ISRAEL’S EXTREMIST RABBIS
FACT SHEET: STATE-SANCTIONED INCITEMENT: ISRAEL’S EXTREMIST RABBIS
IMEU, JUL 23, 2013
RABBI SHMUEL ELIYAHU
Chief rabbi of the city of Safed, candidate for chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel
- In November 2011, Israel’s attorney general opened an investigation into Eliyahu for “suspicion of incitement to racism” for remarks he made several months earlier. He reportedly said: “Arab culture is very cruel… Arabs use different codes and violent norms that amount to an ideology. Just like their stealing agricultural products is an ideology. Just like extortion of protection money from farmers in the Negev is an ideology.” He also declared: “A Jew should not run away from an Arab. A Jew should chase away Arabs… Expelling Arabs from Jewish neighborhoods is part of the strategy.” The investigation was subsequently closed without any charges being filed.
- In 2010, Eliyahu was one of the initiators of a religious ruling calling on Jews not to rent or sell apartments to Arabs and other non-Jews. Some 50 Israeli rabbis, including more than 40 municipal chief rabbis, who like Eliyahu are on the government payroll, subsequently signed on to the ruling, which read in part:
“Their way of life is different than that of Jews… Among [the gentiles] are those who are bitter and hateful toward us and who meddle into our lives to the point where they are a danger… The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed.”
Signatories included the chief rabbis of the towns of Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel, Gadera, Afula, Nahariya, Herzliya, Nahariya and Pardes Hannah, and others. In defending his support for the ruling, Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, head of the Ashdod Yeshiva (religious school), stated, “Racism originated in the Torah… The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel.”
Eliyahu had previously told an interviewer: “You can say the word “racist” 20 times… It doesn’t have an effect on me. By the way, Jewish religious law prohibits the selling of apartments to Arabs and the renting of apartments to Arabs.”
In December 2010, Haaretz newspaper reported on a poll conducted by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah (PSR) that found 44% of Jewish Israelis supported the rabbis’ call for Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews, while 48% opposed it.
- In late December 2010, Eliyahu helped to organize an open letter from the wives of some 30 rabbis, including influential rabbis in Israel’s religious nationalist movement, urging Jewish women not to date, socialize or work with non-Jews or else they would be cut off from their “holy race.” The letter read in part:
“For your sake, for the sake of future generations, and so you don’t undergo horrible suffering, we turn to you with a request, a plea, a prayer. Don’t date non-Jews, don’t work at places that non-Jews frequent, and don’t do national service with non-Jews.”
Signatories included Nitzchia Yosef, the daughter-in-law of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, and Esther Lior, the wife of Rabbi Dov Lior, the influential chief rabbi of settlements in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. (See below for more on Yosef and Lior.)
- In March 2008, Eliyahu called on the Israeli government to carry out “state-sanctioned revenge” against Palestinians by “hanging the children” of militants responsible for violent attacks.
- In May 2007, Eliyahu urged the government to kill “a million” Palestinians if necessary to stop rockets being fired from Gaza, stating: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand… And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”
- In 2004, Eliyahu warned Jewish women to beware of Arab men, declaring that “Jewish girls are held prisoners by Arabs in the village of ‘Akbara… this is another form of warfare waged by the Palestinians.”
- In August 2002, after a bus bombing in northern Israel, Eliyahu called on Safed’s Academic College to expel its Arab students.
- In July 2013, Haaretz newspaper reported that a majority of the members of parliament from the Jewish Home party, which is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, supported the candidacy of Eliyahu in his bid to be Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel.
RABBI OVADIA YOSEF
Spiritual leader of the Shas party, which was a part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government from 2009-2012
- In May 2012, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the influential spiritual leader of the Shas party, which was then part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, said that doctors who were religious Jews shouldn’t treat non-Jews on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, even if the patient’s life was in danger,stating: “If a gentile were to get injured in a car accident during Sabbath, and he is brought to the hospital – Israel must not treat him.” He concluded “the Torah forbids to violate the Sabbath for gentiles.”
