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. He gave up his US citizenship when he ran for the Knesset.[6] After finishing his studies in the hesder yeshiva in the short-lived Israeli settlement of Yamit in the Sinai Peninsula, 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.[citation needed]

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."[7] This came in reaction to Avnery 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 [Avnery's] next words: 'I am against all assassinations, both by Israelis and Palestinians.'"[8]

Marzel was considered too nationalistic for Israel's hard-right parties, such as the National Union or National Religious Party (today's Bayit Yehudi party).[9] 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.[10] Marzel had originally planned to run independently. They eventually agreed not to submit their party's list on their own, and instead placed Ben-Ari on the National Union party list.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

Prior to the 2015 Israeli election, Marzel was put 4th on the Yachad-Otzma Yehudit technical bloc. Marzel's inclusion came as a result of a compromise between the two parties, including the exclusion of Michael Ben-Ari and the inclusion of Marzel.[14] In February, the Election Committee disqualified Marzel, along with Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, from running in the election. The decision squeaked by with a 17 to 16 majority. The decision came after past attempts to block Marzel failed. The reasons given for the disqualification of Marzel were several statements attributed to him, which groups petitioning the move claimed qualified as "racism."[15] Following Marzel's appeal, The Supreme Court accepted both the appeals by MK Hanin Zoabi and Marzel, against the decision of the Central Election Committee (CEC) who decided to disqualify them from participating in the next Knesset.[16] In the end, the Yachad-Otzma bloc failed to pass the election threshold by a mere 11,000 votes, thus not entering the Knesset.[17]

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".[18] 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.[19]

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."[20]

In March 2015, six days before the 2015 legislative election, the Judea-Samaria District Police filed charges in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court alleging that Marzel attacked a Palestinian Arab in 2013. According to the indictment, on 8 February 2013 Marzel entered the home of Hebron resident Issa Amro as the activist was passing through to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs and began attacking the Palestinian for "unknown reasons" after Amro demanded he leave.[21] Marzel's attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir slammed the indictment, saying it "stinked of election tampering".[22] This was echoed by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who stepped in to demand an explanation as to why the indictment came two years after the incident.[23]

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".[24] 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?"[25]

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;[26] 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 convince Refaeli that her ancestors would have opposed such a marriage.[27][28][29] In 2013 he was among 50 activists who held an anti-assimilation protest at a wedding between an Arab man and a Jewish woman.[30]

In July 2014, Facebook removed Marzel's page after readers complained about incitement.[31]

Baruch Goldstein Party[edit]

In 2000, Marzel organized a Purim party at the grave of Baruch Goldstein, the religious extremist who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre. Marzel was quoted as saying "We decided to make a big party on the day he was murdered by Arabs."[32][6]

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. ^ a b The extremist who could bring Kahanism back to the Knesset. Times of Israel. February 18, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015
  7. ^ "Marzel to cabinet: Kill left-wing leader". ynet news. 20 March 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  8. ^ http://www.redress.btinternet.co.uk/gush_shalom15.htm[dead link]
  9. ^ "Will Otzma's 64,782 Votes Affect 2017 Elections?". Arutz Sheva. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Radical Jewish settlers threaten to fight Israeli army". McClatchy Newspapers. 3 December 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "MK Ben-Ari’s Supporters Celebrate His Victory". Arutz Sheva. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Otzma LeYisrael Central Elections Committee
  13. ^ "Orlev Draws a Line: No to Kahane, 'Hilltop Youth'". Arutz Sheva. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Ben-Ari Says Unity With Yishai By 6 Tonight". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  15. ^ Azra, Hezki. "Elections Committee Disqualifies Baruch Marzel". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  16. ^ Ezra, Hezki. "Overturned: Hanin Zoabi, Baruch Marzel May Run for 20th Knesset". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  17. ^ Yashar, Ari. "Otzma Yehudit: 'We're Crushed but Not Despairing'". Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  18. ^ ""Israel: Article Profiles Kakh Activist, Knesset Election Candidate Barukh Marzel" via a Foreign Broadcast Information Service report, Jan. 3, 2003.". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  19. ^ "Baruch Marzel arrested over failure to report for questioning". ynet news. 8 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  20. ^ "Peace Now Head Complains: Marzel Supporters Are Threatening Me". Arutz Sheva. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Dvorin, Tova. "Indictment Filed Against Baruch Marzel". Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Cohen, Moshe. "Ben-Gvir: Marzel Charges 'Stink of Election Tampering'". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Yashar, Ari. "Attorney General Grills Police: Why Indict Marzel Now?". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "J'lem gay pride parade may be put on hold over security alert". Haaretz. 8 November 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  25. ^ "Anti-gay protesters: Sick perverts - get out of Jerusalem". Haaretz. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  26. ^ Efrat Weiss. "Marzel to beauty queen: Don't marry a goy" (in Hebrew). ynet news. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  27. ^ Shimeon Cohen. מרזל לבר רפאלי: אל תינשאי לליאונרדו (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  28. ^ Felicity Kay (15 March 2010). "Marzel urges super model Refaeli not to marry DiCaprio". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  29. ^ Jessica Elgot, "Bar Refaeli warned 'Don't marry Leo Di Caprio'", The Jewish Chronicle, 15 March 2010
  30. ^ "Activists Protest Against Arab-Jewish Wedding". Arutz Sheva. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  31. ^ "Citing incitement, Facebook closes page of group that fights intermarriage". Haaretz. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  32. ^ Graveside party celebrates Hebron massacre. BBC News. March 21, 2000. Retrieved September 1, 2015.