И не какому нибудь журналу, а Плейбою, и не какой-нибудь раввин, а Меир Кахане.
Интервью это состоялось в конце 1972 года, вскоре после того, как Кахане стал израильтянином и ещё до того, как он стал главным израильским экстремистом.
Надо заметить, что в самом интервью он предстаёт несколько более благообразно, чем в дальнейшем.
PLAYBOY INTERVIEW: MEIR KAHANE
a candid conversation with the militant leader of the jewish defense league
(Playboy October, 1972)
(А какие там картинки по соседству...
Но - оставлю это вашему воображению).
Nearly every reader of a news magazine has heard of the Jewish Defense League and seen pictures of its tough-looking youths "patrolling" inner-city neighborhoods, training in karate, standing armed guard before the doors of synagogues. Many observers within and without the Jewish community see J.D.L. as an alarming phenomenon— prepared to use guns and even bombs to achieve its dubious ends, eager to in , crease both domestic and international tendons, intolerant of opposition, comparable in its approach to the Minute-men and the Weathermen.
The fact that it is a Jewish organization behaving this way has produced a good deal of astonishment. Although Jewish life in this country is far from monolithic—there are Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and even nonpracticing Jews, whose observances differ markedly from one another—certain reasonable generalizations can be made about American Jews, and by these criteria, the Jewish Defense League is an anomaly. For a century, this country's I Jews have been moving outward from ghetto and shul, away from orthodoxy to full participation in the nation's life; . J. D. L. denounces these "secularist" tendencies and hearkens back to the Orthodox tradition. Since the Thirties, Jews have been identified with New Deal liberalism; J. D. L. heaps scorn upon liberalism and liberals. Young Jews played a prominent role in the civil rights demonstrations of the Sixties; Jewish lawyers have made careers of defending the civil liberties of others; Jewish citizens are on contributor lists for every underdog cause in the land; yet J. D. L. berates Jews for rushing to the defense of others and ignoring the sufferings of their own brothers and sisters. The major Jewish organizations are proud of their skill at resolving grievances around the conference table; J. D. L. has taken vociferously to the streets. Jews have won a reputation for avoiding violence; young J. D. L. members seek confrontations. Their slogan: "Never Again!"
Among J.D.L.'s more celebrated activities have been the following:
• Members of the National Renaissance Party, carrying GAS THE JEWS! signs at a Fifth Avenue parade marking an anniversary of Israel's independence, were roughed up by J. D. L. youths.
• When black leader James Forman threatened to interrupt services at New York's fashionable Temple Emanu-El with his demand for Jewish reparations to black citizens, about 30 J. D. L. members, equipped with clubs and chains, stationed themselves at the entrance to the temple and promised to break Forman's head if he should appear. He didn't.
• In response to the Soviet government's refusal to permit emigration of Russian Jews to Israel, and its arrest of Jewish dissidents, J. D. L. bands trailed members of the Soviet mission to the UN, calling them dirty names; J. D. L. also invaded offices of the Soviet trading company Amtorg.
• Last March, some J. D. L. members crashed a diplomatic reception in Washington and poured blood on the head of a Soviet official.
• In May, a dozen J. D. L. members staged a sit-in at the Austrian Embassy to protest the acquittal in Austria of a former SS concentration-camp guard. They hung a Nazi flag outside a window and traded blows with embassy officials.
Exploits widely attributed to J. D. L., although either denied or shrugged off with a grin by its spokesmen, have included:
• Open bottles of ammonia rolled down the aisles of Carnegie Hall, slopping a performance of the Siberian Dancers and Singers of Omsk.
• A bomb exploded in the doorway of the New York office of Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, and Intourist, the Soviet tourist agency, leading to the cancellation of a visit to this country by the Bolshoi Ballet.
• A bomb set off outside the Soviet cultural building in Washington.
• Four shots fired through a window of the Soviet mission to the United Nations.
• A bomb exploded in the Lebanese Consulate in Hollywood after the random shooting at Tel Aviv's Lod airport in May by Japanese gunmen allegedly trained in Lebanon.
• A fire bomb exploded, killing a young Jewish woman, in the New York offices of impresario Sol Hurok, prime importer of Soviet talent.
Four J. D. L. members were arrested in connection with the Hurok bombing and one at another booking agency the same day. Four others had been arrested a few weeks earlier, charged with conspiring to blow up the Long Island home occupied by the Soviet mission to the UN.
For its deeds, both admitted and alleged, J. D. L. has been denounced by every major Jewish organization in the country, as well as by officials on all levels of government. Yet it has persisted, growing to a claimed membership of 16,000—most of it, according to J. D. L. spokesmen, on the nation's campuses. This achievement is due almost entirely to one man, an Orthodox rabbi: Meir Kahane (pronounced Ka-hah-nee).
Born in Brooklyn 40 years ago, Kahane attended Jewish religious schools —Yeshivas—but combined his spiritual orthodoxy with a passion for the New York Yankees that was most unorthodox in the Brooklyn of the legendary Dodgers. He won a, B. A. and a law degree at night school (and later an M. A. in international law), then served as a rabbi in Queens for a couple of years but found that role uncongenial. Today he doesn't claim to speak officially for any branch of American Judaism; he is, however, the voice of J. D. L. To learn more about this controversial organization and its reputedly authoritarian leader, PLAYBOY sent interviewer Walter Goodman to talk to Kahane. Goodman reports:
"Meir Kahane is a slight, dark man of quiet demeanor. At some time in his youth, he apparently forced himself to master a stutter; his tongue still falters occasionally, but the flow of ideas into words is remarkably fluent. His manner in private conversation is subdued, compared with his fiery manner on the platform, but now and then a twitch of his eyelid betrays the nervous energy within. A low-keyed humor continually finds its way into his conversation. While searching for a parking space on a crowded Brooklyn street, he remarked, 'Now, we'll see whether God is good today, or difficult.' After a moment, he added: 'He's always good and always difficult.'
"Kahane plans, in time, to settle in Israel—where J. D. L. now maintains an international office—and he contends that it would be prudent if all American Jews made similar plans. Last year he moved his family—wife and four children—there, where his father and grandfather were rabbis in the days be¬ fore the existence of the Jewish state. Kahane now commutes monthly between America and Israel and maintains so frenetic a schedule of speaking engagements, which are a major source of J. D. L. funds, that I had to fly with him from New York to Chicago just to get him to sit still for a couple of hours. It was a luncheon flight and the airline presented the rabbi on boarding with his specially ordered, Saran-wrapped kosher meal.
"When we next met, it was in a quite different setting, J. D. L. headquarters in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn building that is a cross between a deserted warehouse and a medieval dungeon. Prison, in fact, is something Kahane has often faced. He was first arrested at the age of 15, in 1947, for stoning the car of British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin. Since forming J. D. L. in the late Sixties, he's been held by the police several times. In 1971, he was convicted for his part in a bomb-making plot, and last May he was given three years on probation for inciting a riot in December 1970 outside the Soviet mission to the UN. Throughout all, he has behaved with the air of a man who believes himself perfectly justified in his actions. I began by asking him to explain why."
PLAYBOY: How do you justify J. D. L.'s advocacy of violence as a tactic?
KAHANE: As a general principle, if there is no need for violence, then even a little bit of it is bad. But if a crisis arises in which nothing can work but a great deal of violence, then not to use it is a tragedy. Was it more merciful not to go to war with the Nazis in 1935? Was it more moral, more ethical, more decent, more humane? I think it would have been a lot more humane for a lot of innocent people if we had gone to war then.
PIAYBOY: Some Jewish leaders have charged that your readiness to resort to violence contradicts the principles of Judaism.
KAHANE: When some so-called leader gets up and emotes about what is Jewish and what is not Jewish, it pains me, because I can't stand ignorance. If he owned an insurance business, I wouldn't have the chutzpah to argue with him about insurance. So let him not tell me, a rabbi, what is Jewish. Gandhi, a pacifist, was not a Jew. Moses was a Jew—and he smote the Egyptians.
PLAYBOY: Just how far are you willing to go in the use of violence?
KAHANE: As far as necessary. If an American Nazi Party leader posed a clear and present danger to American Jews, then not to assassinate such a person would be one of the most immoral courses I could imagine. I only wish that someone had assassinated Adolf Hitler in 1923.
PLAYBOY: How can you take upon yourself the responsibility of deciding whether or not to take someone's life?
KAHANE: You have an obligation to try to do things in a nice way. You have to give your antagonist an opportunity to change. But once you've given him that chance and it doesn't work, then I think you have an obligation—not just a right, an obligation—to move on to something that is not nice.
PLAYBOY: But anybody can use that kind of reasoning to justify whatever thinks is right.
KAHANE: Of course.
PLAYBOY: Then the only difference between you and, say, the American Nazi Party is that they're wrong and you're right?
KAHANE: I can't put it better than that.
PLAYBOY: Four members of J. D. L. were arrested last June for fire-bombing the offices of Sol Hurok in New York, killing a young girl. How
KAHANE: That was insane. I was horrified.
PLAYBOY: But what do you have to say about the fact that circumstantial evidence points to your organization's involvement in the bombing? J. D. L has been critical of Hurok for bringing Soviet performers to America, and someone did call the Associated Press and NB after the explosion and use your J. D. L. slogan, "Never Again!"
KAHANE: Those arrested are nice Jewish boys; they're absolutely innocent. It's true that we have disrupted Hurok's concerts—but there's a tremendous difference between that and bombing someone who is not part of the Soviet apparatus in this country. Now, Hurok is in it to make money, and I think that's immoral. I think he's helping the Soviet Union in a cultural exchange program the basic purpose of which is to anesthetize the American people. No! one can walk out of a Soviet concert feeling quite as bad toward Russia as ha might have before. So I think Hurok's program should be stopped. But not that way. The punishment must fit the] crime. There is cultural genocide going on in the Soviet Union—but we're not dealing with physical genocide. So we disrupt cultural activities; we don't assassinate Soviet officials.
PLAYBOY: In the process of anti-Russian protests in this country, J. D. L. members have broken American laws. How do, you excuse that?
KAHANE: We respect the right and the obligation of the American Government to prosecute us and send us to jail. No one gripes about that.
PLAYBOY: Are you at all concerned that J. D. L.'s harassment of the Russians may obstruct Soviet-American relations and hurt the cause of peace?
KAHANE: After we took over the New York offices of Amtorg, the Soviet trading company, and made the Russians walk down 20 flights of stairs, our ambassador to the UN, Charles Yost, called me in. The first thing he said to me was, "Aren't you a good citizen?" I said, "Yes." Then he asked me if I didn't realize that J. D. L. was interfering with delicate relations between the U. S. and the U. S. S. R. When he said that, I knew we were making our point. I want to see this world living in peace, and I want to see the Soviets and the Americans sit down and get the Cold War figured out. But I don't want peace bought at the expense of people. Once upon a time, that was called Munich.
PLAYBOY: So your strategy is to make the Soviets uncomfortable and also to try to put pressure on our own Government.
KAHANE: Exactly. And we're succeeding. We've gotten thousands of Jews out of the Soviet Union. But don't take my word for it; talk to the Jews in the U. S. S. R. or to those who have gone to Israel. In the Soviet Union, the only American Jewish organization the people have heard of is J. D. L. The Soviets made a 20-minute TV film about J. D. L. They put up big pictures of Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and Meir Kahane—enemies of the state. Fine.
PLAYBOY: What would you consider J. D. L.'s other major successes in the four years of its existence?
KAHANE: First, it has created a sense of Jewish identity, especially on campuses. Second, it's created a different image of Jews among gentiles. Why do muggers prey on Jewish neighborhoods and not on Italian neighborhoods? Because the Italians have a reputation for being tough. Now we're getting that reputation—rough-and-tough hoodlums.
PLAYBOY: That's good?
KAHANE: Yes. If a minority group has an image of weakness and is at the same time affluent, it becomes an ideal scapegoat when times get hard, as they are today for many people. That's really why I started J. D. L.
PLAYBOY: How did that come about?
KAHANE: Well, in 1967, I became the editor of The Jewish Press, the largest Anglo-Jewish paper in the country— over 160,000 readers—for which I'd been writing a weekly column for several years. In my job as editor, I started getting phone calls and letters telling me about incidents that seemed terrible to me, but which I never read about in the general press.
PLAYBOY: Such as?
KAHANE: There were Jewish teachers being attacked by racists in their schools.
There was the whole problem of violence in Jewish neighborhoods. There was the tremendous growth of radical-left alienation among young Jews. So I would contact the major Jewish groups and say, "Hey, have you heard about this?" and they'd say, "Yes, we've heard." And I'd say, "What are you going to do about it?" And they'd say, "Well, we've always found that it's better not to do too much; it makes things worse; these things have a tendency to die out." I listened to them, but it became obvious to me that doing nothing would simply guarantee that the situation would get worse. So I put an ad in The Jewish Press in which I described the problems and said that it was time for an active Jewish group to call a meeting.
PLAYBOY: What was the response?
