A New Biography Misinterprets Meir Kahane and His Legacy

In a review of Shaul Magid’s recently released biography, Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical, J.J. Kimche admits to having had high hopes for this study of the militant rabbi. He had anticipated a “serious, balanced, and rigorous consideration [of] Kahane’s work,” which would serve as a corrective to other biographies that have downplayed Kahane’s intellectual contributions and “focused largely on his political and personal activities.” Kimche found instead that Magid’s book reveals a good deal more about the author’s own preconceptions about race than its subject.

Despite its title and self-description, surprisingly little of this work is about Meir Kahane. The first hundred pages (of a 200-page book) focus largely on political and sociocultural stirrings within the United States during the 1960s, especially within the radical elements of the black and Jewish communities. Though Magid draws interesting parallels between the rhetoric and actions of Kahane and those of the Black Panthers and Jewish socialists, the reader is left wondering why such marginalia occupy fully half of this biography.

The merits of the book are eclipsed by Magid’s obsession with race. Magid accepts contemporary racial theories as gospel truth and employs them to analyze Kahane, Zionism, and American Jewish history. In perhaps the most revealing line of the book, he states that “we live in a white-supremacist (or, I would add, in Israel, a Judeo-supremacist) society.” Statements of this kind exemplify Magid’s methodological axiology: America is fundamentally racist, Israel is fundamentally racist, Kahane is obviously a racist, and American-centric racial theories are the most useful paradigms for analyzing both Kahane’s ideas and the conflict in the Middle East. It is a pity that Magid never pauses to interrogate these questionable assumptions.

Such axioms are especially surprising considering how little of Kahane’s writing revolves around race.

Read more at First Things

More about: Jewish studies, Meir Kahane, Race


How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion