Baruch Marzel
Age:1
Nationality: American-Israeli
Place of Residence: Hebron, West Bank
Occupation: Former spokesman of Meir Kahane’s Kach party
Legal Status: Last arrested in 2017 after clashing with police while protesting the demolition of Amona, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank - currently released
Medium: Through interviews, videos and articles

Bio

“There’s no way we’ll have quiet or peace inside Israel as long as we have here millions of supporters of terror … people that believe in their religion that all of the land of Israel, including Tel Aviv and Haifa and Beersheba, is theirs … and that we’re occupiers, and the Jewish religion doesn’t have the right to a state, no existence ... The only way to have peace with them is by having them out of Israel.”

This is the extreme rhetoric of Baruch Marzel, the Israeli far-right activist and politician, in the run up to his country’s election this year.

Marzel promotes the ideas of the late radical Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was leader of the outlawed Kach party.

Kahane advocated for an Israel free of Arabs, and was eventually banned from Israeli politics. Despite his assassination in 1990, his extremist beliefs have endured.

Though none has reached Kahane’s profile, or matched his ability to effectively communicate his racist and religiously extreme politics, the ideas and beliefs that underpinned his movement are still a feature of Israeli public life.

One of his most effective ideological successors can be found in the small Israeli settler enclave found within the Palestinian city of Hebron.

There, Marzel ensures that Kahane’s divisive racism lives on, both in Hebron and in wider Israeli politics.

Born in Boston in the US, Marzel’s family moved to Israel when he was an infant. At the age of 13, he joined the Jewish Defense League, the sometimes violent street activist group that Kahane founded.

Marzel claims to have joined the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and to have shot dead several unarmed Syrian soldiers he had taken prisoner.

He said he did this as he was wounded by a captured Syrian commando who let off a concealed grenade and thought he might die, so he wished to exact revenge. Marzel took the same spirit of confrontation into his political activism.

“It’s a religious war, and they believe they have to destroy us, to kill us. And we believe that people that think they have to kill us can’t stay here. That’s against our religion. That’s what we’re working on, to throw them out of here,” he said.

Marzel knew Kahane from a young age, and the rabbi came to Marzel’s Bar Mitzvah and blessed him. They worked side by side until Kahane’s assassination.

In 1984, Kahane won a seat in Israel’s Knesset (Parliament), and appointed Marzel as his parliamentary aide.

Marzel was renowned for his open hostility, harassing leftist and Arab Knesset members. After his mentor’s death, Marzel was elected head of Kach’s secretariat and ran for the Knesset.

He emerged from Kahane’s shadow and become a figurehead for Jewish radicalism in Hebron, where he has led attacks against its Arab residents. He has been imprisoned many times for his acts of violence and intimidation.

Hostility and confrontations between the small Israeli population in Hebron and its Palestinian residents are a daily occurrence.

But its darkest day was in 1994, when Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish resident of Hebron, opened fire on Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque during Ramadan. As the dead and wounded lay on the floor, survivors tackled Goldstein and beat him to death.

Marzel knew Goldstein well from his activist work in Hebron. In 2000, he held a party at his graveside during the Jewish festival of Purim. “We decided to make a big party on the day he was murdered by Arabs,” Marzel told the BBC.

“Without supporting what Baruch Goldstein did, because I don’t support something that isn’t legal, but I have to try to understand it, Baruch Goldstein was one of the purest people in the world, was a saint, was a tzaddik (righteous person),” Marzel said. “After what he did, terrorism stopped in Hebron for four years. One Jew wasn’t hurt, four years.”

To this day, Marzel encourages and takes part in aggressive activities against Arab residents of Hebron, while hosting Israeli troops stationed there at his house for lunch.

But his activism is not confined to Hebron. Alongside Ben-Zion Gopstein, Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir, Marzel founded and became a spokesman for the segregationist Lehava movement.

The Jewish far-right campaigning organization objects to almost every kind of personal relationship between Jews and non-Jews.

Its activities are not limited to protesting and picketing weddings between Jews and Arabs. In 2014, Lehava members carried out an arson attack on an Arab-Jewish bilingual school.

Marzel remains active in politics. He is a member of Otzma Yehudit, a sectarian, Kahanist political party that calls for Arabs to leave Israel.

The willingness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work with such parties means their influence cannot be underestimated.

Netanyahu even received criticism from AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the US, over the election alliance he agreed to with Otzma Yehudit.

Marzel is doing his best to make sure Kahanism passes onto the next generation. “Thank God, out of (my) nine kids, seven had trouble with the police for good causes,” he said. “I educate them to be fighters, and I’m proud that they fight ... They had a big fight with Arabs.”

Whether it is with his own children, other Jewish settlers in Hebron or far-right activists across Israel, Marzel will continue to radicalize Israeli politics and do all he can to prevent coexistence between Jews and Arabs.

Ideas

On the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre in 1994

"Without supporting what Baruch Goldstein did, because I don’t support something that isn’t legal, but I have to try to understand it, Baruch Goldstein was one of the purest people in the world, was a saint, was a tzaddik (righteous person). After what he did, terrorism stopped in Hebron for four years. One Jew wasn’t hurt, four years."

"We decided to make a big party on the day he (Baruch Goldstein, who massacred Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Hebron) was murdered by Arabs."

On Arabs

"There isn’t a nice way to do it. They (Arabs) won’t disappear one day because we want them to disappear. We have to help them disappear from here. We have to help the enemy leave the country, and how could we help the enemy leave the country? There’s only one way: By deciding we can’t let them stay here. "

"The Arabs are conquering the land of Israel from inside. The problem of Arabs isn’t in Hebron only, that I see it from my porch every day. The problem of Arabs isn’t only Jerusalem."

"These (Arabs) are animals that we’re dealing with … I tried to express what I feel about the Arabs, and I live with them, and I think they haven’t changed, they’re the same. And I’m not saying that everyone, but 99 percent."

"There will never be, there never was coexistence with Arabs. And we have to throw all our enemy out of here."

On religious tensions

"It’s a religious war, and they believe they have to destroy us, to kill us. And we believe that people that think they have to kill us can’t stay here. That’s against our religion. That’s what we’re working on, to throw them out of here."

 

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The following may contain offensive material; Arab News does not support but believes it is important to be aware of its destructive influence.