KAHANE: I was astounded. All of a sudden, I found out just how many Jews there were who thought they must be crazy, because they'd been brought up to believe that militant thinking was un-Jewish. The idea of J. D. L. took off immediately. If it had come five years earlier, it might have fizzled, but in 1968, its time had come. PLAYBOY: Why 1968?
KAHANE: Because the Arab-Israeli war the year before had cut the albatross from the neck of the poor, long-suffering anti-Semite. When the gates of the concentration camps were opened, there was this terrible guilt feeling all over the world. To be an anti-Semite in the years immediately following World War Two was too much for the average person. The Christian overcompensated, just as today the Jew overcompensates for the black man. Well, that's over and done with. Suddenly, the erstwhile victims have become bloody Jews, aggressors who did unto others what had been done unto them for so long. At least that's what the anti-Semite can now believe.
PLAYBOY: You don't put much store in surveys and polls indicating that anti-Semitism in this country has been steadily declining.
KAHANE: When an anti-Semite's belly is filled, he doesn't stop being an anti-Semite. He's just quiet about it, because it's not relevant. But America's economic boom is ending; for 25 years, America had no competitors, but today tough competition is pricing U. S. goods out of world markets—indeed, out of the domestic market. Things won't get better, they'll get worse, and that will lead to frustration and a search for that scapegoat I was talking about—the Jew.
PLAYBOY: Why the Jew? Why not the black man?
KAHANE: First of all, Jews are a small minority and, as I said, a very wealthy one. That's a dangerous combination; it makes it easy for both black and white workers to turn on them. It's not a coincidence that George Lincoln Rockwell was the only white man ever invited to sit on the dais at a Black Muslim meeting. It's not a coincidence that the American Nazi Party, in its writing directed at blacks, blamed the Jews for poverty, drugs, liquor, slums and ever! thing else that's oppressing blacks. AM the WASP establishment isn't exactly dismayed that the anger of minority groups is being diverted from the stock exchange to Sammy's candy store. On the one hand, the black man sees the Jew as the weakest link in the white chain; on the other, the white fascist types blame the Jew for what they see as the black problem. Over and over fl their literature, they emphasize the dent fact that it was Jews who play the leading role in the battle for civil rights—a battle that I feel should bring: honor to the Jewish people. There isn’t a thing we Jews have done for blacks that I say should not have been done. say only that we should have done much for ourselves.
PLAYBOY: One criticism of J. D. L. is it doesn't seem to care much about people's civil rights. When you were permitted to speak to the Zionist Organization of America last year despite number of protests, for instance, cited that as an example of freedom expression
PLAYBOY: Yet when William Kunstler was invited to speak to a Jewish J. D. L. protested against it.
KAHANE: Certainly. I would protest against any Jewish group's allowing a Jew hater to speak.
PLAYBOY: What's your objection Kunstler?
KAHANE: William Kunstler, I think, taken a position that is exceedingly detrimental to Jews. He aligns himself with the anti-Semitic section of the black nationalist movement. I'm not saying this man shouldn't have any forum in this country, only that he shouldn't have a Jewish one. To me, anyone should be allowed to speak in public if, given the power, he would grant me the same right. I don't care what his economic or
social views are; all he has to do is tell that if he got power, he'd let me speak.
PLAYBOY: Suppose he says he wants to annihilate the Jews. Would you permit him to speak?
KAHANE: Of course not. Nobody has the right to put me into an oven.
PLAYBOY: But doesn't democracy grant someone the right to say he'll put you into an oven?
KAHANE: You can't make that kind of a statement in a vacuum. The Nazi who says it tries to get enough people's minds changed so that he'll really be able to do it. Maybe he doesn't have enough power now, but what about five years from now? You know, we have a tremendous thing about love in this country. Everybody has to love everybody. Well, I believe there is a certain importance to hate. One has to hate injustice. You can't just say, "I'm not for it"; you've got to burn it out of the human condition. I believe there is an objective standard of what is good and what is evil. Nobody can tell me that, given his place and time, Eichmann was not evil—and evil has to be stopped.
PLAYBOY: So you employ your "objective standards" in Brownsville and Anthony Imperiale employs his "objective standards" to justify white vigilante patrols in Newark. In this sense, how does J. D. L. differ from Imperiale's group?
KAHANE: Imperiale is a racist. He doesn't like blacks because they're black. In that sense, we're as different as night and day.
