsessed by me.
Q: Still, one of the members of your party, Richter, is in prison because of terrorist activities. You do admit, don’t you, that Richter has committed acts of violence?
A: Yes, of course he has.
Q: And he is a member of your party?
A: Obviously, I completely agree with Richter. But he didn’t commit these acts as a member of the Kach party. He committed them on behalf of himself, as a person called Richter. Besides, I can assure you that if the police had the slightest evidence against the Kach, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now. I’d be in prison. Believe me, Kach won’t give them this satisfaction.
Q: Does that mean that Kach does not encourage violence, but if a member of Kach commits acts of violence, you support him?
A: This applies not only to Kach members, but to anybody. And I approve of anybody who commits such acts of violence. Really, I don’t think that we can sit back and watch Arabs throwing rocks at buses whenever they feel like it. They must understand that a bomb thrown at a Jewish bus is going to mean a bomb thrown at an Arab bus.
Q: One of your paradoxes is that you respect the Arabs and their nationalism, yet you want to expel them for precisely that reason. You also say that no Arab is innocent. Isn’t that a racist comment?
A: Of course no Arab is innocent.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: That every Arab is a proud Arab, a good nationalist. And because of this, he is opposed to the existence of the state of Israel. When the Allies, during World War II, bombed German towns, who did they kill? Women, children… They could only do such a thing because it was a war against the German people. When the Maquis in France took action against the Germans, they didn’t care whether they killed military or civilian Germans – it was war.
War is war. Either you fight or you don’t fight. The ‘Palestinians’, as they call themselves, are enemies of the state of Israel. Obviously, not every Palestinian is a bomb-thrower. Not all Frenchmen threw bombs at the Germans during World War II. Not everybody had the courage to do it, nor to join the underground resistance movements. In the same way, there are Arabs who have the courage to throw bombs, and others who don’t.
Q: So you accept the fact that Arab civilians are being killed?
A: Of course. Sure. In the same way that I wholly approved of the Israelis bombing Lebanon. Unfortunately, many civilians were killed. But this is war…
Q: You’ve said in the Knesset, and it was shown on Israeli television, that if you were in power no Arab would be killed because you wouldn’t let any Arabs stay here.
A: I don’t want to kill any Arab. I want to move them out. I want them to live happily in peace, but not here in Israel. Somewhere else!
Q: But that’s a jihad, a holy war that you want to conduct against the Arabs.
A: No, it’s not a jihad on my side. It’s a jihad on their side.
Q: What do you want to do with the Christians in Israel? Do you want to throw them out too?
A: Any non-Jew, including the Arabs, can have the status of a foreign resident in Israel if he accepts the law of the Halacha. I don’t differentiate between Arabs and non-Arabs. The only difference I make is between Jews and non-Jews. If a non-Jew wants to live here, he must agree to be a foreign resident, be he Arab or not. He does not have and cannot have national rights in Israel. He can have civil rights, social rights, but he cannot be a citizen; he won’t have the right to vote. Again, whether he’s Arab or not.
Q: So you would accept having Arabs in Israel, as foreigners.
A: Certainly. But since I know and respect them, I know very well that no Arab under the age of 40 would accept such a situation. Just as the Blacks in South Africa won’t accept a similar situation. But there is a big difference over there, because South Africa belongs to the Blacks.
Q: Let me ask you again: what would you do if the Arabs opted for the status of foreign residency?
A: I don’t think that they would accept it. Some of them, maybe, but only a few.
Q: You said just now that in twenty years, Israel will no longer have the strength to expel the Arabs. Why are you so worried about the future, given that the state of Israel has won every war since Israel was created?
A: I’m not talking about a war; I’m talking about inside the country. These are two different problems. In twenty years, the Arabs inside the country will be 35-40 per cent of the population. They will all be citizens. There isn’t a country in the world, which has two peoples in it, which has such a demographic distribution, and which has been able to live in peace. Look what’s happening even in those countries where the differences between the two communities are not so great, where, for example, there is only a simple religious difference between Catholic and Protestant Christians. Here we are different from the Arabs in every way. We speak a different language, we have different religions! There’s bound to be a bloody civil war here between those two population groups, and once the Arabs make up 40 per cent of the population, it’s going to be a terrible problem.
Q: You want to throw them out – but where to? If nobody wants to take them, what are you going to do with them? It is very likely that no Arab state is going to accept them.
A: I’m not asking anybody to accept them. I’m going to hold the bridges on the Jordan river; we’ll hold them for two weeks. We’ll evacuate the Arabs and let Jordan go to the United Nations. What I am concerned about is the survival of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and I can’t sit and worry about whether this or that is going to happen.
Q: You once said that if no solution can be found, you’d put them into work camps.
A: I’ve never said that. They are going to have to get out of here. That’s all.
Q: After the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, you wrote that it should have been the Israelis who did it.
A: I said that this was what Israel should have done, not after seizing the camps, but during the actual fighting. The Israeli government was responsible for the deaths of sixty to seventy Israeli soldiers. It is responsible because it sent them inside PLO areas, PLO nests, without the backing of air support, without anything. Not even artillery. It was insanity to send them like that, under the pretext that the civilian population should not be harmed. Plain murder! This is why I said that these ‘civilian’ camps should have been bombed in the first place. Of course, once these camps had been bombed, one should not have killed the survivors.
Q: According to you, where are the exact borders of Eretz Yisrael?
A: The borders that are mentioned in the Bible.
Q: But there are different interpretations among the rabbis…
A: Let me tell you what the minimal borders are, and which the rabbis agree upon, according to the description given in the Bible. The southern boundary goes up to El Arish, which takes in all of northern Sinai, including Yamit. To the east, the frontier runs along the western part of the East Bank of the Jordan river, hence part of what is now Jordan. Eretz Yisrael also includes part of the Lebanon and certain parts of Syria, and part of Iraq, all the way to the Tigris river.
Q: But that would mean perpetual war with the Arabs.
A: There will be a perpetual war. With or without Kahane. It’s not Kahane who wants it. It’s because the Arabs believe that the Jews are thieves. I can understand the Arabs’ point of view. It has nothing to do with what the boundaries are. Whether they’re here or there makes no difference. When Israel accepted the 1947 boundary, the Arabs said no. Then the Arabs would not accept the 1949 boundary, and then the 1967 boundary. The Arabs won’t accept any boundary. The Arabs believe that this country belongs to them, and I can understand them. Therefore there will always be war. It’s not so terrible. It’s nothing exceptional. I’ve served in the army. My son serves in the army. And my son-in-law serves in the army.
Q: So, in your opinion, according to Judaism, violence is legitimate?
A: Everything has its place. The Bible says that there is a time for war and a time for peace. Sometimes the Bible commands Jews to go to war. Sometimes it commands them to live in peace. When you are in danger, then it is an obligation to go to war; you have to go to war. If you are not in danger, then you should not go to war.
Q: As far as your party is concerned, you have said that violence would be political suicide without the support of public opinion in Israel.
