Terrorist Rabbi's Guide to Killing Causes Firestorm
An Israeli Rabbi living in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank has caused a firestorm in both Israeli and Palestinian media with a new book outlining a series of Jewish theological arguments for killing those who threaten Israel or demand Israeli land.
The 230-page book, "The King's Torah" was released over the weekend by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and gives theological backing to Jews killing those perceived to be violating Jewish commandments or threatening the Jewish nation. A theological treatise based on Rabbi Shapira's interpretation of passages from the Jewish bible, "The King's Torah" is an extensive guide to when it is permissible for Jews to kill non-Jews.
Rabbi Shapiro's book argues that Jewish law allows the killing of "non-Jews who demand the land for themselves", those from a nation which "helps a murderer of Jews," those spreading "hostile blasphemy" and "those who, by speech, weaken our sovereignty."
"Any case in which the life of the civilian endangers Israel," the book states, "it is allowed to kill a gentile."
"The permit also applies when the persecutor is threatening to kill indirectly rather than directly," Rabbi Shapiro's book reads. "If the civilian is aiding fighters it is permissible to kill... Any citizen who supports the war or the fighters or expresses satisfaction with their deeds - the killing is permitted."
Rabbi Shapira's book argues that revenge is a necessity under Jewish law.
"To defeat the wicked one should be vengeful, tit for tat," the book reads. "Revenge is a necessity... and sometimes doing savage things intended to create a true balance of terror."
The book further states that Jews are permitted to kill children "If it is clear they will grow up to harm us."
"If hurting an evil leader's children will pressure him to stop acting maliciously," Rabbi Shapira wrote, "you can hurt them."
The book discusses the laws regarding such killings in theological terms, never specifically mentioning Palestinians, Arabs or Israeli soldiers sent to remove Jewish settlements. Its release comes weeks after the arrest of Yaakov Teitel, a Jewish Israeli settler of American origin who is understood to have admitted to killing Palestinians and attacking progressive and messianic Jews.
Rabbi Shapira is head of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, a religious school for Jewish boys based in the Yitzhar Jewish settlement a few miles southwest of the Palestinian city of Nablus. Rabbi Shapira's followers adhere to a radical form of Jewish religious nationalism and call for a Torah-based theocracy to replace the State of Israel, which they see as having abandoned core Jewish principals.
The school is best known for its former leader, American-born Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg, seen as the spiritual heir to the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the American-Israeli founder of the extreme-right political party Kach, classified by both Israel and the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Rabbi Ginzburg was imprisoned for an article praising Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Israeli physician who killed dozens of Muslim worshipers in Hebron and injured 150 others in 1994.
Both Rabbi Ginzburg and Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef, another prominent leader of the radical Jewish religious nationalist movement, have recommended Rabbi Shapira's new book, which was first released over the weekend at a Jerusalem memorial for Rabbi Kahane.
Rabbi Hank Skirball, the chairperson of Hiddush, an Israeli organization dedicated to religious freedom and equality, said Rabbi Shapira's book represented only the far right fringe of religious Jews.
"It's a perversion of Jewish law and I don't think it's taken seriously by most," he told The Media Line. "It's giving people tremendous latitude to kill people they disagree with and opens itself up to violation of much more important prohibitions in Jewish law."
"In Israel we did not kill the murderer of Prime Minister Yitshak Rabin and we didn't kill any of the people who created sedition at the time," he said. "We have freedom of speech and its very difficult to know what is dangerous and what is not. Jewish law does not provide for us to go out and kill someone for what he's saying. You are only allowed to kill someone if it is very obvious that he's about to kill you and you have no other way to save your life other than by killing him."
Rabbi David Hartman, founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a philosopher of contemporary Judaism, said that the rabbis of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva were not taking into account the consequences of their teachings.
"Has the Jewish tradition ever created a distinction based on race, gender, etc? Of course, there is no doubt that there are serious Jewish sources that do not look at the non-Jew with full equality," he told The Media Line. "But they have lots of sources they could use, and which sources you choose to read and don't read is important."
"One of the interesting things about Jewish law is that perception is a part of the criteria," Rabbi Hartman said. "Jewish theologians aren't pure academics nor are they spokesmen, so they are not writing in a vacuum. The most serious Jewish theological figures are very careful about the implications or consequences of their writings."
Rabbi Hartman argued that while such books touched a cultural chord, they were mostly ignored in the mainstream Jewish theological community.
"I make a distinction between a cultural fringe and what is fringe in terms of Jewish theological thought," he told The Media Line. "On the one hand, this is not fringe, and you have mainstream kids talking this talk. But in terms of Jewish law, there is no significant Jewish theological movement to permit the blood of non-Jews. If you're looking at the major thinkers, nobody is talking with that language, whether they are ultra-orthodox, Sephardic or Ashkenazi, and these kinds of things are ignored."
"The problem is that if you ignore something it doesn't mean it doesn't have any influence over students," Rabbi Hartman said. "Beware of that which you ignore, what is a cultural phenomenon today may become acceptable to major Jewish thinkers tomorrow."
"For example, when it comes to Israel, our return to power and the desire to strengthen the claim to the land has created a push for a new Jewish theological creativity and a cultural phenomenon in which certain Jewish theological positions are given more significance than what the major Jewish theological authorities would allow."
"Forty years ago there were no major Jewish theological figures who said the land of Israel was more significant than Pikuach Nefesh, the concept of the saving of a life," he said, in reference to Jewish theological debates over exchanging land captured by Israel for peace. "Today in the religious Zionist community there are major theological figures for whom this is now a self evident truth."