Michael Ben-Ari
Michael Ben-Ari Amir Levy/Flash 90

For millions of people today, words like Racism, Socialism, Communism, Capitalism, Fascism, Peace, Freedom, and Democracy have ceased to be words whose meaning can be scrutinized and discussed, but have become right-and-wrong noises to which one’s reaction is as impulsive as a knee-reflex.

The Otzma Yehudit party is currently under siege. Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz, and the Joint List have together signed a motion to disqualify candidates Itamar Ben-Gvir and Michael Ben-Ari from running, forcing the Central Elections Committee to meet and discuss the matter. Meanwhile, both the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) condemned the views of the Otzma Yehudit party as “reprehensible” and “racist”.

Former “U.S. Foreign Service officer in Tel Aviv” Noah Siegel yesterday presented an article entitled Israel’s far-right Otzma party is dangerous. I know because I banned its leader from the United States.

Siegel defends his assertion in three sentences; the rest of the article is knee-jerk calumny and sleight-of-hand. He says Otzma Yehudit leader Dr. Michael Ben-Ari “joined the Kach movement in 1979. Kach and Kahane Chai were both designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government in 1997, the same year as Hamas and Hezbollah. Ben-Ari has never disavowed Kach and openly considers himself a disciple and devotee of Kahane.” Based on this “evidence” alone, “the embassy’s request for a visa ban was granted,” writes Siegel.

Kach and Kahane Chai were indeed designated terror organizations, in an attempt by the Clinton Administration to demonstrate even-handedness and to provide grist for the “extremists on all sides” discourse. Siegel tries to prove Ben-Ari is “dangerous” by association with various “radical settlers” and “fellow travelers in the Jewish underground”, and then pulls out his largest knee-reflex rubber hammer and says “most notoriously, in 1994, Kach enthusiast Baruch Goldstein killed 29 worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The entire movement was outlawed in Israel after it expressed support for the terrorist attack.”

Goldstein, a medical doctor from Kiryat Arba, was killed in 1994 while shooting 29 Muslims with an IDF-issued rifle after receiving early warning from then army Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz of an imminent massacre of Hevron’s Jews. The warning came in a meeting attended by then Kiryat Arba Mayor Tzvi Katzover.

Goldstein, a medical professional renowned for his dedicated treatment of all, despite race or creed, could not accept being told by the Chief of Staff that a massacre was on its way that the army was unwilling or unable to suppress.

Eyewitnesses in Hevron and newspaper reports say Hevron's Muslims had been hoarding food in anticipation of the lockdown that would surely follow the massacre. Leaflets telling of the upcoming campaign to "slaughter the Jews" blanketed the city for two weeks before the incident.

Far from entering the Cave of the Patriarchs as a political act with a "Kahane" battle cry on his lips, Goldstein sought to preempt the massacre as a healer whose services had been requested to absorb the grotesquely maimed and wounded, thus tacitly acquiescing in and facilitating the government's deliberate inaction.

Siegel claims his 2009 position in Tel Aviv involved an “interagency working group at the embassy that evaluated individual cases in the country for potential threats to U.S. citizens.” He says the committee “consisted of field officers from the major intelligence agencies, including the State and Defense departments, CIA and FBI” and “generated requests to State Department headquarters” to compile “a sort of no-fly list for visas”.

Siegel admits taking “a small measure of personal satisfaction” when Ben-Ari was banned entry to the United States in 2012. Siegel, now safe from Ben-Ari in Portland, Oregon, does not take his life into his hands every time he boards a bus. His Twitter statement of personal philosophy reads “Better cities. More hockey. Less war.”

Siegel disseminated his article on his Twitter account under the heading: “I shared this earlier but didn’t make it clear that I wrote it. So sharing again, this time with more vanity.” But it makes no difference if Siegel wrote his piece simply for his own aggrandizement or if, as is more prevalent, he claims to be serving some good cause.

Indeed, the better the cause Noah Siegel claims to be serving, the more dangerous he is. Because labeling Israeli citizens as “racists” and “Jewish terrorists” as a tactic to disarm and deny them democratic access and prevent their advance where they otherwise would effectively engage may be the form of reprehensible fascism we actually need protection from the most.