They Must Go

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They Must Go

Excerpts from They Must Go

Written by Meir Kahane
Published in 1981

"A time bomb in the Holy Land ticks away relentlessly."

American-born Meir Kahane (1932–1990) became an infamous political radical in Israel during the 1970s and 1980s. A fervent Zionist, or person who supports the creation of an independent Jewish state, he moved to Israel with the goal of securing a homeland for Jews. Once there, he became convinced that a Jewish homeland must restrict and limit Arab participation. He noticed a detail in the Israeli constitution that he considered fatal to the survival of the Jewish state, namely that Arabs were allowed to coexist in Israel as full citizens. Kahane was not afraid to voice his opinions about it.

Kahane built a political party around his vision of an Israel created for Jews alone. Labeled a racist by some Israelis, Kahane was embraced by others as the Jewish radical needed to combat Palestinians who threatened Israel. His positions drew support from those in Israeli politics who were very conservative, even as he encouraged violent acts against Arabs. But for those hoping to solve the dilemma of Jews' and Arabs' conflicting claims to the land once called Palestine, Kahane seemed dangerous.

Kahane gained his reputation, for good and for bad, when he was detained by Israeli police and became involved in several trials throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Along with his political rallying, his most infamous activities included a plan to avenge the Israeli athletes killed by Palestinians at the 1972 Olympic Games, an attempted assassination of the Soviet ambassador, and a plot to explode a bomb at the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C.

On May 13, 1980, Kahane was imprisoned in Israel's maximum security prison at Ramle without being formally charged with a crime. In his prison cell, Kahane wrote They Must Go, a book detailing his philosophy against the coexistence of Arabs and Jews in Israel, and his argument about the "flaw," or what he called the "ultimate contradiction," that he noticed in the Israeli constitution. The following excerpts from They Must Go illustrate Kahane's powerful voice and his extreme opinions.

Things to remember while reading excerpts from Meir Kahane's They Must Go:

  • Meir Kahane was born Martin David Kahane on August 1, 1932, in Brooklyn, New York.
  • In his teens Kahane joined a militant Zionist youth group called Betar, which trained its members in military tactics in order to fight for a Jewish state.
  • Kahane was highly educated; he became a rabbi at the Yeshiva Mirrer seminary and earned a law degree from the New York Law School in the 1950s.
  • Kahane wrote several books, all about his views on the creation of a Jewish state free of Arabs in Israel

Excerpts from They Must Go

Some years ago I was arrested by the Israeli police and charged with "incitement to revolution." The grounds? I had reached the conclusion that it was impossible to find a solution for the Arab-Jewish confrontation in the Land of Israel (both the State of Israel and the lands liberated in 1967 ;) that the Jewish state was inevitably headed towards a situation like that in Northern Ireland; that the only possible way to avoid or to mitigate it was the emigration of Arabs. Consequently, I had sent letters to several thousand Arabs offering them an opportunity (funds and visas) to emigrate voluntarily. The fact that many Arabs replied positively and that a major Arab village in the Galilee, Gush Halev, offered to move all its inhabitants to Canada in return for a village there did not prevent the worried Israeli government from arresting me.

Four long years and one important war later, a scandal broke in Israel. It was revealed that Yisrael Koenig, a high official in the Ministry of the Interior who is in charge of the northern region of Israel, had drafted a secret memorandum in which he warned of the increasing danger of Arab growth (which would make Arabs in the Galilee a majority by 1978) as well as of increasing Arab national militancy. His solution included several measures that he hoped would lead to Arab emigration.

The pity is that vital years have passed since my original proposal, wasted years that saw the Yom Kippur War produce a major psychological change in Arab thinking. In the aftermath of that war and its political consequences, vast numbers of Arabs, who in 1972 were depressed and convinced that Israeli sovereignty could not be destroyed, are today just as convinced that time is on their side, that it will not be long before the Zionist state collapses. Then they—the Arabs—will hold sway over all that will be "Palestine." The necessary corollary is, of course, that hundreds of thousands who were potential voluntary émigrés nine years ago are now determined to stay and await the day of Arab victory. But they must go.

It is in order to convince the Jew of this that I have written this book.

The problem with so many people who proclaim the virtues of coexistence between the Jewish majority of the Jewish state and its Arab minority is that they hold the Arab, as well as his intelligence, and his national pride, in contempt.

There is an ultimately insoluble contradiction between a Jewish state of Israel that is the fulfillment of the 2,000-year-old Jewish-Zionist dream and a state in which Arabs and Jews possess equal rights—including the right of the Arabs democratically and peacefully to put an end to the Jewish state. Those who refuse to give the Arab that right but tell him he is equal think he is a fool. He is not.

The reality of the situation is therefore, clear. The Jews and Arabs of the Land of Israel ultimately cannot coexist in a Jewish-Zionist state. A time bomb in the Holy Land ticks away relentlessly.