A: Absolutely. That’s true. That’s why I tell my people not to use violence. Not for any moral reason, but because it would be stupid to recommend violence. Because once the police arrest them, they will not get the backing of public opinion. You have to know when is the right time to use violence Right now, we have a political opportunity to win ten seats in the Knesset. And at the next elections it is certain that we will be the third largest party in Israel. Then we’ll be a government party.
Q: Is violence between and among Jews legitimate?
A: It depends on the circumstances. For example, if we began a program to move the Arabs out, and there were Jews who opposed this program, even though it was a government law, then we would have to use force against them. That s sad. But they would have to obey.
Q: What would happen if the present government decided to give back all or part of the West Bank? Would you oppose it by force?
A: No. Not by physical force. We would use civil disobedience. We would put up passive resistance, just as we did in Yamit. There’s no question that there’s a real possibility that this may happen and that the Labor Party is ready to do it. I’m convinced that very many Jews would fight that, but, again, not necessarily by resorting to force. But the government will not be in a position to evacuate these places if 50 000 Jews barricade themselves in their houses. Peres will not risk a civil war in the country.
Q: If you say that the realization of Eretz Yisrael is a divine objective, beyond isn’t that the same as saying that this objective lies beyond existing laws?
A: Absolutely! Absolutely! But I know that if we used force against the army, we would lose. No religious commandment orders us to commit suicide in order to have Jewish law. But there can be no doubt whatsoever: according to Jewish law, we have the duty, even the obligation, to use force in order to prevent any government violating the laws of Judaism. Therefore I’ll wait until I’m in command.
Q: Many people in Israel believe that your politics and your program are a provocation and that they help the Left in Israel and the Arabs to form an anti-Israeli front. What do you think about that?
A: The Tehiya also think that, although they too are fighting for the realization of Eretz Yisrael. They are worried that we will take two seats from them in the next elections! That is of course true. They can’t fight us on an ideological or political level; they can’t find any good arguments against us. Because their plan to annex the Territories and the Arabs living there is absurd. Anyway, to answer your question, the non-Zionists have always said that Zionism is a provocation against the Arabs. Obviously it is a provocation. So what? Any nationalism is a provocation to other nationalisms.
Q: Do you expect to come to power through elections alone?
A: Yes… But if you ask me what is going to happen in this country in the near future, I’d answer that things aren’t that simple. The economic problems are so very serious; the government is a fraud, just like every other government. Democracy breeds governments that are fraudulent, because a government which has to rely on its voters for its existence cannot tell the truth. The bitter truth. If they say: ‘We have to cut down on this… we must reduce that… people won t vote for them. Therefore the government has to lie. That’s what democracy is all about! Democracy is like a compost, it nurtures fraud and lies. And it must lead to a dictatorship eventually. Because since a democratic government doesn’t have the courage to take the steps that are needed, problems are bound to get worse, and in the end the people will accept dictatorship. This train of events may happen here, precisely because the majority of people in this country have no experience of democracy. Even without Kahane, democracy means nothing to them. Therefore we might get a dictatorship here, if the unemployment situation gets worse.
Q: In your opinion, who would be the best candidate as a dictator?
A. At this moment, Sharon, without any doubt. He has the best claim. But he is a very, very bad person.
A: He is very bad! I’m not talking about his political views. I don’t judge him according to his views. He’s bad. He’s a liar. He has no moral principles. He has no ideals. He’s capable of doing anything, and I’m just as afraid of him as the Left are.
Q. Then you wouldn’t approve of a dictatorship under Sharon?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Most of your militants are Americans. How do you explain this?
A: That’s not true. Obviously, the 27,000 people who voted for me are not Americans. It’s just another lie they’re spreading about me. I must say that as an immigrant from the United States, I’m not used to the kind of lies they tell in Israel. I’m not used to the corruption, the perversion of truth. Because, in this country, the truth is perverted. Sure, there are Americans in my movement, like there are in all the political parties. But we also have a high percentage of the new Russian immigrants among us. Because these new immigrants see in us a real Zionist movement. We proclaim the centrality of Judaism in this country.
Q: What is your social and economic program?
A: I don’t know what a ‘social program’ means in this world. In terms of economic program, there is no doubt that this country needs to put an end to the clawing fingers of all the bureaucrats. This country has to encourage private enterprise. We need capital. Israel has a unique chance, which you find in no other country. An unbelievable number of Jews of the Diaspora are prepared to help this country and are already helping it. But nobody is prepared to come to Israel to set up a business when he has to crawl at the feet of government officials to get support. Government officials in this country can drive you crazy.
Economic power is the basis of political power. And the establishment, the institutions of Right and Left, all these people who have political power, are not ready to allow the development of free enterprise here. Yet they need private capital. But they want to get it on their own terms. We should do everything to stimulate private investments. We must give incentives to people who want to invest, to build factories here. Factories create new jobs. They create export potential, which will provide the foreign currency, which we so badly need. We must pass laws that release private enterprise from the claws of the Israeli bureaucracy.
Q: So far as economics are concerned, then, you’re a liberal?
A: Yes. That’s my first answer to the question. My second answer is as follows: 98 per cent of the land in this country belongs to the government. Why? The land should be given to young couples so that they can build on it. Keeping land in the hands of the government is typical of the mentality of Eastern Europe.
But I also believe that the state has social obligations. For example, there has to be a minimum wage; this is not enforced here. It’s a disgrace to have young Arabs at the age of 13 or 14 working in Jewish factories. A disgrace! There must be social laws. Judaism is based upon social conscience, on goodness, on generosity. A Jewish state must not have one set of social laws for Jews and another for non-Jews. They must be the same for everybody. Most important, though, this country must be opened up to private investment by the Jews of the Diaspora. Then we would have a tremendous country. And a flourishing one.
This country was created by Jews coming from the dictatorships of Eastern Europe, who had no background whatsoever in concepts of being liberal. In their own way, they were Bolsheviks. This must change.
When these Jews arrived here, they believed that this country was theirs, it was their property. They make me laugh when they talk to me about democracy. How did they treat the Sephardic Jews? When the Sephardis arrived in 1948, they put them into transit camps. And any Sephardic Jew looking for a job had to show his Histadrut card first. Without this card, he didn’t get the job. Would you call it democratic to put young Yemeni Jews into leftist kibbutzim, forcing them not to respect the Sabbath?
These East European Jews have an anti-democratic background. They are the ones who kidnapped members of the Irgun and Stern and turned them over to the British occupation forces; they were the ones who fired on the Altalena, killing nineteen Jews. Rabin was the commander of the operation. So let them not talk to me about their moral principles and their love for the Jews!
Q: Today’s young Israelis are far more attracted by material comforts than by Zionist ideals. Doesn’t this mental attitude work against the establishment of settlements in Judea and Samaria? Is there sufficient pioneer spirit to colonize the West Bank?