PLAYBOY: But you've had some abrasive encounters with black groups yourself, notably in regard to their demands for reparations from wealthy Jewish congregations. Doesn't it seem ironic to you that the Jews, who demanded and received reparations from the Germans, should deny them to blacks?
KAHANE: There's no question that an individual who commits a crime should pay for it—nor that the German generation that committed terrible crimes must pay reparations for what it did. But there is no way I, whose parents came over here in the 1920s, am going to pay for the sins of Baptist slaveowners. If we're speaking about reparations, the Jews can stand first in line. But we're not asking for reparations from the Catholic Church nor the Protestant churches; that's done with. As for blacks' asking reparations from Jews, we owe them nothing—and that's what they'll get from us.
PLAYBOY: There are, however, specific charges against Jews as slumlords and installment-plan operators, and so forth, in black neighborhoods. Surely you can understand black hostility to these very visible people.
KAHANE: One hundred percent. No one ever said that slumlords aren't bad guys. They are. But when black militants go out in the streets and add the one word— Jewish slumlords—they add nothing new except anti-Semitism.
PLAYBOY: As J. D. L.'s strategy and tactics have been described, they seem to owe a good deal to those of black militants themselves.
KAHANE: The Talmud says, "Who is wise? He who learns from all people." We're happy when people call us Panthers, because we know a Panther doesn't mess with a Panther.
PLAYBOY: Does that mean that, in your opinion, rioting by militant blacks is justified?
KAHANE: No, not in America. If the Soviet Union had allowed the kinds of changes for Russian Jews that this country has allowed for blacks, there would be no J. D. L. protests against the U. S. S. R. It's one thing to say this is a country where change hasn't come fast enough; but the fact is that change has come—and it's not just tokenism. There's been an honest effort to meet problems, there's been a revolution in this country.
PLAYBOY: Militant blacks disagree and claim the right—just as you do—to use extreme methods to catalyze that revolution.
KAHANE: There will always be such people —people who don't want to see the world become better.
PLAYBOY: That argument can be turned against you.
KAHANE: Any argument can be turned against anybody.
PLAYBOY: Are you concerned that J. D. L. may be creating feelings of anti-Semitism among blacks?
KAHANE: One thing we should have learned by now is that you can't fight anti-Semitism by sweeping it under the rug. The anti-Semitism is already there. I don't like it when people talk about "Zionist pigs." I don't like it when a red-neck does it; I don't like it when Bobby Seale does it. It bothers me that men like Lindsay and Rockefeller haven't spoken out forcefully, that the entire WASP establishment hasn't spoken out against the overt anti-Semitism among black groups.
PLAYBOY: Are you also concerned about anti-Semitism among the ethnic whites of middle America?
KAHANE: Very much so. That's where the danger really lies in this country, and that's why J. D. L. has been trying to open lines of communication with Italians, Irish, Poles. We don't care what "nice" people think. We do care what these people think. We don't want them to love us, just respect us.
PLAYBOY: Does this aim account for your alliance with Joe Colombo's Italian-American Civil Rights League?
KAHANE: Yes. Whatever you may think of Colombo, no other group has as many members and speaks as clearly as his does for the lower-class and lower-middle-class ethnic.
PLAYBOY: Is it possible that J. D. L. and the Italian-American Civil Rights League were drawn together by a mutual antipathy to blacks?
KAHANE: After Joe Colombo was shot by a black man at a league rally last year, I went into the hospital room with his sons and others who were ready to I apart any black they saw. Not everyone could have gotten into that room I day; I was one of only five outside there, and the only Jew. I spoke to Colombo and to the boys and to shtarkers, and I tried to get through I them that it was just some crazy who had done this—not all black I don't know what influence I had, I when Colombo's son Anthony made ; statement to the press, the first thing I said was exactly what I had been saying I feel I did my bit in that area.
PLAYBOY: Are you happy with the renewed emphasis on ethnic identity I seems to be developing in this country?
KAHANE: No, not at all.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think it's happening?
KAHANE: I think because it's the nature of the beast to look inward rather outward—to seek to become part of a group he feels possesses right, justice, truth and everything else. The small the group, the bigger he feels.
PLAYBOY: But surely you're feeding actly that, promoting Jewish pride ; consciousness, criticizing the superficiality of what you've called "bagel-and-lox I Jewishness" in the United States.
