Baruch Marzel

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Baruch Marzel

Baruch Meir Marzel (Hebrew: ברוך מאיר מרזל‎) is an Israeli politician.[1][2] Marzel, an American-born Orthodox Jew, lives in the Jewish community of Hebron in Tel Rumeida with his wife and nine children. He was the leader of the far right-oriented Jewish National Front party. He is now a member of Otzma Yehudit.[3] He claims he was the "right hand man" of assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, acting as spokesman for the American rabbi's Kach organization for ten years[4] until it was outlawed in Israel and the US as a terrorist organization. The mainstream Israeli press regularly describes him as an "extreme right-wing activist".[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Marzel was born in Boston and emigrated to Israel with his family as a baby. After finishing his studies in the Yamit hesder yeshiva, at age 20, he joined the IDF. In the 1982 Lebanon War he fought in the Armored Corps and participated in the capture of the Beirut-Damascus road. Upon finishing his army service, the army sent him to the United States, where he was involved in public relations and outreach for Israel.

Political activism[edit]

From his youth he participated in the Kach movement, and for nearly a decade he served as its spokesperson. Marzel was elected head of the Kach movement's secretariat after Kahane was assassinated in New York. A splinter group from Kach, Kahane Chai, was led by Kahane's son Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane.

In 2003, Marzel joined Herut and Paul Eidelberg's Yamin Yisrael party to become the number two candidate on the party list, after Michael Kleiner, in the bid to enter the 16th Knesset session. The election advertisements featured him prominently with the traditional Hebrew saying "Hazak U'Baruch" (literally strong and blessed, Hebrew: חזק וברוך‎), a pun on Marzel's first name. Herut narrowly missed the minimum number of votes needed to enter the Knesset.

In 2004, he founded the Jewish National Front and headed its Knesset list in the 2006 elections. During the election campaign, Marzel called on the Israeli military to "carry out a targeted killing against (left-wing figure) Uri Avnery and his leftist collaborators."[6] This came in reaction to Avneri earlier saying on Israeli radio station Kol Israel that the assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi was a Palestinian "targeted killing," like the Israeli military's "targeted killings" of Palestinian political leaders. According to Gush Shalom, "the radio did not quote [Avneri's] next words: 'I am against all assassinations, both by Israelis and Palestinians.'"[7]

Marzel was considered too nationalistic for parties with similar ideology, such as the National Union or National Religious Party (today's Bayit Yehudi party).[8] Ultimately the Jewish National Front received 24,824 votes (0.79%), less than half the minimum 2% required to enter the Knesset.

In 2009, after fellow party member Michael Ben-Ari won a seat in Knesset on the National Union (Israel) list, Marzel agreed to serve as Ben-Ari's parliamentary aide.[9] Marzel had originally planned to run independently. They eventually agreed not to summit their party's list on their own, and instead placed Ben-Ari on the National Union party list.[10] In 2013 Marzel ran for the Knesset again, this time on the third slot of the newly founded Otzma LeYisrael party, which splintered from National Union.[11] However, the party failed to cross the electoral threshold. Prior to the election, other parties such as the Jewish Home party had rejected including or cooperating with Marzel, considering him to be too outspoken and nationalistic.[12]

Legal issues[edit]

According to a 2003 report in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, "Marzel had acquired a police record of some 40 files before he was 30".[13] The report goes on to detail his criminal record, including assaults on Palestinians (one earning him a 12-month suspended prison sentence), an Israeli police officer, an Israeli left-wing activist and the journalist Uri Avnery.

