Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
MK Itamar Ben Gvir, October 27, 2022.

“Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday in reaction to Otzma Yehudit leader and prospective cabinet minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir taking part in a memorial event in honor of slain Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the outlawed Kach group.

The strong rebuke from America’s official press secretary – which was almost certainly cleared with his superiors in the upper echelons of the administration – underscores more than anything else the sloppiness in getting the facts right: This was just an event in memory of a person – albeit controversial – who was murdered in a terrorist attack; it did not amount to “celebrating his legacy.”


Yes, this was a terrorist attack: He was killed by the bullets of El-Sayyid Nosair, an al-Qaida operative who was involved in the first World Trade Center attack in 1993. Even more importantly, for our purposes, is that Ben-Gvir’s participation in the event was designed to explain to the rabbi’s disciples that there are some lines that should never be crossed.

“During Rabbi Kahane’s lifetime, there were things and activities that I would no longer support [today] to the same degree,” Ben-Gvir told the hardcore Kach activists at the event. “It is no secret that today I am not Rabbi Kahane, and I do not support the deportation of all Arabs, nor will I promote legislation to have segregated beaches,” he continued. His remarks were so out of line for the audience members that rather than getting applause – he was booed.

Ben-Gvir is undergoing a political coming of age that has seen him gradually adopt a more mature posture. He is not the first politician in the West who has shed his affiliation with unacceptable fringe elements in order to enter the tent (this is evident on both the Right and the Left). Having resolved to meddle in Israel’s domestic politics, the US should have actually welcomed the fact that Ben-Gvir was becoming more moderate.

Slamming the door shut in such brazen conduct in the face of the head of Otzma Yehudit is just wrong in the current state of affairs; unfortunately, though, emotions carried the day. The administration officials have shown an inability to handle Ben-Gvir based on the actual merits, be it because of pressure from Jewish groups or just because the senior officials at the state department are Jewish themselves. Jewish Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been the leading voice of criticism on Israel within the administration, apparently feels compelled to educate Israelis.

This is the same Blinken who just last week spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose security forces have been involved in a string of attacks against Jews all across Israel. Blinken and his spokespeople have yet to call the attacks and Abbas “abhorrent.” In fact, the conversation with Abbas was held despite the fact that the Palestinian leader had not condemned those attacks even though his Fatah faction, which he heads, praised them.

So when an Israeli right-wing politician asks his supporters to show moderation he gets condemned, but a Palestinian leader who encourages terrorism gets embraced by the Biden administration. Does that sound right? It pains me to say this, but when it comes to Ben-Gvir, the US conduct befits a shtetl.

{Reposted from IsraelHayom}


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Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.