Sunday, 4 July 2010

Israeli Ministry of Justice endorses extremist interpretations of Jewish Law

Invitation to seminar Coteret - Didi Remez
On Friday, July 9, the Ministry of Justice and the Jewish Legal Heritage Society will present a two-day seminar on Jewish laws concerning the Land of Israel. [An invitation in Hebrew can be seen here and a translation is appended at the bottom of this post. H/T Dena Shunra.]

While I am not an expert on Jewish law, even a layman’s superficial examination of the itinerary reveals an extremely problematic agenda for a government. At best, this event serves as an official stamp of approval for the settlement movement; at worst, it provides legitimacy for extremist and hateful views. Here are the discussion topics:

The centrality of the Land of Israel in Jewish and general law

The commandment of settling the Land of Israel: “And you shall inherit it and you shall reside therein” (Nahmanides)

Obligation to take risks to settle the Land of Israel

The commandment of redeeming land in the Land of Israel

“And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity” (Leviticus 25:23)

“Show no mercy unto them” (Deuteronomy 20:16)

“Every person has four cubits in the Land of Israel” (Ketubot 111a)

The problematic nature of the topics is underscored by the background of two of the four speakers who will be interpreting them: Rabbi Dov Lior and Professor Nachum Rakover.

Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, provides the most extreme example. At the New Jewish Congress in November 2007, Rabbi Lior called for a “return to real Zionism,” explaining that the Jewish People must settle and conquer the Land of Israel and that the latter commandment involves military force, with all the associated risks. For many years we did not have the ability to fulfill this Torah commandment, but now we can – and so we must! We must not fear the threats of the evil ones, but we must rather persist, and not allow the weakness of our government to become a ‘weeping for generations.’

His positions on Palestinians are extreme, as demonstrated by several statements he has made throughout the years. For example, in 2008 he ruled that Jews must not employ or rent houses to Arabs. Moreover, he has embraced violence against civilians publicly:

There is no term in the Halacha that states one must consider innocents during war. Of course we must stop terrorists from shooting, even if the only way to do so includes harming civilians.

And has called on IDF soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements, since such an act is “illegal according to the laws of the Torah.” There have been a number of cases in which he was responsible for soldiers’ refusal (Hebrew) to follow orders.

Even more remarkable is Rabbi Lior’s view of Baruch Goldstein’s terrorist attack in Hebron in 1994, when he murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs and injured many more. When Goldstein’s coffin was brought to Rabbi Lior’s own settlement of Kiryat Arba for burial, Lior delivered a eulogy in which he praised Goldstein, saying that he was full of love for fellow human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others.

Most recently, Rabbi Lior endorsed (Hebrew) a book entitled Torat Melech (The King’s Torah), written by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, which explains when it is permissible to kill non-Jews. The book argues that one may kill non-Jews and their children if their presence is dangerous to the Jewish people and if one is sure that the children will grow up and harm Jews. Rabbi Lior called the book “very relevant especially in this time.”

Another lecturer headlining the event will be former Israeli Deputy Attorney General Professor Nachum Rakover, President of the Jewish Legal Heritage Society. In an interview with BBC, Rakover posited that — when it comes to Israel — any State law that provides an obstacle to settling the Land of Israel in its entirety should be subverted. The quote reads:
Our right to the ‘Land of Israel’ is a very important precept, according to the Torah. There is a Hebrew idiom – the law of the land is the law – but there are laws between man and God which cannot be changed. This applies to giving up land because the settlement of Jews in the ‘Land of Israel’ is one of the most important precepts of the Torah. The Torah was given for the purpose that Jews will preserve the Torah in the ‘Land of Israel’ in its entirety.

No comments: