Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 May 2023, 15:44 GMT

Israel: Information on the extremist organization Kahane Chai

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 24 February 2004
Citation / Document Symbol ISR42395.E
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Information on the extremist organization Kahane Chai, 24 February 2004, ISR42395.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kahane Chai, or "Kahane Lives," is the name of a banned political party in Israel whose platform includes the forced expulsion of Arabs currently living in Israel and the Occupied Territories (Political Handbook of the World 2000-2002 2002, 546; Political Parties of the World 2002, 263). The group is named after Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the similarly banned Kach [Thus] party (Political Handbook of the World 2000-2002 2002, 546), and was created shortly after his death by his son, the late Rabbi Binyamin Zeev Kahane (Political Parties of the World 2002, 263). Membership in Kahane Chai overlaps with that of Kach (ICT n.d.), which is believed to be headed by Noam Federman (Political Parties of the World 2002, 263).

Brooklyn-born Meir Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League in the United States in 1968 (Jewish Virtual Library 2003). He sought to create an organization that aimed at transforming the wider view of the Jew from "'weak and vulnerable'" to a "'mighty fighter, who strikes back fiercely against tyrants'" (ibid.).

Kahane then moved to Israel where he founded Kach, a movement which espoused the idea that terror could only be fought with terror (ibid.). Since Kahane was convinced that Palestinians were only interested in driving out all Israeli Jews, he believed that the only feasible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to deport Palestinians from Israel (Washington Times 11 Oct. 2003). The religious seminary that he founded, the "Yeshiva of the Jewish idea," continues to operate in Jerusalem to this day (Jewish Virtual Library 2003).

In the seventies, Kahane's activities included the demand for the expulsion of Arabs from Hebron and the planning of a "grave act of provocation" against Muslims on the Temple Mount, for which he was sentenced to six months in prison (ICT n.d.).

After over a decade of unsuccessful attempts to obtain a seat in the Israeli parliament (Knesset), the Central Elections Committee barred Kach from participating in the upcoming 1984 elections (ibid.). However, the High Court of Justice upheld Kahane's appeal, ruling on the basis of a law that did not include racism among its criteria to ban a party from participating in elections, although the Court did recommend that this law be amended (ibid.). Shortly after winning 26,000 votes and obtaining a seat in the Knesset, Kahane made clear his party's rhetoric of having all Arabs ousted from Israel (ibid.). By 1985, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Basic Law which now excluded from elections any party that incited racism, disqualifying Kach for the 1988 elections (ibid.). Kahane's subsequent appeals to the High Court of Justice, justifying discrimination against Arabs on the basis of Israel's security needs, were summarily dismissed (ibid.). Kahane thus became the first Jew in Israel to be accused of sedition (Jewish Virtual Library 2003). During a visit to New York City in 1990, Meir Kahane was assassinated by an Egyptian Islamist (ICT n.d.). Soon afterwards, Kahane's son, Binyamin Kahane, founded Kahane Chai in his father's memory (ibid.).

Extremist Groups 2002 estimates that there are approximately 100 hard-core members of Kach, composed primarily of US immigrants, in addition to over 700 official supporters (Extremist Groups 2002). The Center for Defense Information estimates that Kach and Kahane Chai "have an overlapping membership of several dozen core members, as well as an unknown number of unaffiliated followers and supporters" (CDI 1 Oct. 2002). Kahane Chai is "'highly visible' among Jewish settlers in the West Bank" (Political Handbook of the World 2000-2002 2002, 546) and is primarily based in the Tapuah Settlement, while Kach is centred in Qiryat Arba, near Hebron (Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 2002a). The organizations are financed in large part by sympathizers in Europe and America (ibid.). Kach has several affiliated splinter groups in addition to Kahane Chai, including: the Committee for Road Security, the Repression of Traitors, the Ideological Front, and Noar Meir (Extremist Groups 2002).

In late 2001, the US Department of State declared Kahane Chai as foreign terrorist organization (Political Handbook of the World 2000-2002 2002, 546), including four websites affiliated with the group (AFP 10 Oct. 2003; Washington Times 11 Oct. 2003). Kahane Chai responded that the Department of State had no legal justification to designate either Kach or Kahane Chai as foreign terrorist organizations since, according to the group, it has "never engaged in terror" ( n.d.).

In the words of Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi,

[Binyamin] "Kahane has been an advocate of violence, has been an advocate of systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" ... . His whole organization has been illegal ... . They send Israelis to take Palestinian land and [then] they cry foul if they are injured or if they are killed (AP 31 Dec. 2000)

Kahane Chai and Kach are responsible for a long list of crimes since the early 1970's including arson, assault, death threats, drive-by shootings, inciting riots, kidnappings, murder, "terrorist" conspiracies, throwing grenades, and vandalism (Extremist Groups 2002). Kahane Chai has also claimed responsibility for the murder of several Palestinians (Jerusalem Post 12 Nov. 2000). Kahane Chai's ultimate goal is "to restore the biblical state of Israel" (Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 2002a), an Orthodox Jewish theocracy which would include, among other legislation, a legal ban on marriages between Jews and non-Jews (Washington Times 11 Oct. 2003). The movement believes that Jews have a divine right to all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River and members have been known to threaten the lives of "treacherous" Israeli politicians who negotiate with Palestinians (Yale Accords 2000; Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 2002a). Recently, Kach members were found to be printing stickers branding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a traitor for proposing to relocate settlers from the Gaza strip, a campaign similar to one that they carried out before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 (The Independent 6 Feb. 2004).

