Thursday, November 19, 2009

What if these rabbis had been imams and their books had been fatwas

Only a week or so after the arrest of Jewish terrorist Jaacov (Jack) Teitel who shot and killed at least two Palestinians, there was the news story about one rabbi Yitzhak Shapira who heads the yeshiva (school for religious higher learning) Od Yosef Chai in the settlement Yizhar, not far from Nablus. Shapira published a book in which he explains that the killing of gentiles (including children) is permitted if they pose a danger to Jews, or might do so in the future.
There were some shocked reactions. How could one reach such conclusions on the basis of  religious principles that most people understand to contain quite different values.- values more like 'Thou shalt not kill', or the well known dictum by the ancient rabbi Hillel: 'Don't do what is hatefull to you, to someone else.´ But one should not have been that much surprised. Shapira is not alone. And he had his predecessors, as will be told below.

This is what Shapira says in his book 'Torat haMelekh, The Kings Tora:“In any situation in which a non-Jew’s presence endangers Jewish lives, the non-Jew may be killed even if he is a righteous Gentile and not at all guilty for the situation that has been created…When a non-Jew assists a murderer of Jews and causes the death of one, he may be killed, and in any case where a non-Jew’s presence causes danger to Jews, the non-Jew may be killed…The [Din Rodef] dispensation applies even when the pursuer is not threatening to kill directly, but only indirectly…Even a civilian who assists combat fighters is considered a pursuer and may be killed. Anyone who assists the army of the wicked in any way is strengthening murderers and is considered a pursuer. A civilian who encourages the war gives the king and his soldiers the strength to continue. Therefore, any citizen of the state that opposes us who encourages the combat soldiers or expresses satisfaction over their actions is considered a pursuer and may be killed. Also, anyone who weakens our own state by word or similar action is considered a pursuer…Hindrances—babies are found many times in this situation. They block the way to rescue by their presence and do so completely by force. Nevertheless, they may be killed because their presence aids murder. There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”…
In a chapter entitled “Deliberate harm to innocents,” the book explains that war is directled mainly against the pursuers, but those who belong to the enemy nation are also considered the enemy because they are assisting murderers. 
(One explanations might ne needed here: Din Rodef is a Tamudic term for a situation in which an
an individual attempts to commit murder. In that case the Halacha permits a bystander to use force, even deadly force, to stop the potential murderer, whether he is Jewish or not).
 Shapira and his co-author, rabbi Yosef Elitzur (who incidentally, is the son of rabbi Michael Hershkovitz, a teacher at the far right yeshiva Mercaz haRav in Jerusalem) also advocate revenge attacks: "Revenge is an essential [war] need to prove that evil behavior does not pay off." Therefore, "sometime one must commit ruthless acts that are designed to create the correct element of fear." And "One does not need a decision by the nation to permit the spilling of blood of those from the evil empire. Even individuals attacked by the evil sovereignty can retaliate."

At least the inhabitants of the Palestinian village Burin, which is right next to Shapira´s settelement Yizhar, don't have to wonder anymore why it is quite normal that for time to time their olive trees are sowed off or why they are being harassed on a more or less regular basis. 

But Shapira and Elitzur are not the only ones at Od Yosef Chai (=Yosef still lives) yeshiva who think like that. In 2003 their collegue rabbi Yosef Paley was arrested and (briefly?) detained on charges of incitement to murder after he wrote an article in which he advocated to chase away or murder all males in a population after it had been defeated. In war, he wrote, the main mitvah (command) was ''not to leave the conquered population in the area we conquered. The fleeing whould flee and those that don't should be killed. Every male over 13 (and thus destroy the national existence)''...''So we must not strive to leave under our rule the conquered population after it is defeated. If they escape, all the better. And if they don't escape, kill every male, or at least act act towards their migration to other countries.''

So, after Paley wrote things like that some years ago, nobody should have been  that much surprised right now that his collegues appear to have similar ideas.The Shin Bet could have been aware of it,  one would think. But, it goes even further than that. Shapira's predecessor (and teacher) at Od Yosef Chai was nobody else than rabbi Yithak Ginzburg, a follower of date of the the notorious rabbi Meir Kahane, whose racist party was forbidden in 1994 after one of his followers, Baruch Goldstein, a medical doctor, had killed 29 Arabs and wounded more than 100 others during prayer in the Ibrahim mosque in Hebron. Rabbi Ginzburg (picture) devoted a booklet to this murderous Goldstein  Goldstein, under the title 'Baruch haGewer (Baruch the Man) . In an interview with Maariv (12 Januari 2001) he said this about the book: ''Dr Baruch Goldstein was a Jew with a warm hart, a doctor who saved lives. What he did was against his character, but he believed that he was saving the Jewish community in Hebron. In the pamphlet that I wrote about him I explained the complexity of his action and I came to the conclusion that we can learn a lesson from him. He was one hundred percent sane, so sane that he could overcome his fear of the Arabs and give up his life for Israel. This is what makes me feel that he gave his life for the Name of God.''         

