March 3, 1994
THE KACH MOVEMENT - BACKGROUND
In 1968, Rabbi Meir Kahane established the Jewish Defense League, the
forerunner of the Kach movement. The declared goal of the movement at
the time was to combat black antisemitism.
In September 1969, Kahane immigrated to Israel. Though he had declared
that once in Israel he would not engage in politics, he spoke out
against the black Jews in Dimona, and later openly advocated the
expulsion of Arabs from Israel. One of his first campaigns against Arabs
was in 1972, when he distributed pamphlets in Hebron calling upon the
mayor to stand trial for his part in the massacre of the Jews in Hebron
The Kach movement first sought election to the Knesset in 1973, but
received only about 13,000 votes, which were not enough to win a seat.
Two years later Kahane returned to his activities in Hebron, this time
calling for the expulsion of the Arabs from the city.
In the 1977 Knesset elections, Kach received less than 4,500 votes. In
1980, Kahane was sentenced to six months in prison for plotting with
others to commit a grave act of provocation on the Temple Mount. In
1981, Kach once again failed to introduce any of its members into the
During the evacuation of the Israeli settlers from Yamit in 1982, Kahane
gained popularity. At the government's request, he helped convince some
extremists in Yamit who had barricaded themselves in the synagogue and
threatened to commit suicide to withdraw their ultimatum.
When the Kach movement submitted its list for the 1984 Knesset
elections, the Central Elections Committee ruled that could not
participate in the elections. Kach appealed to the High Court of
Justice, and its appeal was upheld. The court ruled that the existing
electoral law did not allow for the debarring of a party on the grounds
of racism. The Court further suggested that the law be amended.
The Kach movement thus ran for election in 1984, winning 26,000 votes,
and Kahane became a member of Knesset. He announced that Kach would not
support any government that did not advocate the expulsion of the Arabs
In August 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Basic Law: The
Knesset, in accordance with the High Court's comment in the Kach case.
The amendment added incitemnet to racism as grounds for barring a party
from participating in elections. The law now states as follows:
'A candidates' list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if
its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the
1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the
Jewish people; 2) negation of the democratic character of the State; 3)
incitement to racism.'
Accordingly, in 1988, prior to the elections to the 12th Knesset, the
Central Elections Committee disqualified the Kach list, basing its
decision on the above amendment. In his appeal to the High Court of
Justice, Kahane claimed that security needs justify severe measures of
discrimination against Arabs. The Court rejected the claim and the
appeal, stating that the aims and actions of Kach are manifestly racist.
On November 5, 1991, Meir Kahane was murdered in New York. There are two
movements which follow in his footsteps: 'Kahane Lives', led by his son
Benjamin Kahane, based in the settlement Tapuah; and 'Kach' led by
Baruch Marzel, based in Kiryat Arba.
Both movements were disqualified by the Central Elections Committee in
the 1992 elections. Both appealed to the High Court of Justice, which
rejected their appeals, ruling that they are followers of the original
In November 1992, following the movements' support of the grenade attack
in the butchers' market in the Old City of Jerusalem, Minister Amnon
Rubinstein asked the Attorney-General to initiate a criminal proceedings
against the leaders of the two movements, on the charge of incitement to