Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Behind the Headlines Some Arabs Voted for Kahane

August 15, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach Party, got some unexpected support from Israeli Arabs in his successful bid for a Knesset seat. According to an Israeli expert on Arab-Jewish relations, Moshe Gabbay, director of the Arab Studies Institute of the Givat Haviva Center for Advanced Studies, as many as 500 Arabs may have voted for Kahane.

Gabbay said he determined the size of the Arab vote for the Kach leader by examining the election results in Israel’s Arab villages. The villageby-village results have been published in newspapers here along with detailed counts from all towns, villages and kibbutzim.

Gabbay said that it was nearly impossible to determine the actual countrywide number of Arabs who voted for Kach outside the Arab villages because of the large number of Arabs in cities like Acre, Jaffa and Haifa which have large numbers of Arab as well as Jewish voters. Kach received 25,907 votes, or 1.2 percent of the electorate.

Most of the Arab vote went to Hadash (Communist) Party which has four Knesset seats, and the Progressive List for Peace, which ran for the first time and won two seats. The Progressive list supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories, to exist alongside Israel.


Gabbay, an Iraqi-born Jew, said he interviewed a number of Arabs who said they voted for Kach. He said a high school teacher told him that he thought all Jews in Israel shared Kahane’s affitude towards Israel’s Arabs but that they expressed tolerance to curry favor in the world public opinion.

An Arab born in a small village and now working in Haifa, was reported by Gabbay to have told him that his vote for Kahane presented Israel’s Arabs an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the world “the danger we are in.”

Gabbay, who came to Israel in 1949, said that voters for Kahane whom he interviewed were ideologically aligned with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine headed by George Habash, a group that split from the PLO 10 years ago. Those who professed support for Habash said they felt they were sending a message to the Arab world to “come help us” by voting for Kach.

Gabbay said that last week three Arab Institute Studies staffers went to the nearby town of Umm Al-Faham to calm down some of the young residents who, he said, were agitated by Kahane’s proposal to set up in the town an office for Arab emigration. “I think more and more Arabs feel now that it is increasingly dangerous for them to have Kahane in the Knesset,” Gabbay said. There are 700,000 Arabs in Israel out of a population of 4.1 million.

Recommended from JTA