A: Were there enough people in the 1920’s who wanted to come to Israel? Today, if we had a government, which was really committed to creating settlements, we wouldn’t have this problem. We don’t have to reproduce the same material conditions as in 1920! We can set up settlements that are more comfortable. If they were given free housing, many young people and young couples would come. The issue you are raising, though, is far more complex and more serious. Western democracy feeds everything that is wrong and sick in human nature. The parties compete with each other in promising people an easy life. The main concept of democracy is that people should believe that they need to have more. There, the only true value is that of wanting more. But that’s exactly what’s happening here. Everyone says that the Sephardic Jews who came to settle in Israel were backward people! Yet these Jews arrived here with very deep values. And these values were taken away from them and replaced by Dizengoff Street values [Tel Aviv’s Oxford Street]. By materialism! It’s really unbelievable! Insane! It’s a sickness! You listen to people talking on u bus. What are they talking about? All they can talk about is money. That’s what this country has made of’ them. This is not a Jewish state. It’s a Hebrew-speaking Portugal that would like to be a Hebrew-speaking Sweden or America. This is our tragedy! And it has to change. Our struggle is not a political struggle; it is an ideological struggle, a struggle of two different concepts of life, two different concepts of the world. We want to create this country with Jewish values. As I have said many times in the Knesset, it is a struggle between the ‘Hellenists’ of our time and the Jews who want to remain Jewish.
Q: In other words, you want to revert to the ideals of the founding fathers of Israel, to the pioneer values of Zionism.
A: No! The founding fathers created this state of affairs without realizing what they were doing. When you take Judaism away from Zionism, when you create a secular Zionism, you create this state of affairs. Secular Zionism – what is that supposed to mean? Why should someone live in a kibbutz? Why? Tell me! If be is taught that the main thing in life is to live better, to have a more comfortable life… for me, life in a kibbutz is not happiness!
The only basic values in life are those which are commanded by G~d. The others are temporary. They may be good for you, but not for me. Certain values may be good for one time but not for another. That’s why the idealistic kibbutz concept of the founding fathers has failed. The kibbutzim have failed. They mean nothing to young people.
Q: Does this mean that you are in favor of a patriarchal state?
A: It means that there must be a state governed by the Torah. Schools must be impregnated by the Torah and the teachings of the rabbis. Maybe I’m going too far: I don’t know to what extent the Sephardic Jews who are supporting me now on the Arab question will Support me in other matters.
Q: You once said that you were more afraid of the Jews than of the Arabs.
A: Yes, that’s true. I know the Arabs. I know how to deal with them. But I can’t throw the Jews out of the country. I can’t do that to them! So the problem is not simple.
Q: What do you think about the other Israeli Parties who try to limit your freedom of action and to marginalize you? There seems to be an anti-Kahane unanimity in the Israeli establishment, ranging from the Left to the Right.
A: As I said before, I raise a terribly painful problem for the Left, when I say that Zionism is completely incompatible with Western democracy, and when I ask: Why be a Jew? Why have a Jewish state? I bother them much more than the communists do. When I raise the issue of a fundamental Jewish state, they realize that it is a basic issue. The Right, to a large extent, has the same problem The Right also has no logical reason to be Jewish. Plus of course, I am taking votes from them. That’s what bothers them most of all. Likud realizes that I’ll take many seats away from them. I’m going to take two seats from the Tehiya too. Therefore they’d rather see me disappear
Q: But even some Israelis who have taken action against the Arabs and who should be sympathizing with you have declared from their prison cells that they have nothing in common with you.
A: Obviously. If people knew that they have links with Kach, they would get a much tougher sentence. I know them very well. I visit them in prison. In private, they most certainly don’t think what you’ve just been saying.
Q: Likud doesn’t seem to have a clearly defined attitude towards you. Shamir, for example, disapproves of your activities, yet he wasn‘t present at the vote to restrict your parliamentary immunity.
A: That’s true. The Likud people are confused. Contrary to them, we have an ideological concept. As a matter of fact, they’re afraid. Because they know that they’d loose even more votes if they voted to get me out of the Knesset.
In fact they don’t know what to do with me. Take that vote restricting my immunity! That was a mistake! When they passed that bill, they doubled the number of my followers.
Q: What kind of relationship do you have with the people of Gush Emunim?
A: A good relationship. We are on excellent terms with Rabbi Levinger. But they are a single-issue movement: the land, the land of Israel. That’s fine. But this country has other problems besides the establishment of settlements: social problems, problems with the Arabs, religious problems. And our party deals with all these problems.
Q: Have members of Kach established settlements in Judea and Samaria?
A: No. The government will not allow us. We have tried to settle there for years, but in vain.
Two years ago, we tried to seize a part of this territory. We settled on a hill. The government was convinced that we wouldn’t be able to hold out through the winter. But we did. Then the army came and forced us out.
Q: How many members are there in the Kach party?
A: Maybe 5-6,000. People here don’t join parties. They vote for a party. Not like in France or the United States. Here, the real power is determined by the number of votes given during elections, by the number of seats in the Knesset. What is important here is knowing whether you are able to take power, to enter the government.
Q: Economically, and to a large extent militarily, Israel depends on the United States. Do you believe that the United States will allow you to apply your program concerning the Arabs?
A: I don’t have to ask the Americans’ approval. The United States, just like any other country in the world, is not ruled by ideals. De Gaulle once said: ‘There are no allies, there are only interests.’ If the United States believes that Israel is in line with its interests, then there’s nothing Israel can’t do. But if the United States thinks differently, then there’s nothing that Israel can do which will have American backing. It’s simply a matter of interests. At the end of World War II, the American government backed Franco. It supported Salazar. It supports Pinochet. Just as France will support any country that buys jet planes from it. And so on. China is now giving its support to such ‘peace loving’ countries as Pakistan.
Your question contains a much deeper and more important aspect, though. Whatever happens to Israel will happen by G~d’s will. I believe in G~d. Most people, even practicing Jews, don’t believe in G~d. They play a game. They pray to G~d but they don’t really believe in the existence of G~d. I, however, I believe that G~d really exists, and that G~d decides what is going to happen. And he decides on the basis of whether we deserve it. The essential concept of Judaism is faith that G~d is stronger, stronger than any government. Yet this country is governed by people who don’t believe in anything, who have no faith. Therefore they are terrified by the Americans. Shultz writes an absolutely disgraceful letter to Peres, telling him to straighten up economic matters in his country. And Peres obeys. We have become a people of beggars who don’t believe in themselves, and certainly don’t believe in G~d. If the Jews believed in G~d, G~d would arrange for America to back Israel. Even Ronald Reagan can’t do as he wishes. He is an instrument in the hands of G~d. And in the end, he is going to do what G~d wants him to do. That’s how a devout Jew should be talking.
If we go on like this, without Kahane – forget Kahane – this country will become a vassal of the United States. And it will give up the West Bank. It will do so if America says: ‘Do it; otherwise you won’t get any more money.
G~d repays blow for blow, measure for measure. Now we are being punished. We do not trust in G~d. We looked to Washington. Now we have to pay the price. If I was prime minister, I’d talk to Washington exactly as I’m talking to you. I’d say: ‘Stop bothering me. Next time you want to find out how your P16 performs in combat, I’ll tell you to find somebody else to tell you; and if you want a captured Soviet T72 tank from us, I’ll tell you to find someone else to capture one.’ That’s how I would talk to the Americans. And after that, I’d go to the synagogue to pray.
