A group of petitioners on Sunday called on the High Court of Justice to indict two Yitzhar settlement rabbis for writing and marketing a book in which they say Jewish religious law permits the murder of Palestinian babies and that at times it is preferable to deliberately kill innocent people.
“There are reasons for killing babies even though they have not violated the seven sins, because of the danger that will be caused if they are allowed to live and grow up to be as evil as their parents,” the petitioners quoted from the book, “The Torah of the King.”
Attempts to criminalize expression in Israel never succeed. The Attorney General interprets the incitement law very narrowly in accordance with a landmark HCJ ruling from 2000. In the few cases that an investigation is opened, it rarely results in an indictment. The courts are also reluctant to convict and when they do, usually years after the event, the sentences are so light that they have no deterrence value.
Liberal Israelis should be happy that this is the legal state of affairs. It’s no accident that the petition on which the HCJ ruled was submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Strict limits on freedom of expression undermine democracy and provide a handy tool for government to suppress political opposition — already an emerging problem in Israel.
The petitioners are undoubtedly well intentioned, but they have chosen an ineffective, and ultimately dangerous, mode of action. Their cause would have been better served if they focused their energies on blocking government funding of the yeshiva in question or rescinding federal tax exemptions for its US supporters.
Last week (December 13 2009) we wrote about the new General Security Service (GSS; aka Shin Bet and Shabak) method to deal with settler ‘Price Tag‘ terrorists — “warning talks.” The post quoted a monologue by the subject of one of these talks, Efraim Ben Shohat, who was not fazed, to put it mildly.
Ben Shohat spoke to the Jewish Voice, a weekly ‘Price Tag‘ organization leaflet. The publication has turned these monologues into a regular feature. Here is this Friday’s edition (December 18 2009; Hebrew original here) toying with GSS agents trying to recruit an informant.
Several weeks ago, the Jewish Voice revealed the story of Shimshon Schlissel, a resident of the settlement of Maale Levona. The Shin Bet contacted Shimshon trying to arrange a meeting with him, over a cup of coffee, of course… Shimshon realized exactly what their intentions were and used the Jewish Voice platform to let them know he was not interested. They, however, did not despair and kept trying.
Shimshon told us later:
I went shopping and suddenly the phone rang. “Hello, this is Amram, Golan’s partner. Remember? Golan talked to you some two weeks ago and we agreed to meet, so I wanted to arrange the meeting. What would be a good time for you?”
“Listen, I do not want to meet with you at all,” I told him.
There was silence on the other end of the line. He must have been completely shocked.
Amram regained his senses: “Are you sure? But we had an agreement?”
“Yes, I am sure! I do not want to meet you.”
Amram sounded totally stunned. Another sentence or two and he hung up.
Naturally, the Jewish Voice editorial board can only congratulate Shimshon for having learned the lesson of the (too) many stories and cut off this link. Strong and blessed [is he].
A word from the editor: Seriously, you there in the Jewish Department [of the Shin Bet]: What is going on? Do you not relay information from the readers of Jewish Voice to those who draft activists? He has already said he does not want to go on.
The past two days have witnessed some Israeli reaction to settler fundamentalism. On Sunday (December 13 2009) evening, Defense Minister Ehud Barak finally stood up to a mutiny-inciting IDF-affiliated rabbi. This morning (December 15 2009) Haaretz published a scathing exposé of how Israeli and US taxes fund Yitzhar’s Od Yosef Hai yeshiva, publisher of Baruch Hagever, an ode to Cave of Patriarchs murderer Baruch Goldstein, and, more recently, the “Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles.”
Most startling, however, is an op-ed by Ben Dror Yemini, a senior editor at Maariv, known as a leading crusader against anti-Israeli propaganda and ‘Islamofascism.’ Enraged at the damage done to his efforts by Friday’s (December 11 2009) torching of a mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf, he penned a full frontal assault on the attackers, the rabbis sanctioning them and the government’s of Israel lack of action on the issue (full text after the jump.)
Israel-haters worldwide were quick to celebrate the pictures of the burned mosque in the village of Yasuf…The hooligans who desecrated a mosque are the enemy because they contributed the most to the delegitimization campaign of the international radical left, led by Ahmadinezhad and Hugo Chavez. In their acts, they actually helped bolstering those who want to turn Israel into an illegitimate, leper state. Healthy states know how to curb such phenomena, but here, it seems, we refuse to get the point. We exercise forgiveness instead. Sure, the prime minister and the defense minister condemned the act, but where are their acts? What happened to the basic understanding that the arsonists who torched the mosque are terrorists, and that the harm they inflict on Israel is as grave as terror attacks by Hamas members? Why do we fail to realize that this is a Jewish mutation of Neo-Nazism? Why do we not see that they are the enemy, dangerous warriors in the battle against the legitimacy of the State of Israel?…We must not refer to them as a small and marginal minority. These people are supported by the highest echelons. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the spiritual leader of the religious-Zionists, issued an edict that practically allows Jews to pick olives in plantations that belong to Arabs.