KAHANE: What we're dealing with is I change in Judaism that has been taking place not only in this country but in t materialistic West in general: All form of life become things to be enjoyed/ What kind of car do we decide to buy! We go out and shop for it. What kind of Judaism do we want? We go out am shop for it. Nobody built a Conservative temple because of ideology; they built it because they wanted something a little more modern, a little easier. When it filtered down to people that the Conservative rabbi would let them ride to synagogue instead of walk, that's what created a Conservative temple. There's no ideology in any of it.
PLAYBOY: Are you saying that the kind o Judaism widely practiced in this country isn't really Judaism at all?
KAHANE: Right. It may be the nonviolent \ principles of Tolstoy; it may be the I liberal principles of Americans for Democratic Action; but it's not Judaism. Like it or not, Judaism has very definite concepts, very rigid concepts. It's never been easy to be a Jew; through the ages, he was ruled by laws, regulations, customs whose basic purpose was to discipline him as a human being — because one cannot achieve a sense of morals or ethics unless one has the ability to do without, to sacrifice. Our laws and customs are too difficult for the average person. For him, Judaism becomes a question of what's more convenient, and the parents who choose this bagel-and-lox Judaism are paying the price. Their children, who see through this sham, aren't willing to keep even the bagels and lox. They've lost any logical reason for staying Jewish. When a Reform rabbi talks about the morals of Judaism and the ethics of Judaism, I think that's wonderful; I'm all for morals and ethics, only what he's talking about isn't particularly Jewish.
PLAYBOY: Are there such things as Jewish morals and ethics?
KAHANE: Yes. Not to beat one's mother is an ethic—but it's not particularly a Jewish ethic. For it to be Jewish, there must be something unique about it.
PLAYBOY: For example?
KAHANE: Consider the question of kosher food. Ask the American Jew, why kosher food? Nine out of eight will say because once upon a time, we Jews were the only people in the world who realized that one ought to be healthy, and that therefore we didn't eat pork and didn't get worms and trichinosis. That's nonsense. Kosher foods are postulated by the need for a sense of discipline. The importance of the rules lies in building up in a young child the capacity to do without if necessary. Take a young Jewish boy who observes the rules of kashruth. He goes to a double-header at Shea Stadium and he sits through a long first game that goes into extra innings and he's long since finished the sandwich his mother gave him. Two hours later, he's sitting there and next to him somebody orders two franks, and they're passed down the row. He's famished but doesn't order one for himself. Now, what's happened to this youngster is a tremendous thing. He has learned that sometimes one would like to have, and yet must be able to resist. Consider the Sabbath: For 24 hours, he's not able to do what he'd like to do. He can't play cards, watch television, go to a movie; he can't go out and make money. Such restraints build up strength within him, so that one day, when he is asked to make a major sacrifice, it won't be that difficult. That, I think, is uniquely Jewish Judaism. Ethics aren't enough. Everybody's ethical.
PLAYBOY: Are the radical activities of your young followers consistent with Jewish law?
KAHANE: That's what we're trying for. When a young Jew who has never felt very much for his Jewish past participates in one of our protests, he experiences for the first time the feeling that he's doing something for Jews. It's the first step back to Judaism,
PLAYBOY: Is it realistic to expect young Jews in this society to return to Orthodox Judaism?
KAHANE: J. D. L. isn't a religious organization. We're not interested in drawing them back to Orthodox Judaism. We want to get rid of their ignorance about what Judaism is, and then if they choose to practice it, fine. My own belief is that if a boy is given an opportunity to know what Judaism really is, not the absurdity that he's fed in his Hebrew school, he will understand its tremendous concept and perhaps practice it a bit more. He should have the right to reject Judaism; he should have freedom of choice. But the average young Jew has no choice. The kind of Judaism he's been given here in America leaves him no choice but to reject it.
PLAYBOY: And you, in turn, have rejected the values in which most American Jews have put their trust—liberalism, democracy, interfaith relations. Why do you mock those values?
KAHANE: I don't mock the values. I only mock the people who think that these values will solve the Jewish problem in this country.
PLAYBOY: What will?
KAHANE: Actually, I take a very bleak view. I don't believe there is a Jewish future in this country. What I say to the young people on campuses is, "Your place is in Israel." The only place where the Jewish people can live in physical safety and spiritual sanity is their own state. They're no different from anyone else. To be a minority is to be abnormal. Believe me, I understand far better than the average Jewish liberal the agony of the black masses. It's difficult to be black and be normal when everything you see, every value, is white; when the entire culture is the antithesis of your own. The idea that this is a fascist state that purposely engages in genocide of black people is nonsense. The black problem is simply that this is a white country. And the Jewish problem is that this is by its very nature a Christian country.
