US to remove Jewish Kahane movement from terror blacklist

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 16, 2022

State Department designated Kahane Chai as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, three years after its supporter Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians.

The United States will remove a Jewish group from a terror blacklist after several years of inactivity, a senior official has said.

A US official told The Times of Israel on Monday that Kahane Chai, a radical Orthodox Jewish group founded by the ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, will be removed from the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) blacklist after several years without violence.

The official said the revocation “was required by US law since there was insufficient evidence from the last five years that [the] organization directed or engaged in terrorist activity”.

The official added that Kahane Chai “will remain a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity”, even if it is dropped from the FTO list. “The US government remains concerned by the legacy of Kahane Chai and the continued use of its rhetoric among violent right-wing extremists.”

The State Department designated Kahane Chai an FTO in 1997, three years after Baruch Goldstein – a supporter of the group – massacred 29 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Kahane Chai was founded in 1971 by Kahane, a US-born rabbi and former Israeli MP who advocated expelling Arabs from Israel and creating a Jewish theocracy.

During his single term in parliament, Kahane drafted a series of unapologetically racist bills. One demanded that Palestinians be expelled from the region unless they agreed to pay extra taxes and serve as slaves to Jews. Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Despite the lack of attacks by the Kahane Chai group, the late rabbi remains a hero for some on the extreme right of Israeli politics, including member of parliament Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has advocated annexing the West Bank and hung a portrait of Goldstein in his home.

Designation as an FTO severely limits activities in the US, including criminalizing financial support.

According to the Associated Press news agency, the State Department was also delisting the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, a Palestinian group linked to rocket attacks a decade ago.

Also to be delisted are Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian movement that fought to topple Egypt’s government during the 1990s; the Basque separatist group ETA; and the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo – which carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway in 1995.

The US State Department notified Congress on Friday of the moves, which come at the same time as an increasingly divisive but unrelated debate in Washington about whether Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) should or can be legally removed from the US list, as part of efforts to salvage the languishing Iran nuclear deal.

That designation, which was imposed by the Trump administration, was not mentioned in Friday’s notifications.