Jewish Extremists: A Growing Threat to Israel's Security
4 MINS READMay 17, 2005 | 22:15 GMT
Israel's new chief of counterintelligence and internal security said May 17 that Jewish extremist groups pose a threat to the country. Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin made his remark a day after Israeli security agents reported they thwarted a plot by Jewish extremists to fire an anti-tank missile at Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque, Islam's third-holiest site. Destroying the mosque or the 35-acre site around it — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount — could provoke a massive Middle Eastern conflict. For this reason, Israeli security officials have made protecting it a top priority. Diskin's remark and the recently uncovered plot underscore the threat posed to the peace process by Jewish militants. The most notable radical Jewish militant groups are Kach — founded by radical rabbi Meir Kahane — and Kach's offshoot, Kahane Chai. Kahane was a U.S.-born Jewish activist and rabbi who founded the Jewish Defense League in 1968 and immigrated to Israel in 1971. He strongly opposed giving up land to the Palestinians, saying doing so would be contrary to God's will. He also advocated the use of violence by Jews to defend themselves and Israel from the Palestinians. Kahane was killed in November 1990 in New York by El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian Islamist and member of the so-called Brooklyn Jihad Office, the cell that carried out the 1993 World Trade Center attack. After Kahane's death, his son Binyamin formed Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives). Binyamin was killed in Israel in 2000. The goal of these groups is a theocratic Israel, similar to the biblical version of Israel. Kahanists also have shot, stabbed and thrown grenades at Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Like white hate groups in the United States — whose leaders do not claim responsibility for the actions of their followers — Kach and Kahane Chai have not claimed responsibility for such attacks. They have, however, declined to condemn the violence and have often encouraged or glorified it. Two of the most significant attacks staged by Jewish extremists came in response to the groundbreaking 1993 Oslo Accords, the peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed on the White House lawn. In February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish immigrant to Israel from the United States and a Kach member, entered a mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 29 worshippers before killing himself. The most significant example of extremist retaliation for the Oslo Accords occurred in November 1995, when Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Although Kahne Chai was not directly linked to Rabin's assassination, Amir — a third-year law student, Yeshiva scholar and former member of the Golani Brigade, one of the Israeli Defense Force's crack military units — had connections to many Kahne members. In keeping with his extremist ideology, Binyamin Khane did not condemn Amir's actions. As the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nears, Israeli security is becoming increasingly aware of the threat Jewish extremists pose to the process. Since April, a total of nine Israeli men have been arrested on suspicion of planning attacks against the Dome of the Rock. The Kahanists and other extremists, who oppose any Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory, likely will intensify their activities as the August date for the withdrawal nears. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — the architect of the withdrawal plan — recently expressed concern for his own life at the hands of Jewish extremists. Many in Israel believe Sharon has succumbed to international pressure and compromised on Jewish interests by giving up land in exchange for peace. Sharon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on April 15 that for the first time he feels threatened by Jews — a people he has worked hard to protect all his life. Rabin's assassination — by a fellow Jew — perhaps is weighing heavily on Sharon's mind. So far, Shin Bet and the Israeli National Police have successfully thwarted Jewish extremist attacks against Palestinian targets. This could be due in part to the Israeli connection to the Kahanist support base. A large part of Kahne Chai's support comes from Jews living in the United States, especially New York. The New York Police Department (NYPD) recently established a liaison with the Israeli National Police to share intelligence on potential terrorist attacks against New York City originating in the Middle East. This relationship can work both ways, with the NYPD providing the Israelis with information about Jewish extremist activities from sources in New York.