An from the same Maariv-interview: 'First of all I would suggest that we target Arab property. Rather than saying let's throw all the Arabs out of Israel, we should say let's take their work from them and do it ourselves. Next I would suggest wiping out all terrorists. Anyone with blood on his  hands, must be killed immediately rather tha waiting while he sits in jail and than gets released. It'spossible to get rid of a terrorist cell in less than an hour. Yamit, a city in Israel, was dismantled in less than one hour, one hour! So it's possible to do the same thing with Beit Jala. Soldiers shooing on Arabs is a good thing. It's what the Torah says. Simple logic says that straight away one must target the closest Arab village and destroy it to its very foundation. Afterwards one need to do a good deed and immediately establish a Jewish settlement next to the destroyed village. ''

''The Arabs who hate us don't have the right to live in this country. They want to take the land that does not belong to them, so they are also robbers. The concept of the Thirld World which is the most primitive on the scale of nations, refers to the Arabs who are the lowest rung on the scale. According to Kabbalah, the Jewish people are the most advanced people in mindand spirit, but Yishmael is a nation of slaves and the character of of a slave is licenscious and undisciplined.''


Another example of the moral standard of Israeli rabbis: A few times the past weeks soldiers of the Israeli army have refused to evacuate so called 'illegal outposts' on the West Bank or have demonstrated against doing so. All of these soldiers are members of th Kfir Brigade, a brigade that for the most part is deployed in the West Bank and doing work like manning checkpoints, patrolling, doing house searches  and making arrests. The men are drawn in increasing numbers from West Bank settlements,... and also from yeshivot in these settelments. One of the rabbi's that inspired them to refuse to evacuate Jews is rabbi Eliezer Melamed (picture) of the yeshiva of Har Bracha. In a book called Revivim that is distributed among all the graduates of his yeshiva, he wrote: 'It's a simple halacha (law) is that it is forbidden for any person, whether a soldier or an officer ... to participate in the strictly forbidden act of expelling Jews from their homes and handing over any portion of the Land of Israel to enemies. Those who violate this violate several commandments of the Torah ... Moreover, anyone who considers the situation realistically knows with certainty that any such action encourages those who hate us and endangers the lives of many in Israel."


In the choir of rabbinical voices of the last weeks, also the IDF's chief rabbi mde his voice be heard. In a pre-army yeshiva program last week he told soldiers that he who "shows mercy" toward the enemy in wartime will be "damned." This brigade general Avichai Rontzki also told the yeshiva students that religious individuals made better combat troops. Speaking Thursday at the Hesder yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron , Rontzki (who himself lives in the settlement Itamar) referred to Maimonides' discourse on the laws of war. That text quotes a passage from the Book of Jeremiah stating: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord with a slack hand, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood." One woul almost be happy that the Army'chief rabbi at least goes no further than to damn soldiers that not fight and kill with their whole heart and soul and are weaklings that show mercy.

The questions that have to be asked about Shapira, Ginzburg and the likes of them (unfortunately they are far from alone) are: Why did nobody anything to stop this dangerous racism and incitement? Why is nobody doing it right now? (It seems that Ginzbug has been charged once, but the persecution dropped the case and lateron gave as an excuse that his file had been lost).
Another matter of interest is: How come the 'lessons' of Ginzburg, Shapira and Co, differ from the nationalist school of Rav Kook and his Mercaz haRav? This school of thought (in a litteral but also a a more abstract sense) grew out in the eighties to be the spiritual ´mother´ of Gush Emunim. One of its main credo´s was that the ´redemption of the land of Israel´ (Judea and Samaria of course included) would lead to the redemption of th Jewish people.  The school groomed leaders like Hanan Porath, Moshe (Kiryat Arba) Levinger, Chaim Druckman and Yoel bin-Nun, leaders of the hard core of Gush Emunim which played a big role in the early years of the settlement of the West Bank. But it  did not advocate killing Arabs. It´s teachings were that the Arabs were permitted to stay as long as they accepted that this was the land of the Jews and would obey their rules, or otherwise they whould be encouraged to leave.
The late Meir Kahane and his (in 1994 fobidden) Kach Party played a role in a gradual transformation towards an even more militant approach, which did not refrain from violence and murder to reach its goals.  Both Ginzburg and the Hebron killer Goldstein were followers of Kahane. But what seems to have laid a new fundament under the deadly Ginzburg and Shapira approaches, is the fact that the Chabad movement of the late Lubavitcher rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson (picture) soem two decades ago made a switch from an ultra-religious movement only concerned with social and religious matters towards movement that also became ultra- nationalist. Many of the yeshivot of later years became strong bastions of the Chabad-movemnet and Od Yosef Chai is no exception. Ginzburg is a Chabadnik and so was Golstein in a way, who was very proud of the fact that his mother was a Schneerson and a distant relative of the rebbe in New York.

One of the basic teachings of Chabad, it seems, is the conviction that God made the Jewish soul of a higher quality than the souls of the goyim, which are consequently worth less (although it seems tthere is a kind of scale - one can be higher or lower on the ladder). It's this distinction among the value of souls, that makes Ginzburg and his pupils speak about 'Íshmaelites' and their slave nature. Also this  perception of the value of human life makes it easy to talk about the killing of gentiles in a way that - strangely enough - reminds us of Hitler and his talk of Herrenvolk and Lebensraum. How is it possible that this is going on and not too many authorities or friends of Israel are crying woolf? What if these people would have been imams? And their books would have been fatwas (what in a way they are) to kill Jews in a similar manner?

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