Note that Yemini neglects to address the fact that the some of the Rabbis inciting these actions are recipients of generous government funding. This is not surprising, however, because a frequent source of his, Israel’s premier expert on NGO funding, Prof. Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, contends that the practice is just a fact of life in Israel, as normal as the funding of youth movements, and does not warrant any extraordinary action. Responding to a direct question on Od Yosef Hai, he tells the Jerusalem Post’s Shmuel Rosner that
the state is used to funnel large sums of money to various sectors and institutions related to political parties – from kibbuzim to youth movements and yeshivot — with numerous stops in between.
Here is the Rabbi Eliyahu ruling referenced in the op-ed (quoted by Haaretz on October 25 2002)
Since the land is the inheritance of the People of Israel, planting on this land by gentiles is planting on land that does not belong to them. If someone plants a tree on my land, both the tree and the fruit it yields belong to me.
Neo-Nazis among us
The mosque desecraters are dangerous enemies who defeat Israel in its struggle for legitimacy. They are not alone. Their ideology comes from the top. Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu allowed Jews to pick the Olives of Arabs. Those who authorize olive thefts may be comfortable when mosques are desecrated
Op-ed, Ben-Dror Yemini, Maariv, December 15 2009
They are “our boys.” They are pioneers, salt of the earth, our own flesh and blood. They sacrificed a life of convenience just to be out there, first in the field. Yes, they are sometimes naughty and step out line here and there, but this no reason to make a fuss. After all, they are on our side.
Too many among us maintain this view. We may find it hard to conceive of the threat they post, but we are looking at a cancer. People who act like Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, or Jihadists are just that, regardless of their faith. There are such Christians, there are such Muslims and, in case we have not yet realized – and we should – there are such Jews too. Read more…
US tax dollars fund rabbi who sanctioned killing gentile babies and incited torching of Yasuf mosque
UPDATE: Yaniv Reich provides a handbook for journalists and activists interested in exploring this issue further.
Friday’s (December 11 2009) torching of a mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf, did not take place in a vacuum. The “price tag” terror tactic has been public knowledge for more than two years. Rabbis publicly sanction and encourage these attacks.
The Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar is a notable example. Its head, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg, is the author of Baruch Hagever, an ode to Cave of Patriarchs murderer Baruch Goldstein. In early November the yeshiva’s dean, Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, published the “Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles.” On December 4 he published an article with specific instructions for terror activities in response to the “settlement freeze.”
Investigative reporting by Haaretz has been following the funding sources behind the yeshiva. On November 17, it exposed generous financial support from the Israeli government. This morning (December 15 2009,) it uncovers US federal tax exemptions for its American donors and slams the US administration for sanctioning this practice.
Below is a key excerpt. An annotated full text of the report is provided after the jump. The original yeshiva report to the Israeli Registrar of Associations can be downloaded here. Mondoweiss’s investigative reporting on the Central Fund of Israel can be read here.
This is the same yeshiva whose rabbi said it is permissible to kill gentile babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.” In his latest book, the head of the yeshiva, Yitzhak Shapira, who bears the honorable title of rabbi, even permits killing anyone “who, through his remarks and so forth, weakens our kingdom” (Obama, beware!)…According to the fund’s latest financial statement, it gave some $8 million to religious organizations in 2006, earmarked for establishing synagogues and schools, aiding the needy and “urgent security needs.”…So the next time the White House spokesman condemns the torching of a mosque near Nablus, some reporter ought to ask him why respectable American citizens contribute to the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva, one of whose leading rabbis wrote the following incendiary words of incitement: “[Civil] Administration inspectors have not dared to enter Yitzhar since the freeze edict. Their experience with Yitzhar, and its heat, are responsible for the fact that every entry into the settlement by hostile elements requires large forces and ends with extensive damage to army and police equipment, even greater damage to Arab persons and property, and a region that continues to burn in every direction for several days” (Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, Hakol Hayehudi, December 4, 2009).
Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
The White House condemns the torching of a mosque, yet respectable Americans contribute to a yeshiva whose rabbi said it’s okay to kill gentile babies. It is no surprise that the American administration tacitly, if unenthusiastically, accepted the excuse that the map of national priority zones the cabinet approved on Sunday does not violate the decision to freeze construction in the settlements.
Shabak unveils its response to settler terror: “warning talks” (law enforcement resources tied-up elsewhere)
This morning’s (December 13 2009) Haaretz (Hebrew edition only) runs a report by Amos Harel, which describes a new method the General Security Service (GSS) has found to crack down on settler attacks on Palestinians
Haaretz has learned that over the past three months five right-wing activists were summoned to warning talks [sic], where they were told by GSS men that they saw them as responsible for the ‘Price Tag‘ events.