- In September 2010, Yosef declared that non-Jews were created to “serve” Jews, stating:
“Goyim [non- Jews] were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel… Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat… With gentiles, it will be like any person: They need to die, but God will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one’s donkey would die, they’d lose their money. This is his servant. That’s why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew.”
- In August 2010, on the eve of peace talks in Washington, Yosef delivered a sermon describing Palestinians as “evil, bitter enemies” and calling on god to make them “perish from this world” by striking them with a plague.
- In 2005, Yosef said that New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina because US President George W. Bush had supported Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal of settlers from Gaza, stating, “He [Bush] perpetrated the expulsion. Now everyone is mad at him… this is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif.” He added: “There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there [in New Orleans]. Blacks will study the Torah? (God said) let’s bring a tsunami and drown them… Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of this because they have no God.”
- In 2001, Yosef delivered a sermon in which he stated: “It is forbidden to be merciful to [Arabs]. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable…The Lord shall return the Arabs’ deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world.”
- In July 2011, Yosef’s son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, was arrested on suspicion of incitement to racism after he endorsed The King’s Torah, a book that used religious texts to justify the murder of non-Jewish civilians, including children. He was released by police after a few hours. (See section below on Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira for more on The King’s Torah.)
RABBI DOV LIOR
Chief rabbi of settlements in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], leading figure in the religious Zionist movement
- In September 2012, Lior, one of the most influential figures in the religious Zionist movement, was one of several rabbis and politicians who led an event to honor an Israeli settler convicted of tying up and beating a Palestinian teenager, stripping him naked, and then dumping him on the side of the road. A few months previous, the same settler and another assailant attacked the same teen and killed a baby goat belonging to him. Lior claimed that the settler was framed, adding that Israeli courts are “driven by racist hatred of Jews.”
- In February 2012, Lior, called President Barack Obama a “kushi,” a derogatory term for individuals of African descent, and compared him to Haman, an enemy of the Jewish people described in the Biblical Book of Esther. He also called for increased settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, in order to “eradicate the jungle.”
- In September 2011 Lior told a conference that Arabs are “wolves,” “savages,” and “evil camel riders.” The same month, he told a settler rally “There are no innocents in war,” stating: “We have murderous rioters surrounding us, according to the Torah, there is room for collective punishment and the IDF must carry out the punishment against the rioters.”
- According to a July 2011 article in Haaretz newspaper:
“Leading rabbis have testified that Lior was the source of rulings labeling the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a “rodef” and a “moser” (a traitor who endangers Jewish lives). Here, too, he didn’t stop at incitement. Rabin’s assassin used to travel to Hebron to see the rabbi. Baruch Goldstein [who murdered 29 Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994] also visited King Lior for instruction. After he massacred dozens of people, the rabbi ruled that Goldstein was ‘holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.'”
Lior, who has stated repeatedly that killing non-Jews is condoned by Jewish law and that the commandment “thou shalt not kill” only applies to killing Jews, gave a eulogy at mass-murderer Goldstein’s funeral.
- In June 2011, Lior was arrested and subsequently released without charge by Israeli police on suspicion of incitement after he endorsed The King’s Torah, a book that condoned the killing of non-Jewish civilians, including children.
- In January 2011, at a “women’s health conference,” Lior warned Jewish women against marrying non-Jewish men, saying that “Gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring.”
- In December 2010, Lior’s wife was one of some 30 wives of prominent rabbis who signed an open letter calling on Jewish women not to date, work, or socialize with non-Jews. (See above for more on the letter.)
- In March 2008, Lior issued a religious ruling declaring that it is forbidden for Jews to employ Arabs or to rent homes to them.
- In December 2007, Lior stated: “We must cleanse the country of Arabs and resettle them in the countries where they came from.”
RABBI AVIHAI RONTZKI
Former chief rabbi of the Israeli military (2006-2010), current head of a yeshiva in the settlement of Itamar
- In 1984, Rontzki helped found the West Bank settlement of Itamar, which is home to some of the most extreme and violent Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Today he still lives in Itamar, where he runs a yeshiva (religious school) that combines religious and military training.
