The rotten apple did not fall far from the wretched tree
There is quite a competition for who can be considered the true heir to Meir Kahane, who by most accounts is responsible for the entry into Israeli politics of the most repellent examples of racist and hate speech.
When Kahane appeared on the political stage, his venomous language against Arabs, peace activists, the media and others was on the very margins of Israeli discourse.
Sadly this is no longer the case, and incitement against those groups has been creeping into mainstream politics, advocated and encouraged by his disciples. No one takes this further than Baruch Marzel.
He was born in the US, although he emigrated to Israel with his family as a baby and grew up in Jerusalem.
From his youth, he was attracted to extreme right-wing movements. He joined Kahane’s Jewish Defense League at the age of 13 and later his party Kach, a bluntly racist organization with strong fascist ideological elements that was barred from running for Israel’s Knesset (Parliament).
At a young age, Marzel was Kahane’s spokesperson and regarded as his right-hand man. His admiration of Kahane and his vile system of beliefs can be witnessed even today. Marzel often quotes him on his Twitter feed to attack, in inciteful language, almost everyone who disagrees with him.
For Marzel, even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are too soft on the Palestinians, whom he views almost without exception as terrorists or servants of terrorism.
Marzel’s vision of Israel’s future is one of a state run according to Jewish law, the Halacha, which aspires to build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount and replace the mosques standing there today, while completely disregarding the insult to the Muslim world and the provocation that even contemplating such an action represents.
Marzel's injection of extreme nationalism into Israel's political discourse makes him one of the most severe threats to Israel’s society and democracy
Marzel’s choice of residence is testimony to his provocative tendencies. He is a settler in the occupied West Bank, and lives in one of the most extreme anti-Palestinian communities of Tel Rumeida in the city of Hebron. He and his fellow settlers are constantly instigating friction and clashes with the local Palestinian population.
Marzel is seen as representing the very extreme right in Israel, but frighteningly, representatives of his jingoistic, bigoted politics have long been voted into the Knesset. And the support of his current political party Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) is much coveted by Netanyahu as he tries to form a coalition.
A member of Otzma Yehudit is most likely to be appointed education minister, which will allow that person to poison the minds of Israeli youth.
From the age of 14 onward, Marzel has been arrested on countless occasions, and has been convicted of assaults and threatening behavior against Palestinians.
One of his favorite acts of incitement against the Palestinians and their struggle for self-determination is to burn their flag in public.
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Spreading hate against Palestinians might have gained Marzel infamy, but he is equally venomous in his attacks against Jews who are working to bring about peace and coexistence.
He used to call the peacemakers of the Oslo process “the criminals of Oslo,” and even called for the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
For good measure, Marzel also incites Israeli soldiers in Hebron to ignore their commanders and take a tougher approach against the Palestinians who live there.
His blind hatred of Palestinians has sunk to the low point of defending Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 innocent Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994.
He refers to Goldstein as a “tzadik” (righteous person) and a victim. How could anyone condone the shooting in the back of innocent people worshipping the same God that Marzel allegedly believes in too?
His prejudice manifests itself in his approach to relations between Arabs and Jews. He is a key figure in the organization Lehava, which harasses Arab-Jewish couples, pressuring them to end their relationship.
Marzel was not the first to introduce hate speech and extreme religious nationalism into Israel’s political discourse, but he has taken it to a new and contemptible level, paving the way for those who follow to become legitimate forces in the country.
This makes him one of the most severe threats to Israel’s society and democracy, and to the country’s relations with the Palestinians, both within Israel and in the occupied territories.
* Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.