Billboards announcing the upcoming memorial service for slain far-right activist rabbi Meir Kahane were removed from a pair of hotels at the entrance to Jerusalem on Wednesday following pressure from left-wing lawmakers and NGOs.
The signs — which also included a message of support for recently detained activist Bentzi Gopstein — were hung Monday on the walls of the Jerusalem Gardens and Prima Park hotels after an advertising franchiser hired by the far-right Otzma Yehudit organization received permission from the municipality.
Over the past two days, opposition MKs Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Issawi Frej (Meretz) along with the New Israel Fund sent letters to the Jerusalem District police chief and advertising franchiser Kobi Mor calling on them to remove the billboards, which they argued normalized incitement to violence and racism.
“Beyond the insensitivity and harm to thousands of Muslims living in the city, this is an act that grants legitimacy to the idea of transfer, hatred of Arabs and racism,” Frej wrote.
The Brooklyn-born Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League in the US and the Kach movement in Israel, both of which were later alleged to have engaged in terror activities.
Kahane set up the JDL in 1968 with the stated aim of protecting Jews against anti-Semitism, opening chapters across North America. By 2001 the JDL was considered by the FBI a radical organization suspected of engaging in terror activities.
Kahane established the Kach political party in Israeli in 1971 and in 1985 won a single seat in the Knesset. In 1988 the party was disqualified from running in elections on the grounds that its platform was racist. In 1994, the Kach movement was banned in Israel under anti-terrorism laws.
Kahane, an Orthodox Jew and outspoken advocate of extreme Jewish nationalism, was assassinated by an Egyptian-born American on November 5, 1990, after making a speech in New York.
Gopstein is a follower of Kahane and the leader of the far-right Lehava organization. Last month, he was sentenced to five days of house arrest following allegations that he made threats against Arabs who were romantically involved with Jewish women.
Following the decision to remove the billboards, attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir announced that he intends to sue the advertising franchiser on behalf of Otzma Yehudit for breach of contract.
“It is unacceptable that a sign approved by all parties in the Jerusalem Municipality… is removed because of the terrorist pressure of political opponents. This is the end of freedom of expression in Israel,” he said in a Wednesday statement.