A Jewish state means Jewish orientation and ties. It means Jewish culture and a Jewish spirit in the Jewish body politic. But above all, a Jewish spirit in the Jewish body politic. But above all, a Jewish state means Jewish sovereignty and control of its destiny. That can be accomplished only by a permanent Jewish majority and a small, insignificant, and placid Arab minority. But the Arabs believe that the Jews are thieves who stole their land. The Arabs feel no ties to or emotions for a state that breathes "Jewishness." And they grow, quantitatively and qualitatively . They will surely make violent demands for more power, including "autonomy" in various parts of the land. Eventually, the very majorityship of Jews will be threatened by the Arab birthrate. The result will be bloody conflict.

If we hope to avoid this terrible result, there is only one path for us to take: the immediate transfer of Arabs from Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, to their own lands. For Arabs and Jews of Eretz Yisrael there is only one answer: separation, Jews in their land, Arabs in theirs. Separation. Only separation.


Chapter 6: The Ultimate Contradiction

There is an ultimate insoluble contradiction between the State of Israel that is the fulfillment of the 2,000-year-old Jewish-Zionist dream and the modern nation-state that sees all its citizens as possessing equal rights and privileges. There is an ultimately immutable clash between that part of Israel's Declaration of Independence that created the Jewish state and the part that promised "complete equality of social and political rights to all its citizens," even though they be Arabs and notJews. There is—let it be said once and for all—a potential confrontation between the Jewish-Zionist state that was the millennial dream of the Jewish people and modern concepts of democracy and citizenship.

We are pained, embarrassed, thrown into intellectual agony. We hasten to avoid such talk. It is unnecessary, dangerous, irresponsible, better left unspoken. Nonsense! Far better to meet the issue, deal with it boldly and courageously, explain it to our children and ourselves, than to have it explode in our faces tomorrow.

There is nothing for which the Jew need apologize. A people that has suffered ecumenical agony and that has been deprived of the rights that other nations demand for themselves owes no one an explanation. The Middle East sees Islamic republics in which the Arabic quality and the Muslim character of the state are inscribed in the constitution; who shouts about Arabic "racism"? Africans insist upon the blackness of their state, and exclusiveness of culture and identity are the foundations of scores of nations. Who apologizes? The Zionist state is Judaism, the need for a land of the Jews where the people can escape Holocaust and build a distinctive Jewishness that will flourish.

The very kernel of Jewish longing for a homeland through nearly 2,000 years of exile was the belief that the Jews were a separate and distinct people. In a world in which we recognize the right of self-determination for Papua , who will challenge Jewish rights?

Moreover, the Jews constituted a unique people in that they were at one and the same time a religion and a nation, a religio-nation, which had lived as a unique society and culture in its own land—Eretz Yisrael. On the one hand they suffered unparalleled horrors and massacres in their wanderings in foreign lands. They knew no peace in any country in which their numbers grew large and their quality shone through. There was no society, religion, or economic or social system that gave them permanent haven and rest. Jews were burned to death, drowned, cut to pieces, converted to death, Inquisitioned to death, Crusaded to death, Islamized to death, pogromed to death, and Auschwitzed to death. The Jews learned a bitter lesson in their twenty centuries of being strangers, of existing as a minority. The lesson? It is not good to be a stranger. Never be a minority. Never again!

As impolite as it may sound, the Jews learned, after rivers of blood, not to trust to the tolerance and mercies and hospitality of others. They no longer wished to rely on the armies and the police and the swords of others to protect them from holocausts. Enough of being strangers.The Jews wanted to live. The Jews wanted their own armies, their own protection, their own home.


If the Arab is unhappy about this one can understand. It is never easy to be a lodger in someone else's home. But his unhappiness will not be resolved, for the Jew will not turn a lodger into an owner. If the Arab would rather live in his own home and atmosphere, he is welcome in any of the twenty-plus Arab states that exist. Israel cannot, and morally dare not, change its Jewish character. For Israel to change that Jewish character would be to turn those who created it on the basis of the Jewish historical right into liars and thieves.

It would be more than admitting that "Jewishness" was used in the past only in order to take away Arab land. It would be a cynical slap in the face to world Jewry which gave of its energies, funds, and in many cases, lives for the dream of a Jewish state. It would be a despicable cutting off of all obligations to oppressed and persecuted Jews who see in today's Israel their trustee and defender. The Israeli who was once in need of a home and who found it in a state that was pledged to help him would now—no longer in need—selfishly cut the lifeline for others.

The Jew has no moral right to an Israel that is a non-Jewish state. But in a Jewish state let no one insult the Arab by insisting that he is equal and that it is "his" state, too. It is this ultimate contradiction between the Jewish character of Israel and the democratic right of the Arab to aspire to all the rights that Jews have—including to have an Arab majority in the land—that will never give the Arab rest or allow him to accept the status quo.