- In October 2011, Rontzki said that Palestinians suspected of carrying out acts of violence against Israelis should be killed “in their beds” instead of being arrested, stating: “they should just be shot, exterminated. They were terrorists that murdered people and should be killed in their beds.”
- In November 2009, the then-chief military rabbi told students in a pre-army yeshiva program that soldiers who “show mercy” toward the enemy in wartime will be “damned,” stating: “In times of war, whoever doesn’t fight with all his heart and soul is damned – if he keeps his sword from bloodshed, if he shows mercy toward his enemy when no mercy should be shown.”
- In January 2009, Israeli and international media reported that the Israeli army rabbinate under Rontzki’s direction had been distributing leaflets to soldiers containing extremely inflammatory and racist content. One pamphlet stated: “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers.” Another leaflet informed soldiers that cruelty is sometimes a “good attribute” and that all Palestinians were their enemy. Another asked: “Is it possible to compare today’s Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David?” It concluded: “A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land … They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country … Today the problem is the same.” The soldiers in question were preparing to take part in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, which killed approximately 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. A UN fact-finding mission under internationally renowned Justice Richard Goldstone found that Israel and Hamas both committed serious war crimes and crimes against humanity during Cast Lead. Human rights groups like Amnesty Internationaland Human Rights Watch came to the same conclusion.
- While chief rabbi of the Israeli military, Rontzki conducted a tour of Hebron in the occupied West Bank for soldiers working in Military Intelligence in which they met with Rabbi Dov Lior, who is known for his extremist and racist views towards Palestinians and other non-Jews (see above for more on Lior).
RABBI YITZHAK SHAPIRA
Head of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar
- In August 2010, Shapira, head of a state-funded yeshiva (religious school) in the settlement of Yitzhar that is one of the most extreme settlements in the occupied territories, co-authored The King’s Torah, a book condoning the murder of non-Jewish civilians, including children, because they may grow up to pose a threat to the state. The book claimed that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks against them “curb their evil inclination.” It also declared that “the ban on killing a gentile does not stem from the intrinsic value of his life, which is not essentially legitimate as such,”concluding that the injunction ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’ applies only “to a Jew who kills a Jew.” Regarding the killing of non-Jewish children, The King’s Torahasserted:
“there is reason to harm children if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us… we have seen in the Halakha [body of Jewish law] that even babies of gentiles who do not violate the seven Noahide laws, there is cause to kill them because of the future threat that will be caused if they are raised to be wicked people like their parents.”
A number of other prominent rabbis subsequently endorsed the book, including Dov Lior, the influential chief rabbi of settlements in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and head of the settler Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. (See above for more on Lior.
- In August 2010, Shapira urged Israeli soldiers to use Palestinian civilians as human shields, a practice known as the “neighbor procedure” by the Israeli army. Addressing his students, he stated: “According to true Jewish values, your lives come before those of the enemy, whether he is a soldier or a civilian under protection. Therefore, you are forbidden from endangering your own life for the sake of the enemy, not even for a civilian.”
- Shapira is also suspected of being involved in a string of arsons and vandalismcarried out against mosques in the West Bank over the past several years. In January 2010 he was arrested in connection with the torching of a mosque in the Palestinian town of Yasuf but was subsequently released for lack of evidence.
RABBI YOSEF ELITZUR
Co-author of The King’s Torah
- In August 2010, Elitzur was arrested (and subsequently released) on “suspicion of incitement to racism” for The King’s Torah.
- In August 2011, Elitzur was denied entry to Britain based on a law forbidding entry to anyone “fomenting or justifying terrorist violence … and seeking to provoke others to commit terrorist acts” because of The King’s Torah.
RABBI YITZHAK GINSBURG
The president of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar
- In 2010, the American-born Ginsburg was detained and questioned by Israeli police in relation to The King’s Torah, which was published by the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva (religious school). (See section above on Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira for more on The King’s Torah.)
