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“I don’t want Judaism in Israel to be Reform Judaism. This country needs to be Jewish.”

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During the 2019-2020 elections, Itamar Ben Gvir and his political party Otzma Yehudit became a controversial topic. (Photo: Lior Cohen)

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Itamar Ben-Gvir is considered by many as the most hawkish and right wing politician and activist in Israel. He started off as a youth activist in the now outlawed Kach movement. In the 1990’s he became one of the faces of the activist opposition against the Oslo Agreements.

Ben-Gvir gained notoriety a few weeks before the Yitzhak Rabin assassination. He went on Israeli television brandishing a Cadillac emblem that had been stolen from Rabin’s car and declared: “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him too.” In a November 2015 interview, he claimed to have been indicted 53 times. After spending so much time in court he decided to become a lawyer. Today, he works as a lawyer and represents many right wing activists.

During the 2019-2020 elections, Ben Gvir and his political party Otzma Yehudit became a controversial topic. The NY TImes reported that when Netanyahu openly suggested that he would form a coalition with Ben Gvir, “The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American lobbying group known as AIPAC, and the American Jewish Committee, both of which rarely weigh in publicly on Israeli politics, declared Otzma Yehudit’s ideas “reprehensible.” They vowed not to have any contact.”

We met Ben Gvir in his office in Jerusalem. It’s on a side street not too far from Ben Yehuda Street. When we enter the building with our camera, a young couple walks out and the man says, “you’re here to interview Itamar aren’t you? Can’t believe this racist has an office in this building.”

Ben Gvir is extremely busy. His table is overflowing with legal case binders and he’s talking to clients as we set up. You have me for 20 minutes, he says, as he puts on the mic for our Q and A.

Many Diaspora Jews see you and your political party as very racist. They equate you to the KKK.

People have all of these false beliefs and pre-judge us without actually knowing who we are…  I myself was not born religious, I became religious later in my life… I believe that you need to unite and connect the people of Israel… Yes, we have differences of ideologies with the Diaspora. I don’t want Judaism in Israel to be Reform Judaism. This country needs to be Jewish. I mean that the mainstream needs to be Orthodox. 

This doesn’t mean that I believe that I should hate other people from different streams… Or that they are traitors, that’s really not something I believe in… However, I think that it’s really unfair for someone who doesn’t live here to believe that my party shouldn’t run or that I shouldn’t be allowed to run, trying to dictate to us what we should or should not do while they don’t live here. That’s hypocritical.

Can you tell me about your political party Otzma Yehudit?

Otzma Yehudit believes in the people of Israel, the land of Israel which is all based on the Torah of Israel.

This country is the land of the Jewish people. It is important to say that we do not believe in excluding anyone who is not Jewish.

I am referring to all the minorities living in this country. We have a strong connection with the Druze, for example. This also includes other communities who live and fight with the people of Israel. It is very important to say that we are not here to generalize all Arabs.

All we are saying is that those who are not loyal to the state, should not be here.

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Who shouldn’t be here?

Those who throw rocks and Molotov cocktails, who want to be a Shahid (martyr) and kill Jews, do not need to be here in Israel. It is absurd that in the Israeli parliament you have members of Knesset who believe that Israel has no right to exist. You would never have these sorts of things in Canada or any other normal country.

When you say Jewish state, what do you mean?

We should have a Jewish state. I’m not going to force my opinion on anyone.  But I believe that we need to educate people on Jewish values… We should have an education system that doesn’t only value mathematics etc., we think these are very important for a person’s education. But we also need to teach the youth today actual values.

Netanyahu was criticized for wanting you and the rest of Otzma Yehudit to join a right wing coalition during the first elections back in 2019. Why did he want to include you in the coalition?

It’s very simple, he wanted to win… And you know what, had he stayed with us during the second, third elections he would have a true right wing coalition. But I don’t think he really wanted that. I think this bloated and ineffective government with Gantz is comfortable for him. It’s not really right, it’s not left, nothing gets decided.

“It is absurd that in the Israeli parliament you have members of Knesset who believe that Israel has no right to exist,” Itamar Ben_Gvir says. “You would never have these sorts of things in Canada or any other normal country.” (Photo: Lior Cohen)

Are you saying Netanyahu isn’t a right winger?

Netanyahu believes in right wing ideas. Land of Israel, people of Israel. He has good intentions, but he has no courage. He has no courage whatsoever.

You saw that earlier his year, when he had the green light to annex Judea and Samaria he chose not to. I said to people who were celebrating that it will never happen. Today we know that he never intended to do anything and it was just political maneuvers. This is not how, I believe, a leader should act.

Is there someone that can replace Netanyahu?

There are many people who believe that they can’t be replaced. In reality, everyone is replaceable… Don’t misunderstand me, Netanyahu is remarkable. He is charismatic, talented. When you see him and Benny Gantz, you realise that he is really in a very different league. Or him and Yair Lapid. They are not even close to the level that he’s in.

However, his actions lately, like giving up on annexation and agreeing behind the scenes for parameters of a Palestinian state, and other things along those lines, are telling us that maybe it’s time for him to retire.

Igal Hecht is a documentary filmmaker and journalist who works all over the world. 


For more info visit www.chutzpaproductions.com

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

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