Photo Credit: Baruch Marzel
Baruch Marzel

Baruch Marzel is a perhaps the most famous far right-wing activist in the world. The right-hand man of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane when he was an MK (1984-1988), Marzel is now running for Knesset next year with the Otzma Yehudit party, having narrowly missed entering the Knesset in previous elections.

Marzel is a resident of the Tel Rumeida section of Chevron and the father of nine. “I would like to have more than nine kids,” Marzel says in a short 2016 documentary made about him, “but unfortunately that’s what G-d gave us.” He recently spoke to The Jewish Press from Israel.

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The Jewish Press: What policies does Otzma Yehudit stand for?

Marzel: It stands for the same things Rabbi Kahane taught us – not to give one inch of the Land of Israel, not to give one inch of Torah, and not to give up on one Jew anywhere in the world. That’s one side. The second side is to fight the enemy and expel it from Israel.

Who’s leading the party?

Dr. Michael Ben Ari and I. But who’s leading it is not the important issue. The ideology is what’s important.

Why should a right-wing voter vote for Otzma Yehudit over other nationalist parties like Zehut – led by Moshe Feiglin – for example?

We are the only group that never changed its platform. We are loyal to the same exact things we were loyal to 30 and 40 years ago. We never said [as Feiglin did, that working through] Likud is the way to bring the redemption of Am Yisrael.

What are your chances of making it into the Knesset?

We’re getting stronger every day. Everyone in Israel feels Otzma Yehudit everywhere. There’s no doubt that we’re the strongest group outside the Knesset today.

You ran in several previous elections and came up just short of making it into the Knesset. Why do you think that won’t happen again?

We got 126,000 votes last time. We needed a little bit more than 130,000. We’ll have to join maybe with another group. We’ll see. We’re open to everything except compromising our ideology.

In 2015, you had to make some sort of statement disassociating yourself from Rabbi Kahane so that the Supreme Court would allow you to run for Knesset? Were you telling the truth? Did you just say whateve you needed to say to run? Have you, in fact, abandoned Rabbi Kahane’s ideas?

Rabbi Kahane is illegal in Israel, but we’re doing everything in a legal way. We’re not against the Arabs because they’re Arabs. We’re against our enemy. Any race that fights the Jewish people we’ll fight him and throw him out of Israel. That’s what Rabbi Kahane thought, and that’s what we think.

But didn’t you declare before the Supreme Court that you no longer believe in Rabbi Kahane’s ideology?

No. They tried to make me to say it, but I said, “Ask me about my views and I’ll tell you,” and everything I said was legitimate. I’m the most kosher candidate. I got a hechsher twice by the ultra-left Supreme Court.

Suppose you got in the Knesset and your party started growing to the point that it represented a real threat to the establishment – wouldn’t the Knesset ban you just like it banned Rabbi Kahane?

I don’t know. But I know what I have to do. We have to show the Jewish people that there is another way. Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Bennett are phony. They’re ready to compromise on Eretz Yisrael. They’re ready to compromise with our enemy.

Do you quote Rabbi Kahane when you speak or do you have to avoid saying his name?

I quote Rabbi Kahane everywhere I go.

What kind of reaction do you get?

People who forgot who the prime minister was 20 years ago remember Rabbi Kahane and tell us that everything he said was true – that he was a prophet and knew what was going to happen exactly.

You worked alongside Rabbi Kahane for a long time. What was he like as a person?

Rabbi Kahane was the most adin, the most nice, soft person in the world [in his] personal relations – until somebody hurt a Jew or Israel. At that point, Rabbi Kahane became like a lion and started fighting for the Jewish people. [He was like] David Hamelech: When he wrote the Tehillim, he was soft, and when he went to war, he was like a wolf.

You’re active in Lehava, which seeks to combat assimilation and intermarriage in Israel. In October, many liberal news outlets were excitedly reporting a celebrity intermarriage between a Muslim and a Jew. What was your take?

There’s no doubt that the biggest danger to Judaism in the world is intermarriage. What’s happening in America is a spiritual Holocaust, and now it’s starting in Israel too. If we don’t stop it at the beginning, it will be like in America, chas v’shalom.

Are intermarriages in Israel a growing problem? If yes, what can be done to solve it?

It’s a growing problem every day. The main solution is educational, and the second thing is to help girls who currently are going to Arabs because of social problems.

You have also been active in attempts to combat the homosexual lobby, pride parades in Jerusalem, etc. Some people say we’ve lost this battle and we should just accept the new reality. What’s your opinion?

I’m not fighting what a person does privately in his house. But we are against parades in the center of the holy city of Yerushalayim. The city of the Temple cannot have these kinds of parades, and that’s what the vast majority of Yerushalayim thinks.

But what can be done to stop these parades that hasn’t been tried already?

Success only comes with the help of G-d. So we have to continue trying until G-d decides it’s time for us to succeed. We’re doing everything He wants us to do. We’re continuing to try. And thank G-d, we have a lot of support all over Israel.

The [problem] is that to succeed we need a lot of money, which we don’t have because we don’t sell our ideas for anything.

Returning to the elections: Many Jews like Netanyahu and think he’s a very strong prime minister. Why not just vote for Likud, then? Why vote for Otzma Yehudit?

Netanyahu is the most dangerous prime minister we’ve ever had. He’s a very good politician; he knows how to sell water as if it were gold. But Netanyahu gave 97 percent of Chevron to the terrorists, gave North Shomron to the terrorists, and is the number-one releasing terrorist in Israel.

Netanyahu doesn’t know how to be strong against Hamas. He’s the best politician and the worst leader. For already 10 years Netanyahu has not let anyone build in Judea and Samaria. Even in Yerushalayim, there have been more Arab houses built than Jewish houses. I’m not even talking about Chevron where even one stone wasn’t built.

Netanyahu talks a lot about building, but nothing happens. He is a failure, but politically he knows how to survive. He’s a very, very strong politician, and a very, very weak leader.

He makes a very good impression, though, on the international scene and many consider him a very strong leader.

Yes, he’s a better foreign minister than a prime minister. But even there, to succeed he [makes concessions].

Some people claim that everyone compromises on their hawkish principles once they’re in power. What do you say to that argument?

We are different. If we were willing to compromise, we would have been members of the Knesset – maybe even members of the government – a long time ago. But we aren’t.

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Elliot Resnick is the former chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 3.”