Q: In 1968, you created the Jewish Defense League in the United States, to defend the poor Jews against the Blacks.
A: No. Not necessarily against the Blacks. Against anybody who attacked them. The ones who were attacking them happened to be black, but I’d have done the same thing if they had been blond Swedes.
Q: Didn’t you create this League because you had special problems with the Blacks in the United States?
A: I have problems neither with the Blacks, nor with the Whites, nor with the Yellows, nor with the Greens. I have problems only with anti-Semites.
Q: Do you think that your actions abroad against the Soviet Union produced results?
A: There’s not the slightest doubt. The exodus of Jews from the USSR started in 1968-69 because the problems of these Jews were making headline news thanks to our actions. Before that, nobody knew that such a dramatic problem existed.
We wanted to threaten the détente between the United States and the USSR. The Russians, of course, weren’t afraid of the Jewish Defense League. But the actions of the League threatened detente, and that is what the Russians were afraid of.
The USSR is not Luxemburg, don’t forget that. When the ambassador of Luxemburg is beaten up in the streets, it’s not very serious. But if the first secretary of the Soviet Embassy is beaten up in the streets of New York, it is a humiliation to a superpower, and they then recall their ambassador.
The USSR had to react. But how could it react best? What did it need most of all? Science, technology, foreign currency, wheat, or keeping the Jews? For the USSR, it was better to let the Jews go. That’s exactly what happened.
Q: But emigration of Russian Jews has come to an end.
A: It came to an end because the Jewish Defense League stopped its actions.
Q: Does the League no longer exist?
A: It still exists, but it hasn’t done much during the past seven or eight years. It is no longer what it used to be. Therefore, obviously, you could say that the actions of the League have influenced the position of Jews emigrating from the USSR.
I’ll say it again: thanks to the League, the problem made the headlines. If you want to solve a problem, you must first let people know that it exists. This was the first step. The second step was to give the Jews inside the USSR an enormous amount of support. They finally became aware of the fact that other Jews, outside of the USSR, cared about them. The worst thing for a prisoner is not knowing whether anybody cares about him. The third step was to push the other Jewish organizations into doing things. The so-called extremists are the ones who push moderate people into doing things that they would never have done otherwise.
Q: Have you given up the League now?
A: No. But now I live in Israel, and it is very difficult to lead an organization that is located in the United States. Any activist group must have a very strong leader. People who come into this kind of organization are violent people. They must be strictly kept in hand. You have to know how to calm them down. And it is not easy to find people in the United States who are capable of filling this role. Leaders don’t grow on trees. Officially, I’m still the head of the League. But in practical terms it is difficult for me to run it from here.
Q: But aren’t you sharing your time between Israel and the United States?
A: Yes. Out of every five weeks, I spend one week in the United States. But to run the League, I would have to be in the States full-time. Otherwise it’s not going to work.
Q: The League was created to defend the Jews of the Diaspora. But why do they need to be defended when they have succeeded so well everywhere, except perhaps in the USSR?
A: If you had analyzed the situation of the Jews during the 1920s, you would have come to the same conclusion. From 1820 to 1920, you could have demonstrated by a graph that the situation of the Jews was constantly improving. Liberalism was in the ascendant.
Fraternity too. If, in 1925, somebody had said: ‘In twenty years from now, one third of European Jews will have been massacred,’ he would have been called insane. The reason why the situation of the Diaspora is good today is because the world economic situation seems to be good. In reality, the world is heading for an economic collapse of monumental proportions Western Europe is already beginning to suffer today and tomorrow it’s going to have the same problems as Israel. Nobody can spend more money than he makes. If you’re an individual, the bank will stop giving you loans within a day. A city can go on a little longer, but in the end it will collapse. Then we are going to be faced with a terrible wave of and-Semitism. Worse than in Germany.
Why? Because the West is like a drug addict. The West is addicted to materialism. A person in the Western world who loses his house or his car turns into an animal. And since everybody believes that all Jews are Rothschilds, that they are obviously and even ostentatiously rich, so Jews are going to be the main target of people’s hatred. Anybody can detect anti-Semitism when it is already there. But not everybody has the ability to foresee anti-Semitism tomorrow. The Talmud says: ‘The wise man can foresee the future.’ Therefore we have to be wise.
I’ll add this: according to Judaism, according to the rabbis, G~d does not want Jews to live in foreign countries. He wants them to go home. And if they refuse to go home, they risk having to pay for it with a great tragedy.
This state of Israel came into being not because Jews wanted it, but because they had no other choice. Without the holocaust, there wouldn’t have been a state of Israel. The overwhelming majority of Jews came into this country because they had no choice. As soon as a Jew has a choice, he doesn’t come here. Or, what’s even worse, he leaves here. Jews here have forgotten that they had no other choice.
Q: You have an apocalyptic view of the Jews’ destiny.
A: Yes, of course, for the time being. But in the end, I have a beautiful vision, because then the Messiah will come.
Q: Have you been working to set up a concrete and effective organization for the Jews of the Diaspora to defend themselves?
Q: You have been accused, for example, of having smuggled weapons all round the world in order to arm the Jews.
A: Yes, I’ve done that.
A: Because I can’t say to the Jews: ‘If you don’t want to go to Israel, so much the worse for you, there’s nothing I can do for you.’ I can’t do that.
I have to tell them: ‘Jews, get out!’ That’s the only thing I have to tell them. However, I also say: ‘If you can’t leave, I have an obligation to help you; and perhaps then, in the meantime, you will realize that emigrating to Israel is the only right thing to do.’
So, in any event, I have to warn the Jews of the potential danger. I can’t just sit back and say to myself: ‘If they don’t want to listen to me, I won’t help them.’
This is why I created the Jewish Defense League, and our motto ‘Never Again’ does not mean that ‘it’ will never happen again. That would be nonsense. It means that if it happens again, it won’t happen in the same way. Last time, the Jews behaved like sheep.
Q: Are you still helping the Jews of the Diaspora to get organized?
A: Absolutely, yes. That’s the reason, by the way, why I’m barred from Canada, Belgium and England. Someone is trying to organize a trip to France for me. Up to now I’ve not been barred from France…
Q: It won’t take long, though!
A: …It’s a pity, because in Canada, we have a very strong section of the JDL, surprisingly. There’s another one in England. There was also one in France, but now several other Jewish self-defense groups have been set up there, which are excellent.
Q: You must be talking of the Betar…
A: No, I’m talking about the organization headed by a lawyer…
Q: Where do you get our money from?
A: We get very substantial support from the American Jews. Many rich Jews give me a lot of money, but they won’t admit it openly.
Q: I believe you once had links with the Mafia..
A: That’s absolutely right.
Q: With Colombo?
A: Yes, with Colombo. But you couldn’t really call it ‘links’.
Q: What was the connection, then?
