Israeli Militant Meir Kahane Shot to Death in New York Hotel
NEW YORK (AP) _ Rabbi Meir Kahane, who campaigned to drive Arabs from Israel and urged American Jews to arm themselves against anti-Semitism, was shot to death Monday night after a speech at a Manhattan hotel.
Police identified the assailant as El Sayyid A. Nosair, 35, whose nationality was unknown. He was wounded by a postal police officer as they exchanged gunfire outside the Halloran House, said Chief of Detectives Joseph Borrelli.
The postal officer and a bystander in the hotel were also wounded, police said.
Kahane, 58, a Brooklyn-born Israeli extremist who once served in the Israeli parliament, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital, said hospital spokesman Peter Schectman.
Mayor David Dinkins said the shooting was ″an international tragedy that shocks all of us.″
Kahane was head of the anti-Arab Kach party in Israel. The party advocates the ouster of all Arabs from Israeli-held territory and a ban on Jewish-Arab marriages. The movement’s symbol is a clenched fist inside a Star of David.
Kahane founded the militant Jewish Defense League in the United States in 1968 to mount armed responses to anti-Semitic acts. The group organized classes in karate and weapons training and held patrols in high-crime neighborhoods.
Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American- Jewish Organizations, called Kahane ″a highly controversial figure who had strong supporters and opponents.″
″Whatever one thought about his political program, his shocking assassination will be deplored by friends and foes alike,″ he said.
Witnesses said Kahane had given a speech to about 60 people at a meeting of the Zionist Emergency Evacuation Rescue Organization. Shortly after 9 p.m., as Kahane answered questions from the podium, a gunman who sat through the speech stood up and fired twice at him from a distance of about 4 feet, Borrelli said. Kahane was hit once in the neck.
The assailant ran from the room, bumping into a 73-year-old man, whom he shot in the leg, Borrelli said.
The gunman fled outside and tried to hijack a taxi, he said. An on-duty postal officer outside a nearby post office intervened. They exchanged gunshots and both were wounded.
The officer was shot in the arm and the gunman was hit in the chin.
All were taken to Bellevue where the gunman was taken to surgery, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Crowe. He was expected to survive. The officer’s wound was superficial, she said. All were listed in stable condition.
The gunman’s nationality was unknown, and he apparently lived in New Jersey, Borrelli said.
The hotel on Lexington Avenue is also called the New York Marriott East Side.
Kahane served as a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for four years but was barred from running for re-election in 1988 after legislators passed a law banning parties that have a racist platform.
In September, Kahane went on trial in Jerusalem on charges of disturbing public order for leading an anti-Arab rally after the stabbing deaths of two Israelis last year. Kahane was also charged with sedition for calling Arabs ″cancer spreading in our midsts″ during a separate incident. Another hearing in the trial was scheduled for December.
The sedition charge stems from a Kahane rally in Jerusalem on July 7, 1989, a day after a Palestinian from the occupied Gaza Strip grabbed the wheel of an Israeli bus, plunging it into a steep ravine on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. Sixteen people were killed in the attack.
″Kill those who come to kill you,″ Kahane told the crowd. His supporters chanted ″Death to the Arabs 3/8″ and waved signs demanding that all Arabs be expelled from Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Kahane moved to Israel in 1971 and became a citizen a year later. He renounced his American citizenship to run for Israel’s parliament.
Kahane conceded in a 1971 interview that the Jewish Defense League’s tactics were inspired by black militant groups.
″Our point of view is that no anti-Semitism was ever created by a Jew who fought back,″ Kahane said.
He was born Martin David Kahane on Aug. 1, 1932, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. He began using the name Meir after his ordination as a rabbi in 1957.
Martin Cohen, an attorney and follower of Kahane who was at Monday’s meeting, called Kahane a martyr.
″He stood for every Jew who no longer wants to be kicked around, for every Jew who remembers the Holocaust,″ Cohen said. ″Many people believed he was an extremist, but he was a kind, gentle man who died for what he believed.″
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said he disagreed strongly with Kahane’s political philosophy.
″I nevertheless deeply regret his violent end,″ Schindler said. ″He did not deserve to die by an assassin’s bullet.″