PLAYBOY: Can't one be a good Jew and have no intention of living in Israel? KAHANE: There's a great deal of hypocrisy on that. Three times a day, the practicing Jew faces East and he says, "May our eyes behold Thy return to Zion." Well, the return has occurred; Zion is there. On Yom Kippur, when in every synagogue and temple in the land, at the same moment, tens of thousands of Jewish voices are raised during the service, saying, "Next year in Jerusalem," everyone is lying, from the rabbi on down. Israel is an integral part of Judaism, and I will debate any rabbi, anywhere, on this position: The belief that the place for Jewish people is the state of Israel is central to Judaism. That's the positive reason to go to Israel. There's also a negative reason. I believe there is a physical threat to Jews in this country. J. D. L. exists as a very strange kind of Zionist group—one that urges people to go to Israel but, knowing that they won't go, does its best to prove itself wrong about the threat here by giving strength to America's Jews.
PLAYBOY: Does that explain your emphasis on guns?
KAHANE: My motto is, "Every Jew, a Twenty-Two." I would have made it an M-l, but it didn't rhyme. But I've been told by the court not to speak about guns.
PLAYBOY: Can you say whether weapons training is still going on at your J. D. L. camp in the Catskills?
KAHANE: Oh, yes. Of course.
PLAYBOY: Just what is the physical threat you feel you face? Who is the enemy! Aren't you making too much of the anti-Semitic lunatic fringe?
KAHANE: Not long ago, I was listening to one of those radio talk shows, where people phone in. Now, on those shows, you hear a lot of American voices, and it's frightening. One night, they got] onto the subject of busing, and one caller—a rational-sounding man—said, "I would vote for the reincarnation oil Adolf Hitler if it meant that my child would not be bused ten miles."
PLAYBOY: Are the callers to those shows representative? Aren't they usually pretty odd people?
KAHANE: If they're odd people, there are an awful lot of odd people out there. IE think a country becomes odd in times of crisis. Very decent, very nice people be- I gin behaving oddly when there's immense pressure on them. Germans ate I human beings like everyone else. In 1925, they would never have voted for Hitler. A few years later, they did.
PLAYBOY: Is that a fair comparison? Ger-B many, at that time, had no republican tradition, whereas America is among the I oldest functioning republics in the world.
KAHANE: There is no question that America's differences from the Weimar Republic were what kept this country from going down the same road to facism in the Thirties. But that experience strained our democratic structure to a dangerous degree; don't come to me and say it can't happen here. I never say I it's going to happen; I do say it's quite probable. In the Thirties, millions oil people were ready to follow anti-Semitic rabble-rousers like Father Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith and Huey Long, i who called themselves populists. These I people weren't populists because they wanted to give the other guy a break; they were populists because they wanted a break for themselves. And that tradition is far from dead. George Wallace has the kind of charisma that Huey Long had. He's not a conservative; he's a populist.
PLAYBOY: Are you implying that Wallace is an anti-Semite?
KAHANE: Not at all. He's not an anti-Semite. But there is serious anti-Semitism on the periphery of his movement that could break through at any time. You know, I was once involved in a research project investigating the radical right.
PLAYBOY: How did that come about?
KAHANE: In the early Sixties, a friend and I set up a research institute, our own business. We did a lot of work for the Government—the State Department, the Pentagon. In 1963, we were contacted by one agency that asked whether we'd be interested in researching radical groups, particularly on the right.
PLAYBOY: What agency?
KAHANE: Well. . . .
PLAYBOY: Was it the FBI?
KAHANE: They'd say it's not true.
PLAYBOY: Is it?
KAHANE: All right, we were contacted by the FBI to do work on the Birchers. It was no big deal; I mean, I was no FBI agent. We just did contract work for them, and they paid us.
PLAYBOY: How did you conduct your investigation?
KAHANE: It was my idea that the best way to do a research job on a group was to join it. So I became a member of the Birch Society under the name Michael King.
PLAYBOY: That's more or less a translation of your name.
KAHANE: Yes. You don't join the Birchers and hope to get anywhere with the name Meir Kahane. I spent about two and a half years with them, and I really learned a lot. But it was difficult on account of my religion. I constantly had to make up reasons why I couldn't attend meetings on Friday nights.
PLAYBOY: Did you find that the Birchers were really a serious threat?