A: At that time, Colombo was faced with several lawsuits. Most members of the Mafia have never realized how important public relations are. But he did. And that’s the reason why he was killed.
Colombo had decided to create a civil rights movement for Americans of Italian descent. He needed to establish contacts with other ethnic groups, not just Jews, but others too. He didn’t know much about the Jews. So he asked around who was the most popular rabbi in America. Somebody told him about Kahane. Not that I was exactly popular… At that time, many rabbis were already against me. Colombo turned up in the following manner: thirteen of our people were being brought up for trial and we needed bail money. He gave us the necessary money. He did it for a very simple reason: to win sympathy among the Jews. His group took part in demonstrations for the Jews in the Soviet Union. He was on American television, saying that the Italian Americans backed the rights of Jews in the USSR. As for us, we never did anything for him, apart from the fact that by helping us, he strengthened his own cause.
I’d take help from anybody. If the state of Israel took help from Joseph Stalin, then I could take help from Joe Colombo. That’s all there is to my relationship with the Mafia. You can’t really call it ‘links’.
Q: But did you help each other in illicit arms deals?
A: We certainly did.
Q: Didn’t you have another name before 1965?
A: Yes, I was called Michael King.
Q: Did you work for the FBI then?
A: Yes, I worked for the FBI.
Q: What can you tell us about that period?
A: Together with a friend of mine, I worked in a small research group in Washington. At that time, the FBI wanted to get more information about the actions of the right wing, not just the left wing, movements. The FBI came to see us, knowing that we were Jewish, and offered us a contract. Our work consisted of infiltrating the John Birch Society, and I was very keen on doing it, because it was an extreme-Right, anti-Semitic and very dangerous movement. I infiltrated them over a period of three years. I had a new name, a new address, etc….
Q: So you were an underground FBI agent in the Birch Society?
A: I became a member of the organization and was able to discover the source of their funding. It was a great service rendered to the Jewish cause. Since 1965-66, the John Birch Society has been reduced to nothing.
Q: Are you going to write a book about this experience?
A: I’m not going to write any kind of biography; all biographies are the height of egoism. Whenever I have some time, I sit and study the Torah. If I had the time to write, I’d write about the Torah. Not about myself.
Q: So you infiltrated the John Birch Society. But we’ve heard that you also infiltrated left-wing movements.
A: That’s not true.
Q: You helped the FBI against student movements opposing the Vietnam War…
A: That’s not right. Granted, I was a strong defender of the Vietnam War. But I did not work for the FBI in this connection.
At that time I believed, and I still believe it, that a weak America is a bad thing for Israel. The only power that protects the free world from the Soviet Union is America. In my opinion, no other superpower of the size of America has done as good a job as America. It has the means to conquer, to take over the world, but it hasn’t.
The problem with the Vietnam War was not whether it was a good or a bad war. The problem was that a defeat for the United States would have given rise to a hostile movement in the United States against sending troops to any other part of the world. Unfortunately that’s what happened, and now we feel the consequences of this reaction. I never fought against leftist movements. All these rumors are absurd.
Many of the things that were written about me at that time aren’t true.
Q: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? You have been a rabbi, and you were dismissed…
A: Unlike France, America does not have a consistory that deals with this problem centrally. In America, you have total anarchy: a few people can get together and decide to create a synagogue. And they create synagogues not so much for religious reasons, but more for social, almost mundane reasons. All right, some Jews created a synagogue. They needed a rabbi. They hired me for the ceremonies, weddings, funerals, etc…. I had a lot of influence on the children; they liked me. Because of me, the children started to practice the religion, to observe the Sabbath. This really upset the parents. The children started eating kosher food, but their parents’ homes were not kosher. Therefore I was dismissed from the synagogue. The people still liked me. They said to me: ‘Rabbi, please stay! Just stop converting our children!’ I couldn’t accept that condition, and resigned.
Anyway. I no longer wanted to be a rabbi. It’s not the right job for a good Jewish boy.
Q: But to he a lawyer is a good job for a good Jewish boy. Why didn’t you practice law, then?
A: I studied law because I wanted to serve in the Foreign Ministry here. That’s why I did my degree in international law. But I couldn’t join the Foreign Ministry because I wasn’t a member of the Labor Party…
Anyway, I never dreamed that I would be doing what I’m doing now. I didn’t have the least idea.
Q: Didn’t you plan your political career?
A: No. When I was in the United States, I was the editor of the Jewish Press; that’s where the idea came to me to create the Jewish Defense League. As editor of the Jewish Press, I heard about many things that were not printed in the newspapers. That’s when I decided to create the League.
Q: Why did you wait until 1971 before settling in Israel?
A: I did not wait! As a matter of fact, I had planned to go to Israel as soon as I was done with my FBI job, in 1966. But I didn’t have the money. I had to go to work to make money. I had to put it off. Then, in 1968, I created the Jewish Defense League.
They told me that the League would collapse if I left then. Which was true, by the way. Another three years went by. By that time I had children and I was afraid they would speak Hebrew with an accent. So then I decided to leave. For the League, it was a big mistake. But for me, the time had come to go to Israel.
Q: Why do you keep your American passport?
A: For obvious reasons. I can’t go to Canada as it is. And if I no longer had my American passport, I wouldn’t be able to go to the United States either. That’s the only reason.
Q: Besides religion and politics, do you have any hobbies? You like baseball, don’t you?
A: I love baseball. I’m a great sports fan, but I no longer have time for things like that. When I have time, my greatest pleasure is to sit down and study the Torah. It is an extraordinary intellectual challenge.
When I’m in the States, I sometimes go to watch a game. But I don’t have many opportunities any more. You can’t imagine how I loved sport.
Q: Do you believe that you have reason to fear for your personal safety?
A: Definitely. And the police often warn me that they have found out about a planned action against me. In this respect, the police do a good job.
Q: But where do these threats come from? The Arabs?
A: No. From Jews.
Q: What kind of Jews?
A: Leftist Jews. The media are responsible for inflaming such poison and hatred against me! There must be a dozen leftist Jews who really believe that they would be doing a wonderful thing if they killed me.
Q: Do you know of any particular case, of a serious assassination attempt?
A: No, not in Israel. But in the United States I received a letter bomb. It was a miracle-my secretary got suspicious. Really a miracle! You see, in the United States it’s not like in Israel, there was no reason to get suspicious.
There hasn’t been a serious attempt here in Israel. I don’t know why. Of course, I take steps to protect myself. But if a person is really determined or crazy enough to try something against me, there’s nothing I can do to stop him. You can’t stop someone who is determined. So I don’t sit and worry about my personal safety.
Q: You said a while ago that if the government had the least bit of evidence that you had participated in acts of violence, it would arrest you. The government, however, says that it doesn’t want to give you the opportunity for a political trial, which would only mean more publicity for you.
A: I think that they’re right, from their point of view. I can understand them.
I never cry about what people do to me. In this world, you give and you take. You have to expect occasionally to take blows. That’s alright.
Q: Let’s get back to the Jewish Defense League. You say it is no longer active?
