The State Department revokes the “terrorism” designation of Kahane Chai and four other groups, saying they have remained inactive.
Washington D.C.- The US State Department has removed Israeli ultranationalist group Kahane Chai from its list of “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTO), in a move that US advocates say could embolden supporters of Israel’s far-right.
In a statement on Friday, the department said it was removing five groups, including Kahane Chai, as part of a routine process to remove inactive organizations from the FTO database in accordance with immigration law. and nationality (INA).
“As required by the INA, the Department reviews FTO designations every five years to determine whether the circumstances that formed the basis of the designation have changed in such a way as to warrant revocation,” the State Department said.
“Our review of these five FTO designations determined that, as defined by the INA, the five organizations are no longer engaged in terrorism or terrorist activity and do not retain the capability and intent to do so.”
President Joe Biden’s administration had confirmed its intention to revoke the “terror” designation of Kahan Chai – originally known as Kach – last week after media reported that the State Department had notified the decision to Congress.
While critics acknowledge that the group – founded by US-born ultranationalist Israeli politician Meir Kahane – has been officially inactive, they say adherents who embrace its anti-Arab ideology still operate in the United States and Israel.
Prior to establishing Kach in Israel, Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the United States, a radical pro-Israel organization linked to several violent attacks on American soil, including the assassination of Palestinian organizer American Alex Odeh in California in 1985.
“Kach and Kahane Chai have split into various political groups and parties that continue to espouse, inspire and perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinian civilians,” said William Lafi Youmans, associate professor at George Washington University. , who is working on a documentary about the assassination. from Odeh.
“Rather than removing the designation, the State Department should have updated and expanded it. Simply removing these groups from the list will be seen as the United States continuing its light-hearted approach to right-wing violence. against the Palestinians,” he told Al Jazeera earlier this week.
But on Friday, the State Department stressed that the move was strictly bureaucratic, not political.
Alongside Kahane Chai, the other deregistered groups are Basque Patrie et Liberté, Aum Shinrikyo, Mujahidin Shura Council in the Jerusalem area and Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
The State Department also removed six deceased individuals from the US list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” (SDGT).
“The revocation of FTO designations and the debarment of deceased individuals ensures that our terrorism sanctions remain current and credible and do not reflect any change in policy with respect to the past activities of any of these terrorists or the organizations from which they were affiliated. members,” he said.
Still, Palestinian rights advocates have expressed concern about the political implications of the decision to remove Kahane Chai from the list.
Kahane, who was elected to the Israeli Knesset in 1984 on a platform that openly advocated the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland, was killed in New York in 1990. But long after his death, his supporters continued to carry out violent attacks.
In 1994, an American-born member of the JDL and Kach shot dead dozens of worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. And in 2001, JDL leaders plotted to blow up a mosque in California, as well as the office of Lebanese-American Congressman Darrell Issa.
Kach has been banned in Israel, but rights activists say the group’s supporters still operate under different far-right organizations in the country – and some of its adherents have held public office.
The United States added Kahane Chai to the FTO list in 1997. As a national American group, the JDL is separate from Chai, but both are part of the same Kahanist movement.
The State Department said Kahane Chai and the other four groups will retain their SDGT designations to “ensure frozen assets are not turned over to individual terrorists who are still active.”