Hopefully the GSS sees this a long-term law enforcement technique because, judging by this weekend’s pyrotechnics, it has yet bear fruit. The perpetrators themselves do not appear fazed. This Friday’s Jewish Voice, a weekly ‘Price Tag‘ organization leaflet (Hebrew original here,) has a monologue by one Efraim Ben Shohat describing his GSS interrogation. It ends with the following passage
But it turns out that even the General Security Service of the State of Israel, comprised of expert psychologists and the best and smartest professionals in the country cannot overcome a simple Jew who believes in blessed G-d!
In its report “A Semblance of Law,” Yesh Din describes in detail the systematic lack of law enforcement on violent settlers. One of its major recommendations is that the West Bank Police actually investigate attacks and that minimal resources be allocated for this purpose. Until that happens, “warning talks” and hand-wringing will have to fill the gap.
Even at this juncture, it’s hard to demand diversion of law enforcement resources to the West Bank when they are stretched so thin in Jerusalem, for example. Just this Friday, dozens of officers were busy arresting 25 Israelis protesting against the Shiekh Jarah evictions who refused to disperse when ordered to. Some of them were even forced to squirt pepper spray into the eyes of the dangerous Dr. Eyal Nir at point-blank range (video here.) Holding cells are also in short supply, full of menaces to society such as Vadim Antonevich, a documentary film-maker slapped with 25 days for walking his dog without a leash in the German Colony.
From a report in this morning’s Maariv (December 13 2009) by Amir Buhbut
“This is a religious terror attack,” said a senior officer in the Central Command. “The people who tossed the firebombs knew exactly what they were doing…Furthermore, the security establishment is voicing harsh criticism of the incitement being heard in Judea and Samaria synagogues. “Anyone allowing the distribution of leaflets that call to harm Civil Administration officials and their vehicles, should not be surprised when a mosque is set on fire,” said the source. “It is interesting to wonder what the reactions would be if it were the opposite.”
Yediot’s Zvi Zinger reports directly from the horses mouth
“The idea of a ‘price tag’ is to operate like the terror organizations,” explained one of the activists from the settlement outposts. “The activists realized that the GSS doesn’t have the capacity to prevent lone activists from executing those operations, and that is why a decision was made to take sophisticated action, without orderly leaders and without any prior organization.”
Puts the outrage over the New York Times use of “Jewish nationalists” to describe settlers into proportion, doesn’t it?
UPDATED AT BOTTOM: December 7 2009 – A day late, Yediot puts two and two together
Since the announcement last week of the “settlement freeze,” Israel has witnessed an escalating settler rebellion. Most of the action has been civil disobedience, which I will not condemn as a matter of principle, despite the fact that its organizers’ salaries are largely paid from my taxes. But past experience and IDF warnings indicate that we can expect a surge in “price tag” attacks against Palestinians.
A news item in this morning’s (December 6 2009) Yediot surveys the mood among West bank settlers and ends with the following passage
“We’ll expel the soldiers from the settlements”
Zvi Zinger,Yediot, December 6 2009 [page 4]
The radical right is also adding oil to the fire. An article in its internet-distributed pamphlet “The Jewish Voice” includes a call to “execute targeted operations against the evildoers, invade Civil Administration offices and ransack them, as well as operate violently [sic] against the Palestinians, deepen the refusal to serve in the army and not recognize Israeli courts.”
The article was written by Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the “Od Yosef Hai” yeshiva in Yitzhar.
Rabbi Yosef Elitzur and the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva have recently emerged from obscurity with the publication of the “Handbook for the killing of Gentiles” in early November. A few days later, Haaretz reported that the Yeshiva was generously funded by the Government of Israel.
The excerpt looks like an editorial hatchet job. The style indicates a paraphrased summary, despite the double quotation marks. I want to read the original. Read more…
On November 25 2009, Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group that monitors law enforcement on settler violence in the West Bank, published a data sheet, demonstrating that 69 documented cases of Palestinian olive tree destruction by settlers in the first ten months of 2009 had resulted in zero indictments.
Matti Golan is a veteran Israeli journalist not known for being a bleeding heart, to say the least. He has a daily column in Globes, an evening business daily, read by the Israeli financial elite. Apparently Golan read an Haaretz report on the issue and had this to say
Anyone who reads this column knows I don’t have much patience for the complaints and grievances of Arabs…
[But] I thought we, especially the people of faith among us, maintained that we are “not like them,” that we are “better than them.” Yet here we have the settlers, people of faith, saying that actually we are like them. So what was all that talk about the supremacy of Jewish spirit and values?…
And a question to the police: you have to answer the charge that for four years you did not manage to prove even one of dozens of incidents of cutting down trees that the Arabs complained about. How is that possible? Would you handle complaints by Jews the same way?
A full translation of the column can be read after the jump. You can see the original clipping here.
Incidentally, Human Rights in Yesha, whose media release Golan references, is another pro-settler group engaged in what NGO Monitor defines as “lawfare”, but which Gerald Steinberg’s organization mysteriously fails to monitor. More about Steinberg’s hypocrisy here.