A: On the contrary, it is active. In November 1984, we organized a large demonstration in America for Jews in the Soviet Union. We blocked the traffic on the streets. And I was arrested. So you see, the League is still active. But not as much as when it was in the news every single day, every single night. There were bombings of Soviet agencies. It was really unbelievable!
Q: So the League will never again be what it was?
A: I don’t know. But nothing grows out of a vacuum. The League grew and developed out of a period of activism. The anti-Vietnam War protests, the Black Panthers, etc. This kind of activism no longer exists. Students study seriously. They sit and worry about their pensions. It’s terrible, but that’s the way it is. And since this is no longer a time for activism, it is not surprising that Jewish students no longer take to the streets. I used to have no problem finding thousands of students to take to the streets. Now to get just 300 is an extraordinary feat. Therefore we have to wait until general conditions improve.
Q: You have been accused of once having planned an attack on the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
A: No. That wasn’t an attack. I wanted to fix a mezuzah to the Damascus Gate. People were furious, of course. But as far as I am concerned, this gate is Jewish.
After the massacre of the Israeli athletes in Munich, I was accused in Israel of having sent out arms and people to attack Libyan embassies. This is correct. We planned to attack the Libyan Embassy in Brussels. The people in charge of this mission did arrive in the Belgian capital, but the ammunition was seized at the airport here. And they arrested me and Paglin, a former member of the Irgun. We received a suspended prison sentence.
Q: The Israeli government seems to treat you with indulgence. Usually, people who are caught smuggling arms receive a much higher penalty.
A: I don’t believe at all that they are indulgent. Take the Gush Emunim movement, for example. The government is very dose to them. Nevertheless, it inflicts heavy sentences on them. To each his paranoia! You never treat people you don’t like very correctly! To this day, people here believe that I am an agent of the FBI. Yet I spent one year in prison in the United States. But I won’t lower myself to reply to nonsense. The Israeli government has arrested me so many times, so many times. Once they even put me in prison for eight and a half months on an administrative warrant, not even after a trial. You can’t say that I am one of their friends.
Q: In your dreams, how do you visualize the Middle East?
A: If the Jewish people do what G~d wants, if they return to Israel, and if they come back to being what G~d wants them to be, then the Messiah will come. At that time, we’ll have peace not only in the Middle East, but all over the world.
Q: Then there will be no peace before the advent of the Messiah?
A: No way. We can’t have peace any other way. A rabbi once said: ‘To deceive other people is a terrible thing, but to deceive oneself is a crime.’
We can’t have peace here. The Arabs sincerely believe-and I can understand them-that Haifa belongs to them, and Tel Aviv, and Jaffa, not just Judea and Samaria. They sincerely believe-and, again, I can understand them-that this country belongs to them. In 1948, 80,000 Arabs lived in Jaffa. There were 70,000 in Haifa, and 50,000 in Ramleh and in Lod. They want to go back home. They don’t want to go to Nablus. Or to Jericho. They want to return home. Up until the last elections they believed that they would be able to return home within ten years.
Now everybody is nervous. I have no doubt that I will soon be in the government. And everybody knows that I’m going to have a say in what has got to happen. Everything I’m telling you now, I’ve been saying for twenty years, and I’ll say it again tomorrow.
The biggest error would be to believe that once Kahane gets into power, he’d be more moderate; that’s not true at all.
I’m bound by the Halacha as much as by the obligation of the Sabbath. Just as I’m not going to stop respecting the Sabbath, I’m not going to stop saying what I am saying to you now.
Q: Some people thought that according to the Cabala the year 1984 was to he an apocalyptic year. What is your opinion?
A: I’m not making any forecasts. I believe in what I told you before. Who cares whether it’s 1984, 1985, 1986 or 1988? What is certain is that very soon terrible things are going to happen, and also beautiful things. I want the beautiful things to happen; I want to prevent the terrible things. Will I succeed? That all depends on the people here.
Q: Do you believe in the wisdom of the masses?
A: There is wisdom and there is stupidity in the masses. I don’t like to generalize. The masses can be intelligent and have a lot of common sense. There is a lot of common sense in people who lead a common, uneventful life. But the masses don’t have a lot of imagination. Intellectuals do, but they have very little common sense.
My own life is a mixture of the two. I was raised in a neighborhood where there weren’t many Jews and where I used to fight with non-Jews daily. Later they became my friends. Because when you fight with people, you end up friends. We used to drink beer together. I learned what life is all about, in the streets, and at the same time I went to yeshiva and university. I think that’s a good mixture.
I’m not a great fan of the masses. I know that they don’t have what intellectuals have, but I also know that they have what intellectuals don’t have. And I’ve found a kind of mixture of the two.
Q: You say that you’re not a racist, yet you are against mixed marriages.
A: It’s hot that I’m against them. This is the opinion of every single rabbi. The tragedy is that the rabbis don’t have the courage to say it out loud, although now it has become a very serious problem.
Q: In what way?
A: It’s not only the marriages. There are also many people just living together. Many, many thousands of Jews live together with non-Jews. In every Arab village in Israel, you find Jewish women married to Arabs. According to Jewish law, the children of these couples are Jewish. But they consider themselves Arabs.
The Halacha forbids such unions. Therefore I’m raising a very sensitive issue, because there is a contradiction between Judaism and Western thought. That’s what bothers them. When the government proposes its own bill to condemn racism, I’ll vote for it. Because I’m against any form of racism. Racism means, for example, that I can say to another person that I am much more important than he is, and that he can never be like me. This is happening right now, in South Africa: when you’re black, you can’t become white. Therefore, you’re inferior. This is what I call racism.
Judaism says: of course we have the truth. G~d gave us the truth; the Jews are a chosen people. But anyone who wants to be part of the chosen people is welcome. All he has to do is become Jewish. Therefore the government will have to be very careful when drafting this bill. Because Judaism is diametrically at odds with Western democracy, absolutely incompatible.
This is what I tell the government: if you want to condemn Judaism, all right, do it. But don’t call it Kahanism. Call it by its right name. But they don’t have the courage to do that.
Q: Did you want to go to the Arab town of Taibeh in order to declare war on mixed marriages?
A: Not at all! I didn’t want to go to Taibeh. I’m not crazy. I only made this declaration to have all the newspaper reporters go there. I succeeded; they all went there!
Q: What are your intentions concerning all these mixed couples?
A: The problem is not only the mixed couples; I want to get rid of all the Arabs living in Israel.
Obviously, nothing can be done about the mixed couples, except encouraging them to separate. The overwhelming majority of women who have married Arabs are Sephardis. It’s only a small number of Ashkenazi girls who meet Arabs on college campuses or in the kibbutzim. It’s a small minority. The overwhelming majority consists of poor Sephardic girls. They are attracted by Arab boys because they have cars, money, etc….
We have to go and tell these girls: your ancestors lived in Morocco for hundreds of years, in Yemen for over 2,000 years, and never during all these years have there been mixed marriages. And here, because of these miserable Ashkenazis-I’m an Ashkenazi-who have been polluted and corrupted by Western democracy, here you have become what your parents and grandparents have never been, now you are doing what your parents and grandparents never did.