What happened next ...

After his six-month detention in 1981, Kahane resumed his political activities with great enthusiasm. He formed a right-wing political party called Kach. The Kach political goal was to establish a Jewish state in Israel for Orthodox Jews, those who followed a strict interpretation of the Torah, the Jewish holy book. Kahane spoke of the removal of Arabs from Israel as an apocalypse, or event that would end the rule of evil on earth. Kahane drew critics within Israel as well as from the international community. Calling his views racist, some compared his policies to those promoted by the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, which oversaw the Holocaust. But Kahane also gained supporters.

In 1984 he won a seat in the Israeli Knesset, or legislature. His victory spurred a national debate about whether or not Israel was a state made up of racists. Were Israelis really unable to compromise with Arabs as Kahane so strongly believed? As his critics worried, Kahane gained more political support. By 1988 polls indicated that his Kach Party had almost 6 percent of the vote, enough to seize a good deal of power in the Knesset. But before the elections, the Israeli Supreme Court removed Kahane from his Knesset seat and banned the Kach Party from the vote, claiming that the party was racist and anti-democratic.

Nevertheless, Kahane continued on his same path, speaking out even more frequently about the removal of Arabs from Israel as the only real way to secure a Jewish state. After one such speech, given on a fund-raising trip in New York in November of 1990, Kahane was shot and killed by an Arab named El Sayyid A. Nosair.

Did you know ...

  • To avenge Meir Kahane's death, an Israeli supporter gunned down two Palestinians the next day.
  • The Kach Party remains active into the 2000s and is suspected of sponsoring attacks on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, areas of land controlled by Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967.
  • Kahane's son, Binyamin, founded a group similar to his father's Kach Party, called Kahane Chai (meaning "Kahane Lives") in 1990. Binyamin Kahane and his wife were killed in 2000.
  • The U.S. State Department listed both the Kach Party and Kahane Chai as terrorist organizations in 2004.

Consider the following ...

  • The atrocities committed against the Jewish people by the Nazis during World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan) are universally denounced by Jews and others. Kahane mentions in his text the violence brought against Jews throughout history, but argues for similar treatment of Arabs. Given this, try to decipher Kahane's justification for ridding Israel of Arabs. Use specific examples from the text.
  • Several groups, both political and militant, worked to secure Israel's independence. If Kahane's They Must Go formed the basis of such a group, could it be considered a legitimate freedom fighting group or a terrorist group? Explain.
  • Was Kahane's suggestion that Arabs could move to the twenty-plus Arab states of the world legitimate? Write two arguments: one that supports this suggestion as reasonable and another that argues that this suggestion is racist. Evaluate each argument. Is it possible to make each convincing? Why or why not?

For More Information


Friedman, Robert I. The False Prophet: Rabbi Meir Kahane, from FBIInformant to Knesset Member. New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1990.

Kahane, Meir. Never Again! A Program for Survival. New York: Pyramid Books, 1972.

Kahane, Meir. They Must Go. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1981.

Mergui, Raphael, and Philippe Simonnot. Israel's Ayatollahs: Meir Kahane and the Far Right in Israel. London and Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Saqi Books, 1987.


Hewitt, Bill. "After a Career of Preaching Hatred for Arabs, Rabbi Meir Kahane Is Cut Down by an Assassin's Bullet." People Weekly (November 19, 1990): pp. 65–66.

Web Sites The Official Kahane Website. (accessed on June 24, 2005).

Shyovitz, David. "Rabbi Meir Kahane." Jewish Virtual Library. (accessed on June 24, 2005).

Incitement: Encouragement.

1967: The year of the Six-Day War, in which Israel captured portions of land that are now called the occupied territories.

Mitigate: Lessen.

Emigration: To leave one's country or region to live elsewhere.

Galilee: A region in northern Israel.

Yom Kippur War: A 1973 war between Israel and the allied Arab nations of Egypt and Syria.

Sovereignty: Political control.

Zionist: Any person working to create an independent Jewish State.

Corollary: Result.

Émigré: A person who has left his native country for political reasons.

Insoluble: Having no solution.

Placid: Peaceful, mild.


and qualitatively: In number and in strength of belief.

Immutable: Not open to change.

Ecumenical agony: Religious persecution worldwide.

Holocaust: The slaughter of millions of European civilians, especially Jews, by the Nazis during World War II (1939–45).

Papua: The southeast portion of the island of New Guinea.

Inquisitioned; Inquisition: Former Roman Catholic court system for the discovery and punishment of heresy.

Crusaded; Crusades: Military expeditions undertaken by Christian churches in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries to win the Holy Land.

Islamized: Forced to follow the faith of Islam.

Pogrom: Attacks on Jews.

Auschwitzed; Auschwitz: Site of one of the largest Nazi concentration camps used during World War II (1939–45).

Despicable: Appalling, disgraceful.