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The Brooklyn Avengers

One day towards the end of July 1984, I agreed with Mike Guzofsky and Yehuda Richter to operate against the Arabs. We left Kiryat Arba in a hired car, headed towards Jerusalem. About midnight we saw an Arab in his early twenties walking along the Hebron Road. I left the car and gave the Arab a blow with my fist. I also kicked him. He escaped into the night. We continued to Hebron and it was decided—I don’t remember by whom—to burn Arab cars. We had in our car two plastic bottles containing four-and-a-half liters of gasoline. In Hebron, Yehuda stopped the car. Mike took out the gasoline and poured it under several cars, maybe three. After Yehuda set the cars afire, we moved, not waiting to see what would happen. There were dogs around and I was afraid that they would wake up the neighbors, or perhaps bite us and we would get rabies.

That same year, Leitner and his friends fired a machine gun at an Arab bus on the West Bank, wounding nine passengers. After the young Kach followers were arrested, Kahane told reporters that they were “good Jewish boys” and that their attack on the bus was “sanctified by God.” Kahane then set up a legal defense fund for them in the US.

On November 2, 1990, in his weekly column in the Jewish Press, Kahane compared the Palestinians to the Canaanites, whose extermination, he wrote, is mandated in the Bible. Three days later, he was murdered, allegedly by an Arab gunman. The Kach Party soon splintered. Some of its members broke away and formed Kahane Chai, which is based in Tapuach, and is led by Kahane’s youngest son, Rabbi Binyamin Kahane. Both Kach and Kahane Chai tried to run candidates for the Knesset two years ago before they were banned from running by Israel’s Supreme Court on the grounds that they were violent racist hate groups. A third group, which calls itself the Temple Mount Religious Seminary, is devoted to rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the site of East Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, the third holiest shrine in Islam. Kahane’s widow, Libby, a librarian at Hebrew University, helped form this group, whose leader, fifty-eight-year-old Rabbi Avraham Toledano, was arrested at Tel Aviv Airport last November while trying to smuggle bomb-making materials, weapons components, and arms manuals into Israel from America, as well as $40,000 in cash. Police subsequently arrested five of Toledano’s followers, including several Americans, on suspicion of planning attacks against Arabs.

Two of the extremists, Bronx-born Andy Green, who is also called Baruch Ben Yosef, and Israel Fuchs, have been named by the FBI as members of the hit squad that murdered Alex Odeh in California in 1985. Five years earlier, Green was imprisoned for six months in Israel with Meir Kahane for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock.

Kahane Chai raises substantial sums in America. Binyamin Kahane collected more than $250,000 during a fund-raising trip to the US last November. Later that month, he was arrested as he entered Tel Aviv Airport on charges of trying to smuggle $30,000 into the country. Israel Radio quoted a Kahane associate as saying Kahane had raised the money in the United States for settler protests.

Tsadok Yecheskeli, the New York-based correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, has reported that Kahane Chai is planning to use US funds to buy military equipment, including armored cars. Israeli officials say they fear the weapons will be used for indiscriminate attacks against West Bank Arabs and possibly even against the Israeli army. According to the statements of Kahane Chai members in Tapuach, they are stock-piling weapons on their hilltop settlement—including automatic rifles, grenades, and even mortars—in preparation for the coming Armageddon. “We hate the idea of civil war, but we have our limits,” Tapuach’s mayor, David Axelrod, has said. “We will take whatever actions are necessary to bring down this government so that faithful Jews will continue to live here. It will be a war to the end. We will never accept giving our land to gentiles.”

Last summer, Yecheskeli visited Camp Meir, a Kahane Chai paramilitary training camp in the Catskill Mountains, where he observed Israeli reserve officers and staff sergeants from the elite Golani Brigade training some one hundred Jewish youths in martial arts, automatic weapons, and the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Yecheskeli says that some of the young men and women subsequently traveled to Tapuach. Others may have practiced what they learned in New York. Last January, two unexploded bombs were found in the Manhattan offices of Peace Now and the New Israel Fund, and the FBI has said Kahane Chai is the prime suspect. While Guzofsky approved of the attempted bombings, he denied responsibility for them. But Kahane Chai’s press releases praising the attempted bombings were similar in language to the notes found on the bombs, police officials say.

When Guzofsky was asked by the Israeli daily Ma’ariv how he finances the New York camp, he replied: “Donations. We have a lot of donors who want to see a Jewish force. The majority of them are Holocaust survivors who see what is happening and are worried about a second Holocaust.” Guzofsky said that a company that markets kosher dairy products in Brooklyn provided the camp’s milk products, and that he got “a special deal” on Chinese-made Kalashnikovs.

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Kahane Chai was incorporated in Brooklyn on April 15, 1991, as a not-for-profit organization, “to further, advance and promote the tenets of Judaism,” according to its statement of purpose. It has since set up numerous front groups including Operation Adopt a Settlement, American Friends of Yeshiva Harav Meir, and the American Friends of the United Yishuv Movement. The three groups list the same phone number and address on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn in ads in the Jewish Press. One recent ad said: “Give Arafat and Rabin a real bone to choke on. Adopt a settlement.” The ad also said donations are “fully tax-deductible,” and would go to Tapuach.

