Middle East Eye / February 21, 2023
The far-right minister used to pay minors to vandalize Palestinians’ property, far-right activist-turned-journalist tells The New Yorker.
A former confidant of Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir said the far-right leader took him as a teenager to raid a UN base and paid other minors to vandalize Palestinian property more than twenty years ago.
In an interview with The New Yorker published on Monday, Gilad Sade said Ben-Gvir drove him to a UN base in occupied East Jerusalem in 2001, provided him with a wire cutter, and showed him where to breach the fence.
While Ben-Gvir waited in the car outside, Sade punctured the tyres of every car inside the compound and spray-painted slogans such as “UN Out” and “Kahane Was Right,” in reference to Meir Kahane, an Israeli Jewish supremacist rabbi who inspired deadly attacks against Palestinians.
Sade, who was 14 years old at the time, now works as a reporter and lives in Europe after rejecting Ben-Gvir’s far-right ideology.
An aide to Ben-Gvir said the story was fabricated by Sade due to personal animosity, according to The New Yorker.
Dvir Kariv, a former Shin Bet security official interviewed by the magazine, could not confirm the UN break-in but said it was typical of Ben-Gvir.
He said Kahane supporters regularly sent teenagers to “do the dirty work” because interrogating them was more complicated for law enforcement officers from a legal standpoint.
‘An older brother’
According to Sade, who said Ben-Gvir was like “an older brother” to him at the time, the national security minister used to also pay teenagers up to $60 a night to spray paint and vandalize Palestinian property in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Ben-Gvir’s aides denied the accusations.
In the 1990s and early 2000, Ben-Gvir – a student and disciple of Kahane – was active in the late rabbi’s hardline movement.
Kahane founded the Kach party in 1971 and was elected to parliament in 1984, where he publicly advocated for the mass expulsion of Palestinians. He was killed in New York in 1990.
Aged 16, Ben-Gvir joined Kach as an activist before it was designated a terror group by the US and banned in Israel in 1994 after a Kach member killed 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounded dozens in Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron/Al-Khalil.
Ben-Gvir, now aged 46, has been convicted on eight charges including for his support of Kach and incitement to racism.
Last year, he attended a memorial honouring Kahane saying he believed he was all about “love”.
“I think Rabbi Kahane’s main characteristic was love,” he said. “Love of Israel without compromises or any other considerations.”
However, he stopped short of supporting Kahane’s racist anti-Palestinian views and said he didn’t support deporting all Palestinian citizens of Israel.