A Paean to Racism


It was unconscionable, in this age of rising racial tensions, to publish Jonathan Mark’s nostalgic paean to Meir Kahane (“New Crime Wave has Some Uneasy Jews Longing for the Jewish Defense League,”). Mark reduces the problematics of Kahane’s legacy to “personal and political instability,” an extraordinary euphemism for a history of racism, violence, thuggery and crime that had Kahane banned from political life in Israel and considered beyond the pale of moral decency by the overwhelming majority of Jewish communal life.

Moreover, Mark cites only two controversial examples, Dov Hikind and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, as evidence for his claim that the “Jewish street” is once again remembering Kahane these days (much less hoping for a return to his example.) It seems likely that these are some of the only noteworthy examples of “community leaders” who would speak in such praiseworthy terms about the disgraced Kahane, as it is consistent with their track records of stirring up racial and intergroup controversy. Our community should be proud that they remain minority voices. But how does the nostalgia of these three men rise to the level of a story that suggests that a return to this kind of racist thuggery is desirable by large numbers of people? And even if it was: why is The Jewish Week platforming this kind of uncritical speculation?

Worst of all, however, is the editorial decision to run this speculation under the heading of “news” rather than merely unsavory opinion. Nostalgic fantasies for race-baiting and ethnocentrism, dressed up in the language of self-defense and ethnic pride, are bad enough in the opinion pages, but at least there they can be refuted for what they are. The newspaper should print a retraction.

Editor’s Note: The article in question, though included in the paper’s News section, is Jonathan Mark’s column, The Edge of Town, which combines reporting with a point of view. The article also noted that Kahane was banned from the Knesset for racism, and that he was suspected, and other JDL members convicted, in a number of bomb plots.

is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute.