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The Conversation


A right-wing Israeli politician is trying to recast a key part of American history.

That’s not a usual subject for an Israeli Cabinet member. But Itamar Ben-Gvir is trying to make his anti-Palestinian movement seem less extremist and more appealing to Jews and the international community. A rewrite of American history could help him do it.

In a November 2022 speech in Jerusalem after the recent Israeli elections, Ben-Gvir memorialized Rabbi Meir Kahane, an ultranationalist leader from the U.S. who moved to Israel and was both elected to Israel’s Parliament and convicted of terrorism before being assassinated in 1990. Ben-Gvir declared that Kahane and his followers saved Jews from the Soviet Union’s antisemitism during the 1970s and 1980s.

Kahane is best known in the U.S. as the founder of the Jewish Defense League, which was originally headquartered in New York City. From the 1960s through about 2001, this group was responsible for numerous terrorist and racist attacks against African Americans, Muslims, Jewish academics and public figures, as well as foreign diplomats.


This article originally appeared in The Conversion on January 17, 2023 and can be accessed at

This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives license.

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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