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Israel High Court Bars Kahane Party as Racist

October 19, 1988|DANIEL WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — The highest court in Israel on Tuesday upheld a ban on Rabbi Meir Kahane's anti-Arab political party, prompting the fiery Kahane to lash out at his political opponents and to forecast the destruction of the Israeli state.

In a separate decision, the Supreme Court also ruled that the Progressive List for Peace, an Arab-Jewish party that favors talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization, can run despite objections that it is dedicated to ending Jewish domination of the country.

The decision on Kahane's Kach party put it out of the Nov. 1 elections and scrambled the picture on the political right. Several parties are in line to pick up the Kach votes and acquire additional seats in the 120-member Knesset, or Parliament.

Won Seat in 1984

Independent political observers estimate that Kach might have won up to four seats in the election. Kahane won the single seat his party has at present in 1984. His popularity has increased with the failure of the government's efforts to put down the Arab uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that broke out last December.

Kahane, 56, holds that Jewish law and history authorize the expulsion of Arabs not only from the occupied territories but also from Israel proper, where about 800,000 Arabs live as citizens. He routinely refers to Arabs with racist slurs and insists that if he is racist, so is Judaism.

Justice Menachem Elon tersely turned down Kahane's appeal of a Central Elections Committee ruling that banned his party on the grounds that it is racist and anti-democratic.

In a statement explaining their decision, the justices said that "the aims of Kach and its actions are racist and . . . it seeks to violently deny the rights of segments of the population."

At a news conference later, Kahane, who was born in the United States, hinted that his followers could turn to violence.

"What the court did was to compel Jews to choose the road of anarchy and rebellion," he said. "As the state crumbles--and it will, tragically--people will turn to us, and we will take over."

Leaders of both major political parties praised the decision, meanwhile. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who heads the rightist Likud Bloc, said that "democracy must defend itself."

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who heads the centrist Labor Alignment, said Israel "has no room for racist movements."

Israeli civil rights groups also hailed the ruling. The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith called it a "triumph for democracy and decency."

Kahane, who founded the Brooklyn-based Jewish Defense League, scolded his political rivals, notably Shamir, for ending his campaign and advised his followers to boycott the election.

"Likud will pay," he said. "You know that Shamir does not care about racism. He cares about seats."

Close Race Seen

The race is considered close, but Likud stands to gain from the Kahane ruling. No party in Israel's history has ever won a majority of the Knesset's seats in an election. The country has always been ruled by a coalition, and this is not expected to change as a result of this election.

The party that gets a plurality will be given a chance to form a coalition government. If some of Kahane's support goes to other rightist parties, Likud, which is a slight overall favorite, may find it easier to form a coalition.

The Tehiya party, which favors annexation of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Moledet party, which campaigns on a platform of removing Arabs from occupied land, are considered possible partners.

No major party is likely to seek the Progressive List as a coalition ally because of its stand on talks with the PLO. The party, which is trying to expand its Knesset delegation from two to three, represents what Kahane detests perhaps most of all: the possibility that Arab citizens of Israel may affect, through their votes, life in what is defined as a Jewish state.

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