In August 2012, Israeli police arrested Baruch Marzel at the entrance to the town of Kiryat Arba over his failure to report for questioning. He was suspected of being involved in several incidents in Hebron that took place six months prior, in which several Palestinians allegedly were attacked.[14]

In 2014, Yariv Oppenheimer, chairman of Peace Now, signed a police complaint against Marzel alleging threats against his life by his followers. On his Facebook page, Oppenheimer wrote that he is “exiting the police station now, worried and pessimistic. The telephone won't stop ringing and on the other end, human scum who follow Marzel continue to curse and threaten.”[15]

Controversies[edit]

Anti-LGBT activism[edit]

Marzel has also advocated violence towards homosexuals in Israel, calling for a religious war against them during a radio interview. In 2006, in the days leading up to a planned gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Marzel reportedly stated that "The stabbing incident during last year's parade will seem minor in comparison with what is anticipated this year. We have to declare a holy war".[16] Marzel also was involved in the controversial March 2009 flag parade through Umm al-Fahm. He led protests against the eighth Jerusalem Gay Pride parade of 2010, opining that "[homosexuality] is a disease of choice, and a man can change his taste and his ways. When someone has AIDS they tell them not to infect others, so why are these people allowed to march here in Jerusalem and infect us with their disease?"[17]

Anti-assimilation activism[edit]

In 2006, Marzel sent an open letter to Linor Abargil, asking her not to marry non-Jewish Lithuanian NBA player Šarūnas Jasikevičius;[18] a similar open letter was addressed in March 2010 to Israeli model Bar Refaeli, urging her not to marry her non-Jewish boyfriend, American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Representing the Lehava organization which works to prevent intermarriage, Marzel tried to remind Refaeli that she is the descendant of grandmothers who would not dream of seeing her marry a non-Jew and perpetrate assimilation.[19][20][21] In 2013 he was among 50 activists who held an anti-assimilation protest at a wedding between an Arab man and a Jewish woman.[22]

In July 2014, Facebook removed Marzel's page after readers complained about incitement.[23]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Kahane supporters praise Gaza killings as 'holy'". ynet news. 9 November 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Thousands arrive in Homesh". ynet news. 26 March 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Yishai's List Finalizes - With Marzel, But Not Ben-Ari". Arutz Sheva. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Barch Marzel – C.V. and Highlights of his Public Activities". Retrieved 2006-05-07. 
  5. ^ "Rightists present: Free Yigal Amir 2". ynetnews. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Marzel to cabinet: Kill left-wing leader". ynet news. 20 March 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  7. ^ http://www.redress.btinternet.co.uk/gush_shalom15.htm[dead link]
  8. ^ "Will Otzma's 64,782 Votes Affect 2017 Elections?". Arutz Sheva. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Radical Jewish settlers threaten to fight Israeli army". McClatchy Newspapers. 3 December 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "MK Ben-Ari’s Supporters Celebrate His Victory". Arutz Sheva. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  11. ^ Otzma LeYisrael Central Elections Committee
  12. ^ "Orlev Draws a Line: No to Kahane, 'Hilltop Youth'". Arutz Sheva. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  13. ^ ""Israel: Article Profiles Kakh Activist, Knesset Election Candidate Barukh Marzel" via a Foreign Broadcast Information Service report, Jan. 3, 2003.". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Baruch Marzel arrested over failure to report for questioning". ynet news. 8 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Peace Now Head Complains: Marzel Supporters Are Threatening Me". Arutz Sheva. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  16. ^ "J'lem gay pride parade may be put on hold over security alert". Haaretz. 8 November 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  17. ^ "Anti-gay protesters: Sick perverts - get out of Jerusalem". Haaretz. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  18. ^ Efrat Weiss. "Marzel to beauty queen: Don't marry a goy" (in Hebrew). ynet news. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  19. ^ Shimeon Cohen. מרזל לבר רפאלי: אל תינשאי לליאונרדו (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  20. ^ Felicity Kay (15 March 2010). "Marzel urges super model Refaeli not to marry DiCaprio". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Jessica Elgot, "Bar Refaeli warned 'Don't marry Leo Di Caprio'", The Jewish Chronicle, 15 March 2010
  22. ^ "Activists Protest Against Arab-Jewish Wedding". Arutz Sheva. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  23. ^ "Citing incitement, Facebook closes page of group that fights intermarriage". Haaretz. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.