Involvement with the Jewish Defense League
- In 1970, Hikind joined the Jewish Defense League, a militant right-wing organization founded in New York a few years earlier by Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane. The FBI describes the JDL as a "violent extremist Jewish organization" and a "right-wing terrorist group."
- During the 1970s and early 1980s members of the JDL carried out dozens of violent attacks, including a series of bombings against Arab-American and Soviet targets, the latter in response to the Soviet Union's refusal to allow Jewish citizens to emigrate. According to The New York Times, Hikind was an "important leader" of the JDL during this period.
- In addition to being Kahane's "right-hand man" in the JDL, Hikind was a close friend and associate of Victor Vancier, who in 1987 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for carrying out nearly 20 bombings in New York and Washington, DC. There were reports that the FBI suspected Hikind of being directly involved in half a dozen bombings against Arab-American targets in New York and California, which killed one person and injured seven others, but he was never charged.
- The JDL has also been linked to the 1985 murder of Alex Odeh, a Palestinian-American activist and west coast director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), whose killing remains unsolved to this day.
Admiration for Meir Kahane
- As a young man, Hikind was a devout follower of Meir Kahane. In the early 1970s, Kahane moved from New York to Israel and founded the Kach political party, which advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories. In the late 1980s, Kach was banned from running in Israeli elections due to its virulently racist ideology. In making their decision, the Israeli Central Election Committee cited Kach's "Nazi-like," "racist," and "undemocratic positions."
- In Israel, Kahane's followers were responsible for numerous violent attacks against Palestinians and others. In the 1980s, a Jewish terrorist organization with ties to Kach, known as the Machteret, carried out a string of attacks against Palestinians, including a series of attempted assassinations of mayors of Palestinians towns in the West Bank. Several of the intended targets were seriously wounded and maimed by bombs. Members of the Machteret also plotted to blow up the Al Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam.
- In 1990, Kahane was assassinated by an Egyptian national in New York. Although he claimed to have broken with him years earlier after Kahane moved to Israel, Hikind spoke at his funeral, stating that many people were reconsidering their opinions of Kahane and concluding, "He's right." In the years that followed, "Kahane was right" became a popular slogan amongst younger generations of Jewish extremists.
- According to a New York Times report on Kahane's funeral, Hikind also said the occasion was, "an opportunity for those who were afraid to articulate views like Rabbi Kahane's to demonstrate that they held them. As the rabbi himself often told Jewish audiences, 'Remember -- I say what you think.'"
- In 1994, Brooklyn-born settler and Kach follower Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians as they prayed in the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. Following the massacre, the US and Israel officially banned Kach as a terrorist organization. In 2006, a US Federal Court upheld the designation.
- In 2008, Hikind said of his relationship with Kahane: "I'm proud of every single moment, let me make that very clear. Rabbi Kahane had a great influence on me. I was attending yeshiva. No one had ever spoken to me before about my responsibility to other Jews by actually doing something, not just theorizing about it."
- In 2010, Hikind attended a memorial for Kahane in New York, where he again spoke admiringly of him.
Support for Israel & Extremist Jewish Settlers
- Hikind is a staunch supporter of Israel's settlement enterprise, which many experts consider the greatest obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution, the cornerstone of US and international efforts to make peace in the region for decades.
- Hikind has taken many delegations of Americans to visit Israel and the occupied territories, part of a lobbying effort on behalf of the Israeli right-wing and settlement groups. In 2005, Hikind led "solidarity missions" to Gaza, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw 8000 Jewish settlers from the tiny occupied Palestinian territory.
- In response to US President Barack Obama's 2009 call for a freeze on construction in Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Hikind encouraged Jews from the US and elsewhere to move to settlements, stating "We feel investing in the land of Israel [sic] is always a good idea." He also declared he was considering buying a home in occupied East Jerusalem himself. During the 2008 US presidential race, Hikind told the Jerusalem Post: "As a proud Jew, I will never support a candidate who is bad on Israel, even if he or she is good on all other issues important to me."
- Hikind's wife, Shoshana, is the Executive Vice President of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, an organization whose mission is to implant Jewish settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, with the goal of Judaizing them and preventing Israel from relinquishing them for the creation of a Palestinian state.
- In recent years, Ateret Cohanim followers have become more aggressive in their attempts to evict Palestinians from Jerusalem. In 2009, members forcibly took over a Palestinian-owned home in East Jerusalem after their legal claim to the property was rejected by an Israeli court. In January 2012, the website Tikun Olam reported that for at least the five previous years, students at the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva (religious school) had been selling sweatshirts that called for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock mosque, which sits atop the Haram al-Sharif complex in occupied East Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam.
- In 2012, questions were raised about the legality of donations made by Hikind to Friends of Ateret Cohanim using money raised for his election campaigns.
Ties to US Anti-Muslims Extremists, Racial Profiling, Anti-Black Racism, & Homophobia
- In addition to his connections to the JDL and Kach, Hikind has ties to extremist anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs website. In 2010, he spoke at a rally alongside Geller, criticizing President Obama's policies on the Middle East.
- Following the 2005 terrorist attacks against public transit in London, Hikind advocated racially profiling Middle Eastern men on the NY subway, arguing: "Those responsible for the attacks on America, the 19 people involved in the World Trade Center dastardly act - and the London bombers - when we look at the list of the most-wanted people by the FBI in terms of terrorism, they fit a profile... They look a certain way, they are young, and they come from a certain part of the world."
- Hikind is also known for holding homophobic views. An outspoken opponent of gay marriage, in 2007 he compared homosexuality to incest, stating: "If we authorize gay marriage in the state of New York, those who want to live and love incestuously will be five steps closer to achieving their goals as well."
Attempts to Supress Academic Freedom at NYC Schools
- In February 2013, Hikind attempted unsuccessfully, along with other New York politicians, to pressure Brooklyn College into canceling its cosponsorship of an event featuring supporters of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, internationally renowned philosopher Judith Butler and Palestinian human rights activist Omar Barghouti. Even NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of Israel and opponent of BDS, condemned the event's critics, stating: "If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kinds of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea."
- In 2011, Hikind was at the forefront of a campaign to get Brooklyn College adjunct professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton fired because of his views on Israel and Palestine. Petersen-Overton was briefly let go before being rehired following an outcry of support from students, faculty, and others.
- In 2007, Hikind was part of a successful campaign against Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York City's first dual-language public Arabic school. Almontaser was forced to step down by the Department of Education and Mayor Bloomberg over a controversy involving the use of the word "intifada" on t-shirts made by a women's group she was a board member of, and her use of the word in an interview with The New York Post. In 2008, a federal court found that her comments were "inaccurately reported by The Post and then misconstrued by the press." In 2010, a federal commission ruled that New York City's Department of Education had discriminated against Almontaser when it pressured her to resign. In its decision, the commission found that city officials had "succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer."
- In 2013, Hikind sparked controversy after appearing in racist "blackface" makeup at a party for the Jewish holiday of Purim.