The tragedy, I would say to them, if I had a chance to talk to them, is not only what you are doing to your own lives; you have children, so you re not only deciding about your own lives, but about the lives of your children, and the children of your children, etc…. It is a chain that goes far back in time, and far ahead. We all are links of the same chain.
Q: You want to punish mixed marriages…
A: I want to make mixed marriages a crime. Why should it be alright to punish people who don’t pay their income tax? Or people who drive through a traffic light? Mixed marriages are much more important to Judaism than these matters. Our future is at stake.
Take our president, whose name is Herzog. He is so terribly British! There is so little Jewish about him, really! In June 1984, an international conference was held in Israel against assimilation and mixed marriages in the Western world. During this conference, our president came up and spoke against assimilation and mixed marriages. I wrote a letter to him, complimenting him on his magnificent speech and telling him that I’d like to discuss the problem with him and that I would be most pleased if he had the same attitude towards assimilation and mixed marriages in Israel. He answered that he didn’t believe that Israel had a problem. I don’t like dishonest people like that. I don’t care what a person’s political views are. If they want to be leftist, that’s alright with me; but they should be honest leftists!
Q: What kind of punishment would you propose for mixed couples?
A: That’s up to the courts and the law.
Q: You must have an idea…
A: It makes no difference whether they get a six-month prison sentence or a 100-shekel fine. What matters is that mixed marriages must be considered a crime. The true problem here is, I say it again, that young Israelis here don’t know who they are; they have no identity. They don’t know what their Jewishness is, because of a secular Zionism, which has failed, which has been bankrupt since its very beginnings.
By its very nature, secular Zionism cannot provide any Jew with a reason to be Jewish. At best, it can provide him with a reason to be an Israeli. Which is absurd, as Arabs can also be Israelis. Like anybody else.
Q: Some rabbis who disagree with you admit that the Bible forbids mixed marriages, but they also consider that the Bible is an anachronistic document from a firmer age, and that you have to move with the times.
A: I have argued with such a lot of rabbis! If a rabbi doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of G~d, then he doesn’t believe in G~d. He’s a ‘reformed’ rabbi. He should stop talking about the Bible. I don’t even know why he calls himself Jewish. Again: a person who doesn’t believe in the Bible but insists that he is Jewish is a racist. He should just call himself a human being. Period!
I am not a racist. I am a Jew. How can these rabbis know that such-and-such a rule was good for times past, but not for today? I believe that the Bible is the word of G~d, and that it is valid for all times. The only people who can argue about the Bible with me are people who believe in the Bible.
Q: Can you tell us how many mixed marriages there are in Israel at the present time?
A: No. According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, there are about 7-8,000 mixed marriages with Arabs. In most cases, these are Jewish women married to Arabs. You seldom find a Jewish man married to an Arab woman. This figure does not include the thousands of Jews who are living together with Arabs. And it’s going to get worse. Until very recently, it was not at all common practice to have Arabs live in Jewish towns. Today it is very common; once the barriers are broken down, the number of mixed marriages is bound to increase. Many people say: so what? But I say that if you are Jewish, and if you want to remain Jewish, then it’s a serious problem.
Q: Some rabbis give different interpretations of the Halacha, especially the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yossef Ovadia; they believe that human life is holier than land, and that human life must not be endangered to conquer a hill. What do you think about that?
A: If you follow this logic, we might just as well give up the idea of a Jewish state. Of course, if you want to have peace, there is a very simple solution. Do away with Israel and there will no longer be war.
As a matter of fact, the press has distorted what this rabbi is saying. I know what he is thinking. He has said: ‘We don’t have the right to give up any land that has been won back. But if it means endangering the lives not only of a few, but of thousands, then it must be given back.’
And I might add the following: how do you know that we would have peace if we returned part of the land? Rabbi Ovadia therefore has spoken in general terms, but he didn’t say that we have to give back the land. Of course, human life must be respected. The rabbi says that if we could guarantee that we’d have peace by returning part of the land, then yes, we should give it back. We don’t have this guarantee at the present time.
In general, I disagree with Rabbi Ovadia with respect to the Halacha. I sent him the manuscript of a book I’ve written; unfortunately, he answered in the terms you’ve just mentioned.
Q: Rabbi Yossef Ovadia goes even further. He says that the Israelis should talk with the Palestinians in order to find a solution.
A: I’d talk to anybody, any time. I’ve always been against Begin’s principle of not talking with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization].
Q: Is that true?
A: Yes, of course. I’ll tell you why. It’s very dangerous to believe that the PLO is different from other Arab representatives. As a matter of fact, all of them are pro-PLO. Begin created the concept of the ‘moderate Arab’. There are no moderate Arabs. There are clever Arabs and stupid Arabs. Clever Arabs don’t say what they mean. I’d love to know what Rabbi Ovadia would have thought had he been in Israel in 1948, when Ben-Gurion proclaimed the state of Israel. Thousands of Jews were killed during the war that broke out afterwards.
Would he have said then what he says today? Again, nothing bothers me so much as the lack of consistency, of logic and honesty in people’s minds.
Q: In 1984, the Rabbinic Council cited Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Kook, who was in favor off fraternal relations between Jews and Arabs. Wasn’t that implicitly condemning you?
A: I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what he would have said if he had been around during the wars against the Arabs. This brings me back to what I said about people’s contempt for the Arabs. The Arabs do not want peace. They want a country. And Zionism is not here to bring peace. It is here to create a Jewish state, and peace, of course, if at all possible. My main objective is a Jewish state, with or without peace.
Anyway, doesn’t everybody want peace with the Arabs? I want peace with the Arabs, but on my terms. And the Arabs also want peace, but on their terms. Their terms and my terms are not the same. And Rabbi Kook’s terms probably weren’t the same either. The problem with rabbis is that when they stop talking like rabbis, they start talking like rabbits.
Q: You wanted to go to Hebron to celebrate the assassination of Fahd Qawasmeh [the former mayor]. Doesn’t the Bible prohibit rejoicing in the death of others, even if they are enemies?
A: In the Megila Tractate, the Talmud relates the story of King Ahasuerus: the king called his first minister Haman, asking him to have Mordecai get on the king’s horse. So Haman went to see Mordecai, who had been fasting for three days, and who told him: ‘I am too weak to get on a horse.’ So Haman bent down, and Mordecai kicked him. That’s what the Talmud says.
Yes, of course the Bible says not to rejoice over a fallen enemy. But when this enemy is the enemy of the Jewish people, it’s a different matter: we have to rejoice, even in their holy places.
Many Jews talk about Judaism although they know absolutely nothing about it.
So, let’s talk about Qawasmeh… he was some kind of moderate?! He was a member of the Palestine National Council. You can’t call him a moderate, not when his four children wore uniforms on the day of his funeral!
Nobody would have blamed me for proposing a toast to his death if he had been a Nazi. And the Jews, when the Nazi criminals were hanged after the Nuremberg trials, didn’t they drink a toast and say: ‘Lehayim!’ (‘To Life’)?