- In 2003, Ginsburg was charged with incitement to racism after publishing a book that described Arabs as a “cancer” and arguing that Israel should be “cleansed” of Arabs and foreigners.
- In 1998, Ginsburg wrote a chapter for a book entitled, “Baruch the Man,” which praised mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinians while they prayed in the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994. Following an investigation for incitement, Israeli authorities decided not to lay charges.
- In 1989, Ginsburg was quoted in The New York Times stating that killing non-Jews was a lesser offense than killing Jews, declaring: “Any trial based on the assumption that Jews and goyim are equal is a total travesty of justice.”
RABBI SHLOMO AVINER
Head of the religious nationalist organization Ateret Cohanim’s seminary in Jerusalem, leading figure in the religious Zionist movement
- In December 2010, Aviner, who heads a religious school associated with Ateret Cohanim, an extremist organization dedicated to expanding Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, was one of 50 rabbis who signed on to a rabbinical ruling urging Jews not to rent apartments to Arabs and other non-Jews. Aviner explained his support for the ruling stating: “We don’t need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel.” (See section above on Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu for more on the ruling.)
- In January 2009, it was reported that the Israeli army had been distributing leaflets to soldiers that were based on Aviner’s teachings, instructing them that cruelty is sometimes a “good attribute,” and that all Palestinians were their enemy. The soldiers were preparing to take part in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s devastating three-week assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. A UN fact-finding mission subsequently found that Israeli soldiers had committed serious war crimes and crimes against humanity during Cast Lead, as did human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
RABBI HAIM DRUCKMAN
Head of the Ohr Etzion yeshiva and spiritual leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, the world’s largest Zionist youth movement
- In the early 1970s, Druckman, along with a small group of other rabbis, founded Gush Emunim (“Bloc of the Faithful”), an extremist settler group whose members, in addition to founding over 100 Jewish-only settlements built on occupied Palestinian land, carried out terrorist attacks killing and maimingnumerous Palestinian civilians. According to Haaretz newspaper:
“While Gush Emunim was a success, it also caused damage. According to the outlook of its spiritual leaders, a greater authority existed above that of the state. This undermined the rules of the political system and led to an understanding that the law could be broken if this served ‘higher’ aims… At first illegal settlements without government sanction were erected, and then a small Jewish terror underground took form… Finally, there were demonstrations against the government and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered.”
- In September 2012, Druckman, was one of several rabbis who led an event to honor an Israeli settler convicted of tying up and beating a Palestinian teenager, stripping him naked, and then dumping him on the side of the road.
- In December 2010, Druckman defended a group of dozens of municipal rabbis who signed a religious ruling urging Jews not to rent apartments to Arabs (see above for more on the ruling). Although he declined to sign the ruling himself and criticized the edict, shortly afterwards Druckman told Israel’s Army Radio:
“An Israeli-Arab that wants to buy or rent an apartment in Israel is usually funded by enemy parties and thus it is forbidden to sell to him… [Arabs] have a desire to take control of our towns and we must defend ourselves. We have nothing against non-Jews, but Arabs are trying to disinherit us from our land.”
- In late 2009, Druckman urged Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. He subsequently claimed he was misunderstood and that he wasn’t advocating subordination on the part of soldiers.
- During the 1990s, Druckman opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Druckman also opposed the signing of Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt. Following Israel’s withdrawal from the Egyptian Sinai according to the terms of the treaty, Druckman co-founded “Return to Sinai” to advocate for Israel’s re-conquest of the territory.
- In 1980, as Gush Emunim members were waging a campaign of violent attacks against Palestinian civilians, he was quoted praising the maiming of two mayors of Palestinian towns in the West Bank by members of the Gush Emunim-connected Jewish Underground terrorist organization, stating: “Thus may all Israel’s enemies perish.”
- In 2012, the Israeli government awarded Druckman the Israel Prize, considered Israel’s highest honor.