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Israel: Ben-Gvir gives speech by memorial for ‘martyrs’ Baruch Goldstein and Meir Kahane

National security minister has previously described Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994, as his ‘hero’
Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (C) speaks during a ceremony for Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers (Yom HaZikaron) at the military cemetery in Be'er Shiva on 25 April 2023 (AFP)

Israel’s far-right Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir has been filmed giving a speech in front of a wall-hanging glorifying Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994.

Images obtained by Haaretz show Ben-Gvir speaking last Tuesday, on the eve of Israeli Independence Day, surrounded by security from the prime minister's office.

Behind him on the wall a drape, quoting scripture, refers to “martyrs” Kahane and Goldstein and reads: “Their blood will rise”,  adding, "For I will avenge their blood, which I have not yet avenged. For the Lord dwells in Zion."

Speaking at the yeshiva, Ben-Gvir said: "We have a clear and unequivocal ideological struggle here. There is a small group that is trying to lead the entire people of Israel to bad places. But the truth must be told - there are many confused Jews."

He told those present to attend Memorial Day at Be'er Shiva, a commemoration for fallen Israeli soldiers, despite angry bereaved families reportedly saying Ben-Gvir shouldn't attend.

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Ben-Gvir, whose Jewish Power party recently won six seats in the Israeli Knesset, was speaking at the Jewish Idea yeshiva, founded by Kahane, a far-right rabbi and former MP.

Kahane also founded the Kach party, which was outlawed following supporter Goldstein's massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994, which killed 29 worshippers and wounded dozens more.

Ben-Gvir reportedly goes to Kahane's seminary for Independence Day celebrations every year, but claims to have broken with the more extreme elements of Kahane’s platform.

“No, I’m not Rabbi Kahane word-for-word,” he said in 2021.

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Aged 16, Ben-Gvir joined Kach as an activist before it was designated a terrorist group by the United States and banned in Israel, following Goldstein's actions.

A clip unearthed recently from 1995 shows Ben Gvir dressed as Goldstein for the Jewish holiday of Purim, saying: “He is my hero.”

For years, he hung a portrait of Goldstein on the wall of his home in the violent settler enclave of Kiryat Arba, next to Hebron. He only took the photo down in 2020, reportedly in the hope of persuading another settler leader, Naftali Bennett, to ally with him in the election. 

In 2007, before Jewish Power’s establishment, Ben Gvir was convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist group after he held up a sign reading “Arabs out”. In his car were found Kahanist posters, which stated: “It’s us or them” and “There is a solution - expel the Arab enemy.”

Stav Shaffir, a former legislator for the Israeli Labor party, has described him as the only remaining senior acolyte of Kahane whose “involvement in terror was not proven”. Other Kahane affiliates have been barred from running for election by the courts. 

Kahane 'smiling down from heaven'

Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power has called for the formal annexation and Jewish settlement of the entire occupied West Bank - in violation of international law - and the seizure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem to place it under Jewish ownership.

Plans are under way to give Ben-Gvir command of a national guard, which one former police chief denounced as a ‘private militia’. 

The plan was part of a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir, who had threatened to resign after the prime minister paused a controversial plan to overhaul the judiciary following weeks of mass protests that brought the country to a stand-still in March.

Ben-Gvir has already told police to crack down harder on anti-government protests, which began in January.

The minister has previously noted how mainstream Kahane’s ideas have become in Israel’s major right-wing parties, including Netanyahu’s Likud.

In a memorial service to Kahane in 2020, the Jewish Power leader gave a speech honouring his late teacher.

He concluded: “I think he’s looking down from heaven and smiling.”

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