KAHANE: What bothered me more than anything else was the large number of ostensibly normal people in the society. There's this great liberal arrogance that anybody who's right of center has to be a kook, a nut, an oddball, and it's not true. If it were, I'd feel happier about it. But there was a large number of physicians, attorneys, college graduates, who sat and listened to—and believed —things that were completely absurd about the Communist threat to America. These people were pillars of the community, and it frightened me that such people were willing to believe such stuff. That's what bothered me more than anything else about the Birchers. Today it's the John Birch Society; tomorrow it will be a worse group.
PLAYBOY: You and your organization do have one quality in common with many American conservatives: hawkishness on military issues. Your concern over Israel's security is understandable—doubly so since your wife and four children live there. But you've also supported the war effort in Vietnam. Do you feel that is in some way tied in with Israel's interests?
KAHANE: Yes. The Soviets know that the fiasco in Vietnam has so sickened Americans that they won't go to war again. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Soviets hinted at going in; President Johnson picked up the hotline and said, "You stay out and we'll stay out," and the Russians stayed out, fearing a risk of confrontation. There is no such risk today. The U. S. Army is demoralized and the American people—former hawks as well as doves—say, "No more war adventures."
PLAYBOY: Can you seriously ask the support of this country's Jews for a war in Southeast Asia that most of them see as immoral and unjust, simply because of its possible implications in Israel?
KAHANE: The war in Vietnam was not an unjust war. I find it incredible that people overlook the horrors in the North. Ho Chi Minh was a mass killer. If there were no Israel, I would still support our effort in Vietnam. In the Thirties, they used to say, "Who wants to die for Danzig?" Nobody died for Danzig; we just gave it up. In the end, millions more died for France and England.
PLAYBOY: That sounds like the domino theory.
KAHANE: The domino theory shouldn't be discounted. Sure, I would love to see the 80 billion dollars that's set aside for our Armed Forces go into the rebuilding of slums. I'd like to see the two thirds of the Israeli budget that goes for the armed forces be used to rebuild slums. Who wouldn't? But there's a desperate problem here, which overshadows such problems as slums. The views of a George McGovern, who is a very decent, well-meaning person, or of a John Lindsay, who is not a decent human being but a demagog, about diverting our resources and binding up the wounds at home will, if carried to their conclusion, lead to neo-isolationism and doom every small country in the world. I believe we've been fighting in Vietnam to keep the war from coming closer to home. But we should have gotten out a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: If you're in favor of the war, why do you say we should have gotten out a long time ago?
KAHANE: What I'm saying is that if a particular war can be won, and it's necessary for the prevention of aggression, then it should be fought. But from a practical standpoint, I think we should have extricated ourselves from Vietnam long ago, because we could see from the beginning it was a fiasco. The whole thing reminds me of the story of the man who had two wives, one old and one young. The old one, every time she saw a black hair on his head, would pluck it out. And every time the young one saw a gray hair, she would pluck that out. So in the end, he was left bald. That's what the Vietnam war has been —neither a war nor a peace, and we've been left bald.
PLAYBOY: Because of your views on the war, and your criticism of "radical chic" and the New Left, you've been characterized as a right-winger. Do you feel that's valid?
KAHANE: If people knew my feelings on most domestic issues, they'd be mightily shocked. I'm a lot more left of center than they are. I believe very strongly in Government intervention in social policy; it's outrageous that we don't have more. But I dislike it heartily when people ask, "Are you a liberal or a conservative?" It's about time Jews stopped being knee-jerk liberals or knee-jerk conservatives or just plain knee-jerk people.
PLAYBOY: But aren't you promoting a kind of knee-jerk Jewishness? J. D. L. seems to see every issue exclusively from a Jewish point of view.
PLAYBOY: Well, isn't that knee-jerk Jewishness? Isn't there something odd about your calling on the Jewish people, who have won admiration for their universal outlook, to revert to a kind of tribal separatism?
KAHANE: Universality is beautiful, no question about it. Universality is beautiful when each and every group has a deep respect for itself and can deal with other groups on mutually respectful terms. Then we can move together. Isaiah speaks of "the end of days," a time when all the nations will worship together. That's certainly the ultimate goal for Jews. But the prophets also speak of the need for Jews to observe the Sabbath, observe the laws. The way to reach universality is to make of yourself an individual with pride in self; then you can extend your hand with confidence to other people and say, "I am what I am and you are what you are. Now, let's walk together to the common end."