My line is honest and clear.
Q: You have said that you respect Khomeini. In what way do you respect him?
A: It’s not really a matter of respect. If Khomeini succeeds in combating effectively prostitution and drug abuse, then he is doing a good thing. When he’s saying that there shouldn’t be anarchy in the world, that’s a good thing. But of course, if he then does the horrible things everybody says, then it is a terrible thing.
Q: You said that you are not a racist. Yet, when speaking about the Arabs, you use very racist terms, terms that are offensive. You have said, for example, that Arabs breed like rabbits. Wouldn’t you call that a racist term?
A: No! I sincerely wish the Jews would make babies like rabbits. This figure of speech was meant to explain that Arabs make many babies and that it is a threat to us. Pakistanis have many children; it doesn’t bother me. G~d bless them! And if the Arabs want to have many babies – outside of Israel – G~d bless them!
Q: Before coming into power and being in a position to institute your program, you probably have a minimum program. Can you talk about it?
A: The first bill, which I presented to the Knesset, has nothing to do with the Arabs. Because my first project is to change the school system in Israel, inasmuch as the major part of studies should be devoted to Judaism. This is my main concern. This is the only way to save us and explain to the Jews that they must be Jewish.
As for the Arabs, I would like Social Security matters to be taken out of the hands of the government and handed to the Jewish Agency. It is a private organization and it will make payments only to Jewish people. It’s insanity, paying Arabs for making children! The Jews must be clinically insane to have such a system.
I also think that the Arabs should do three years of National Service. Not in the army, of course. But they could build roads, etc. I want to make life hard for them. I want them to think: ‘It makes no sense to go on living here; let’s take our compensation payment and leave.’
Q: You also want to prohibit non-Jews front living in Jerusalem, and to have segregated beaches for Jews and non-Jews?
A: That’s right.
Q: But that’s apartheid!
A: No, it’s not apartheid. The segregation I propose is restricted to the beaches. I don’t want it on the buses, for example. The reason why I propose this bill is that Arabs don’t go to the beaches for the sun and for the water, they go there for the girls. Because they can’t find any girls in the Arab villages, and Arab fathers won’t let their daughters have fun at the beaches.
Q: What about Jerusalem?
A: I have not invented this interdiction for the non-Jews. It’s written in the Talmud. You wouldn’t believe it, but when I talked about this project, everybody all over the world acted as if Meir Kahane had discovered America! I can’t help it if it is written in the Talmud. What can I do about it?
Q: Is it true that you want the Omar Mosque to be destroyed?
A: I want to move the Arabs out from the two mosques on Temple Mount. The Arabs have no right to be there. Can you imagine what the Muslims would have said if the Jews had gone to Mecca and built a synagogue on the Kaaba, the holy site of Islam? The Temple Mount is not a holy site of Islam; it is the holiest site in all of Judaism. I want the Arabs to get out of there. I don’t want to blow up the mosque. But I want them out at there.
Q: But if somebody blew up the mosque, would you applaud it?
A: I certainly would.
Q: What would you say if a non-Jewish state imposed on Jews the same things that you want to impose on non-Jews here?
A: I’d be very happy. I’d even pay them to do it. It’s the only way to get the Jews to come here.
Q: Then you approve of the racist measures the Soviets have used against Jews?
A: I sincerely hope they do to their Jews what I want to do to the Arabs. I really wish they would expel all their Jews tomorrow. That’s what I shouted at Wilner of Rakah [Communist Party].
Q: But Rabbi Hillel has said: ‘Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you.’
A: Yes, he said that. But he was talking about private quarrels, quarrels among neighbors. He wasn’t thinking of one people hating another. Besides, if you follow this logic, the Tsahal should never bomb Arabs. Because we don’t want to get bombed. This is neither the right time nor the right place to apply such rules.
Q: Do you personally resort to violence?
A: Yes. And I have been arrested several times. Outside of Israel, I have been arrested for having bombed Soviet agencies. I have spent one year in prison in the United States.
Q: And what do you think about murders among Jews, for example the killing of Emil Grunzweig, one of the Peace Now activists?
A: Terrible… If he really was murdered. But nobody knows, nobody knows yet; there have been a lot of rumors… But if he really was killed by a Jew, it would be a terrible, a tragic incident; this Jew should be brought to trial and sentenced. You don’t do that to a Jew.
Q: In other words, you’d never resort to violence against a Jew? Not even against a communist Jew?
A: If a Jew used violence against me, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t retaliate. J3ut we certainly wouldn’t be the ones to start using violence against Jews.
Q: A few years ago, a bomb was left in the offices of a Jewish impresario in New York, Sol Hurok; this bomb killed a Jewish secretary. The Jewish Defense League was implicated in this terrorist act.
A: In Jerusalem too, there was the bomb attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, which caused the deaths of seventy Jews. A terrible tragedy, which Begin himself had provoked. Unfortunately, when there is war, certain tragic events can’t be avoided.
At the time of the bomb attack you mentioned, I was here, and I learned about the incident through a phone call from America. It was terrible for me. But what can I do about it? Hurok wasn’t only a Jew. He was also bringing over Soviet culture to America. A very dangerous culture for us. Because after having seen a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet, you can’t have bad feelings for the Russians, because it’s so beautiful. And the same is true when you hear the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The Russians certainly don’t send their groups and orchestras to America solely for the artistic pleasure of the Americans. They use them as a political instrument. I met Hurok twice, in 1969 and in 1970. And I told him: you are 86 years old; for once in your life, do something for the Jewish people. You have so much money! You have more money than G~d could give you… Stop these tours! And he answered with his Yiddish accent, his thick Yiddish accent: ‘I can’t do that.’
Therefore, unfortunately, there was that bomb attack. It was not an explosive bomb. It was a smoke bomb. And I don’t know how this poor Jewish girl died. A terrible tragedy. But these things happen! During the last Lebanon war, our own planes bombed our tanks and killed forty Israeli soldiers. It’s a terrible thing. What can we do about it?
Q: Is it true that you want the army to execute terrorists on the spot, when they capture them?
A: Definitely! On the spot! On the spot! Right away! Just as we would have done with the Nazis.
I can’t imagine anyone getting angry with me if’ I had ordered Nazis to be killed on the spot during World War II. Terrorists must be made aware of the fate that awaits them when they get caught, and maybe they’ll think twice before starting an action. I know these people. I’ve been in prison with terrorists in this country. (This country is sick-in jail they put you together with terrorists.) The terrorists were laughing. And I want everybody who is about to commit a terrorist act to know that he will be killed as soon as he is caught.
Q: Do you accept non-religious Jews in your Kach movement?
A: Most voters for my party are not religious. Most members living outside of this city – this is a religious city – are non-observing Jews.
Q: Does that create a problem?
A: If it’s not a problem for them, then it’s not a problem for me. They accept our program for certain reasons.
The Jewish Defense League, for example, was open to everybody. Kach is and will remain open to everybody. A Jew is a Jew and I don’t care what he thinks.