By Larry Gordon
The scene was set last week in the offices of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman in Mineola, New York. In a world filled with so much falsehood and deception, the recognition of rightness is both innovative and refreshing.
Unfortunately, a significant amount of the speciousness circulating in our world revolves around Jews and Israel. It is important to note that this is not the first time that Bruce Blakeman has personally, or in his official Nassau County government capacity, stood up and defied the routine mindlessness that is responsible for targeting Israel as an aggressor and oppressor.
To make that point, Mr. Blakeman invited Yossi Dagan, chairman of the Shomron Regional Council in Israel, to sign an economic and cultural agreement between our two parts of the world—here on Long Island and over there in Israel.
What does that really mean anyway? Nassau County, of course, does not sign treaties or international agreements with foreign countries. Be that as it may, there is no denying that a large part of the Nassau County population has a special affinity for the State of Israel, and events like this express that connection and attachment.
And this is all especially important when communities like Patterson, New Jersey, host a public event that renames that city’s main thoroughfare “Palestine Way.” Also last weekend there was a large march in support of so-called “Palestine” in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, just a stone’s throw (literally) from one of the most Jewish-populated communities in the United States, Boro Park.
Despite all the marches and machinations, the entity known as Palestine does not exist. Some can insist and imagine that it exists, but that doesn’t change the authenticity on the ground.
That just makes ceremonies like the one in Mineola last week additionally important. Too many supporters of Israel, whether Jewish or not, hang back and even cower when it comes to overtly standing up for the true relationship between the land of Israel, the people of the Israel, and the Jewish state. When Bruce Blakeman proudly and unabashedly stands with Shomron leader Yossi Dagan and tells him that the people of Nassau County are with him, that also means that there is no excuse-making or double-talking.
What Blakeman is plainly saying is that Judea and Samaria are an essential and integral part of Israel. The claim that those areas are “occupied territory” is not only as untrue as it always was, but it just does not matter.
It was a great ceremony, with numerous communal personalities and rabbinical leaders joining. One of the speakers was former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind who served in the State Assembly for 36 years. As he approached the podium, Hikind turned, pointed at Bruce Blakeman, and said, “Ladies and gentleman, this is real leadership.”
It is indeed.
Kahane Chai Recollections
The U.S. State Department informed Congress last week that they will be delisting and re-categorizing five entities previously considered FTOs—Foreign Terrorist Organizations—and one of those groups is Kahane Chai, founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1971 and designated as a terror organization shortly thereafter.
R’ Kahane was murdered in New York in 1990. His son Binyomin Zev created Kahane Chai, but, sadly, he and his wife were shot and killed on a road in Israel in 2000.
If you read press reports from Israel and elsewhere this week, they say that KC was responsible for the harassment, attacking, and murder of hundreds of people up until about 2005, when the group essentially fell silent.
But that is not true. I had an office in Brooklyn in the same building as Kahane Chai for about five years in the mid-1990s. The group was broke and powerless. There were a few guys who sat around the office most days watching TV; on nice days they rode around Flatbush and Boro Park on bicycles, pasting stickers on mailboxes and storefront windows with the Kahane symbol of a fist with the words “Never Again” superimposed.
The local post office and the store owners didn’t like it. I remember one of the young men active in the group telling me that he was being investigated for “defacing federal property.” In other words, he was placing stickers on mailboxes. The young man, who went by the name Mike, rode around on a large three-wheel bicycle with a basket on the back filled with stickers and flyers that he distributed around town.
I recall Mike telling me about 25 years ago that he was moving to Israel. Last I heard, he was living in Kfar Tapuach. But that wasn’t the last I would hear about Kahane Chai.
We both had mailboxes in the main lobby of the office building in the 1990s; what I did not know was that some of the checks mailed to my office somehow made their way into the Kahane Chai bank accounts.
I remember driving up to work one day and seeing a large truck being loaded up with boxes by men and women wearing jackets that said FBI on the back. Apparently it was about the time—after 9/11/2001—that some Jewish and Islamic organizations were deemed to have ties to some level of terrorism. Among those groups was a Texas-based Holyland Foundation, a group that supported Hamas and, wouldn’t you know it and just to balance things out, Kahane Chai.
