If there's one message that comes across loud and clear at the Jewish Defence League meeting Monday night, besides the fact that Jews are the chosen people and Arabs God's blight, it's that Hanukkah celebrants should go light on the doughnuts this year. That's because the Creator's faves have to strengthen their bodies -- or so says the chair, a huge yarmulked fellow obviously well acquainted with the bench press.
"We need to make a stronger Jewish people. We need to get physical. Our kids are being blown up and the Arabs laugh at it. They are training throughout the world," he says, introducing the featured speaker here at the Zionist Centre on Marlee Avenue.
In the midst of the emergency in Israel, I've come to see who will turn out to greet Binyamin Zeev Kahane, son of rabbi Meir Kahane, the extreme racialist who was murdered 10 years ago. Not many, actually. There are only 50 settler symps here, certainly not a satisfactory funding base for the self-described future shock troops of the Palestinian expulsion.
I'm sitting near the back of the hall under the garish gold-and-crystal chandeliers, trying and failing to find anything redemptive in this spiritual fireworks. The guy in the next seat tries to interest me in the proposition that the mosiach (messiah) will arrive soon and dump eternity in our laps.
But my mind is wandering because every now and again someone opines that "Jews who support Arabs (read, the peace process) are worse than the Arabs themselves," and I nervously gauge my distance from the exit.
Kahane speaks, demonstrating the unkind passion of too much ancestry. "God loves us and wants us to fight," he says. "We have no choice. We have to continue to spread my father's message. It's either Jews or Arabs.
"The flood has started. It's not a flood of water, but of fire," continues the slender, dark-eyed Kahane, referring to their prophecy that Israel will soon pull out of the Occupied Territories, leaving his co-believers to become the vanguard of a flat-out racial war.
"That will be a big day because it will be a day of fear for the Arabs. Now they step on the army, they spit on the army. Only of us are they afraid.'
But on the way to the final conflict, there are obstacles -- lots of them. By their own admission, they don't have big support among other settlers, their natural constituency. ("They insist on bulletproof windows, not kicking out the Arabs," one speaker sighs.)
Further, they complain that their ideas are drowning in the tide of Israeli peace hopes. Lambasting Peace Now, they say it hogs contributions, controls the Canadian Jewish Congress and "promises rainbows." In fact, Kahanists have a number of major kvetches -- about authorities who outlaw their organization and shut down their Torah centre, and about "Arabs," who in Kahanist theology are undifferentiated as to political belief or nationality and are never called "Palestinians,' for obvious reasons. These are the non-Jews who must by the will of heaven leave the promised land.
But the best news of all is that they don't think much of the Orthodox Shas party or the right-wing Likud, whose leader, Ariel Sharon, is facing off for the presidency with Labourite Ehud Barak. That just about lands them at the fringes of the margins in Israel's national debate, which is where they eternally belong.