In February 1994, during the month of Ramadan, a Kach supporter by the name of Baruch Goldstein walked into the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron and massacred 29 Palestinians (CDI 1 Oct. 2002; AFP 11 Jan. 2004). Kach leaders quickly called him a "hero" (CDI 1 Oct. 2002). Two weeks later, the government of Israel outlawed both Kach and Kahane Chai and declared them to be "terrorist groups" (Israel 13 Mar. 1994). In the decade since the Hebron massacre, the groups have kept a lower profile, possibly in the hope of becoming legal once again, but many members are nevertheless suspected of carrying out gun, knife, and grenade attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank (CDI 1 Oct. 2002).

Binyamin Kahane publicly condoned the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir (Jewish Virtual Library 2003), who belonged to a group associated with Kach (Political Parties of the World 2002, 263). In 1992, two members of Kach had been arrested for attempted assault on then-candidate for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (Extremist Groups 2002).

On 31 December 2000, Palestinian gunmen shot and killed Binyamin Kahan and his wife and injured their five children while they were driving along a West Bank road (AP 31 Dec. 2000). Members of Kahane Chai have since participated in organized protests against the government, threatened and harassed Arabs and Palestinians (especially in the West Bank), and have vowed to avenge the death of Binyamin Kahane and his wife (Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 2002a), but threats of any major retaliation were never brought to fruition (Extremist Groups 2002). Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifadah, members of Kahane Chai have been suspects in several low-level attacks (Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 2002a).

In April and May 2002, Israeli police arrested several extremists with ties to Kach in connection with a plot to blow up a Palestinian school for girls and the main Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem (Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 2002b). The bombs were scheduled to explode just as the school's 1,500 students were set to arrive (The Guardian 13 May 2002). Kahane Chai quickly called for the release of the extremists, and spokesman Noam Federman said "'I think the government should put bombs in hospitals but unfortunately the government doesn't do it, so it is up to the people to do those things.'" (ibid.).

An expert on Jewish extremist groups maintained that the extremist "underground" has dissipated over the years in that it is no longer very sophisticated or well trained (ibid.). However, in January 2004, several militants still affiliated with Kach formed and registered a new party called the Jewish National Front, but they have still not disclosed their political platform (AFP 11 Jan. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 11 January 2004. "Israeli Far-Rightists Form 'Jewish National Front.'" (NEXIS)

_____. 10 October 2003. "US Extends Terrorism Blacklist to Cyberspace, Hits Radical Jewish Websites." [Accessed 17 Feb. 2004]

The Associated Press (AP). 31 December 2000. Dina Kraft. "Slain Settler Leader Followed in his Father's Footsteps." (NEXIS)

Center for Defense Information (CDI). 1 October 2002. Seva Gunitskiy. "In the Spotlight: Kach and Kahane Chai." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

Extremist Groups: An International Compilation of Terrorist Organizations, Violent Political Groups and Issue-Oriented Militant Movement. 2002. Sean D. Hill et al. Huntsville, Texas: Office of International Criminal Justice (OICJ) et Institute for the Study of Violent Groups.

The Guardian [London]. 13 May 2002. Suzanne Goldenberg. "Israel Thwarts Jewish Bomb Attack on School." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

The Independent [London]. 6 February 2004. Eric Silver. "Fraud Detectives Question Sharon Over Bribes Suspicion." (Nexis)

International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT). N.d. "Kach and Kahane Chai." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

Israel. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). 13 March 1994. "169. Israeli Government Communique." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

The Jerusalem Post. 12 November 2000. Janine Zacharia. "US Islamic Group Seeks Arrest of Binyamin Kahane." [Accessed 13 Feb. 2004]

Jewish Virtual Library. 2003. David Shyovitz. "Rabbi Meir Kahane." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2004] N.d. " Responds to State Department." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2004]

Patterns of Global Terrorism for 2002. 2002a. United States Department of State. Washington, DC [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

_____. 2002b. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

Political Handbook of the World: 2000-2002. 2002. Edited by Arthur S. Banks, Thomas C. Muller and William R. Overstreet. Binghampton, NY: CSA Publications.

Political Parties of the World. 2002. 5th ed. Edited by Alan J. Day. London: John Harper Publishing.

The Washington Times. 11 October 2003. Jerry Seper. "Four Jewish Web Sites Deemed 'Terrorist': Designation Carrying US Sanctions Extended to Internet for First Time." (NEXIS)

The Yale Accords. 2000. "Committee on Terrorism, Security and Arms Control." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted


IRB Databases

Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor

Jerusalem Report Magazine

Internet Sites, including:

Amnesty International

Freedom House


Human Rights Watch

Search Engine:


Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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