When I phoned the number listed in the ad, the man who answered said I had reached Kahane Chai, and that donors could either send money directly to Kahane Chai, or write for information on how to receive a tax write-off. The IRS, however, says that Kahane Chai’s claim of tax-exempt status for its affiliated groups is fraudulent. None of them is registered with the IRS as a charitable, tax-exempt foundation, according to Robert Kobel, the IRS official I spoke to. Donors who claim a tax write-off may be subject to an audit, Kobel told me. This could discourage some of Kahane Chai’s supporters who want to deduct their contributions.

Kahane Chai also enjoys the support of well-to-do Jews and prominent politicians. Past keynote speakers at Kahane Chai fund-raising dinners have included the conservative African American leader Roy Innis of CORE and Dov Hikind, assemblyman from Borough Park, which has the largest Orthodox Jewish community in America. Hikind, a longtime close associate of Kahane, is now a power in New York City politics, having become Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s unofficial liaison to parts of the Orthodox Jewish community after delivering a huge majority of Borough Park’s votes to the “fusion” candidate. Hikind said to an inquiring journalist that Kahane Chai has “probably close to zero support” in his neighborhood, and that the group’s public praise of Baruch Goldstein “made me sick.”2

Kach International, a public stock-holding company incorporated in California, was created after Kahane’s 1984 Knesset victory because “we felt the Kach name would command more respect than the JDL name among American Jews,” Ken Sidman, Kach International’s late director told me several years ago. The group became Kahane’s principal propaganda arm in America. Kach International currently raises money for the Kach Party in Israel, which has offices in both Jerusalem and Hebron, even though it still cannot run candidates in Israeli elections. On March 11, Kach International placed an ad in the Jewish Press, soliciting donations “to ensure that Dr. Goldstein’s work on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people continues.”3 Kach International officials refuse to reveal how much they have raised since Kahane’s assassination from this and other recent appeals for money. Because Kach is not a charitable organization, its financial records are private. But Barbara Ginsburg, Kach International’s New York director, boasted to Newsday that the group has raised more than $150,000 from North American Jews in the weeks after the Hebron mosque massacre.

Kach International officials not only praise Goldstein’s acts but warn that there is more terror to come. “There will be many more Dr. Goldsteins,” Max Kessler, Kach International’s director of education in Los Angeles, has promised. “Rabin’s a disaster for Jews,” the New York Kach spokesman, Mal Lebowitz, has said. “He’s in an insane rush to destroy Israel…. We will not give up the land to the Arabs. There are 140,000 settlers who would be happy to have Arafat in their gunsights.”

Settlers and their allies have set up several US-based public charities designed primarily to weaken public support for the Rabin regime and undermine the peace process. The most important of these groups is PRO ISRAEL, which was incorporated on September 26, 1990, as a tax-exempt charity in New York. Funds raised by PRO ISRAEL are passed to YESHA, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, an organization that was set up by Gush Emunim, which has sponsored seventy-five religious settlements. The money has helped to pay for anti-government demonstrations in Israel, some of which became violent.

In a full-page and in The New York Times on February 9, PRO ISRAEL called on American Jews to stop supporting the Rabin government:

For American Jews to support such a government—a government of national suicide—would be to actually work against the people of Israel. With Israel’s survival at stake, Jews and others are morally obligated to speak out and demand that their leaders tell Rabin that his policies are endangering Israel’s existence.

PRO ISRAEL also works closely with the Likud, which is sending its leaders to the US to stir up opposition to the peace negotiations. In January and again in March, PRO ISRAEL sent Ariel Sharon on a fund-raising trip across North America with Yechiel Leiter, a spokesman for YESHA. The thirty-six-year-old Leiter was a member of the Jewish Defense League in Scranton before joining Kach in Israel fifteen years ago. He was subsequently appointed “mayor” of the radical Jewish enclave in Hebron, and helped to set up the Hebron Fund Inc., which has raised millions of dollars in the US to expand the Jewish presence in the city. Leiter then moved to the Gush Emunim settlement of Eli and became a leader of YESHA. He helped to organize PRO ISRAEL after the Likud was defeated in June 1992.

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    In the mid-1970s, Hikind headed a JDL front group called Save Our Israel Land, which was investigated by the FBI for several arson bombings of Arab targets in New York, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Hikind was never charged with a bombing, although he was often arrested for other alleged crimes, including for breaking into the Egyptian Mission to the UN and assaulting Egyptian diplomats. Last January, Hikind led a group of American Jews on a solidarity mission to the settlements. “The settlers feel the government is abandoning them,” he says.

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    With a claimed circulation of more than 160,000 the Jewish Press has considerable political clout in New York, and elsewhere. Politicians, such as New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, ask for its endorsement. For more than two decades, the paper published three separate columns per issue by Kahane (one was written under the pseudonym David Sinai) until his assassination. After the Hebron massacre, the Jewish Press said the killings were a preemptive strike, citing an “unconfirmed report…that the so-called ‘innocent’ men who were killed on Purim…had been planning to massacre Jews in Hebron that very Shabbos.” The paper has urged its readers not to contribute to the UJA, but to send money directly to the settlers. A recent front-page story said that their treatment by Rabin is similar to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews in concentration camps.

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