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Anti-Semitism as Colonialism: Meir Kahane's “Ethics of Violence”

Shaul Magid
Journal of Jewish Ethics
Vol. 1, No. 2 (2015), pp. 202-232
DOI: 10.5325/jjewiethi.1.2.0202
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Page Count: 31
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Item Type
Anti-Semitism as Colonialism
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In this essay I examine the “ethics of violence” of Rabbi Meir Kahane, iconoclastic American rabbi, Israeli Parliamentarian, and founder of both the Jewish Defense League in America and the KACH political party in Israel. While much has been written about Kahane's career in Israel, almost nothing has been written about his critique of American Judaism, which I maintain is crucial to understanding his life's work. In particular Kahane developed what I call an “ethics of violence” based on selected classical sources and a theory of perennial anti-Semitism that I argue is similar to colonialism. While Kahane was not conversant in contemporary philosophy or neocolonial literature, I argue his thinking corresponds and contrasts in interesting ways with postcolonial theory. In this essay I attempt to contextualize Kahane's “ethics of violence,” reading him with Jean Paul Sartre, Hannah Arendt, Frantz Fanon, and Slavoj Zizek. Framing Kahane's understanding of anti-Semitism as colonialism, I try to offer a coherent case, although certainly not a justification, as to why Kahane was an advocate of violence.

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