The U.S. government froze the assets of these entities. In the case of the Islamic organization, that meant hundreds of thousands of dollars that they now could not access. In the case of Kahane Chai, I thought this was a big break for them because their bank accounts were overdrawn anyway. So yes, their checks might be bouncing, but it was no longer because of lack of funds.
I don’t think I ever told this story here, but this is an appropriate time to do so. Until two FBI agents from the Joint Terror Task Force showed up at my home one morning in March 2002, I had no idea that several checks made out to my company were falsely endorsed and deposited into Kahane Chai bank accounts.
One of the agents was carrying a copy of this newspaper that featured a photo of a Torah dedication ceremony here in the Five Towns by a person who was on the Kahane Chai board of directors.
There were two agents, a man and a woman, and they told me they were investigating whether this was a case of aiding and abetting terrorism. I think it was obvious to them that I was not the type to support terror on any level and that my connection, if there was one, to the group or even to Rabbi Kahane when he was alive, was simply as a journalist.
They wanted to know my connection to Mike (who had an office in my building in Brooklyn that was already closed) and to Eric, the man in the photo in the paper dancing with a sefer Torah, and another young man, David, who they told me was already living in Israel.
The agents said that I did not have to speak to them, that I could defer to my attorney and at that point the interview would be concluded and picked up by the U.S. Attorney’s office. I told them that I was OK with speaking to them and explained to them that I did not know nor had I ever met Eric or David and that I only knew Mike from entering and exiting the building and from seeing him ride his bicycle around the neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The conversation was routine and pretty matter-of-fact—until one of the agents pulled out a copy of a check that was made out to my company but deposited in the Kahane Chai bank account. They asked me what I knew about that. I looked at it, told them that I was not aware of any such activity, and the only explanation was that the checks were surreptitiously taken from either the mail deliverer or from my lobby mailbox.
That was the truth, and I never gave any money in support of Kahane Chai or, for that matter, any Kahane-affiliated organization.
I later learned that the FBI was under pressure to come up with a case of someone who supports a Jewish brand of terror, which we all know really doesn’t exist. They needed to do that because there were so many cases of Islamic groups supporting violent terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and these investigations, as far as the government was concerned, could not be so one-sided.
So this is what I was dealing with—people who supported terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon building missiles aimed at and occasionally fired at the civilian population in Israel … and my minimal acquaintance with a guy who rode around Flatbush on an adult three-wheeler putting Kahane stickers on mailboxes. And I was supposed to take this seriously.
The FBI agents kept on calling me with an assortment of related questions, trying, it seemed, to maneuver me into admitting that I knew more about Kahane Chai than I was revealing. I really didn’t know much about them but they didn’t seem so interested in that fact.
After a few weeks I reluctantly retained an attorney, and the next time the agents called I had to tell them that they would have to speak with my attorney going forward. I didn’t want to do that, as my knowledge of the law was largely from crime shows on TV, and I observed over the years that when someone being investigated says to speak to their attorney that usually points in the direction of guilt.
A few weeks later my attorney called me to say he had been speaking with the U.S. Attorney and she was being very aggressive and did not want to let go of this case.
Eventually the periods between the two attorneys’ calls grew longer until one day the U.S. Attorney’s office just stopped calling. It seemed to me that they realized that not only was there no case, but that the assertion that I was aiding a terror organization was absurd.
Now Kahane Chai is no longer a FTO or on the U.S. terror watchlist. According to what I read, though, the U.S. will still be monitoring whether these organizations, if they still exist, are moving money around that might suggest support of terrorism.
Meir Kahane was a great man and a great leader. I interviewed him a number of times and was always enamored by his self-sacrifice and dedication to the Jewish people. But one thing JDL, Kahane Chai, and Kach all had in common was that they were always short on funds. You can rest assured that if Kahane Chai was broke in 2002, if it were still in existence it would be even more broke today.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.