- Genocide Announced
- "All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women,
infants, and even their beasts." This was the religious opinion issued
one week ago by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute,
a long-established religious institute attended by students and soldiers
in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. In an article published by
numerous religious Israeli newspapers two weeks ago and run by the liberal
Haaretz on 26 March, Rosen asserted that there is evidence in the Torah
to justify this stand. Rosen, an authority able to issue religious opinions
for Jews, wrote that Palestinians are like the nation of Amalekites that
attacked the Israelite tribes on their way to Jerusalem after they had
fled from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He wrote that the Lord sent
down in the Torah a ruling that allowed the Jews to kill the Amalekites,
and that this ruling is known in Jewish jurisprudence.
- Rosen's article, which created a lot of noise in Israel,
included the text of the ruling in the Torah: "Annihilate the Amalekites
from the beginning to the end. Kill them and wrest them from their possessions.
Show them no mercy. Kill continuously, one after the other. Leave no child,
plant, or tree. Kill their beasts, from camels to donkeys." Rosen
adds that the Amalekites are not a particular race or religion, but rather
all those who hate the Jews for religious or national motives. Rosen goes
as far as saying that the "Amalekites will remain as long as there
are Jews. In every age Amalekites will surface from other races to attack
the Jews, and thus the war against them must be global." He urges
application of the "Amalekites ruling" and says that the Jews
must undertake to implement it in all eras because it is a "divine
- Rosen does not hesitate to define the "Amalekites
of this age" as the Palestinians. He writes, "those who kill
students as they recite the Torah, and fire missiles on the city of Siderot,
spread terror in the hearts of men and women. Those who dance over blood
are the Amalekites, and we must respond with counter-hatred. We must uproot
any trace of humanitarianism in dealing with them so that we emerge victorious."
- The true outrage is that most of those authorised to
issue Jewish religious opinions support the view of Rabbi Rosen, as confirmed
by Haaretz newspaper. At the head of those supporting his opinion is Rabbi
Mordechai Eliyahu, the leading religious authority in Israel's religious
national current, and former chief Eastern rabbi for Israel. Rosen's opinion
also has the support of Rabbi Dov Lior, president of the Council of Rabbis
of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief
rabbi of Safed and a candidate for the post of chief rabbi of Israel. A
number of political leaders in Israel have also shown enthusiasm for the
opinion, including Ori Lubiansky, head of the Jerusalem municipality.
- There is no dispute among observers in Israel that the
shooting in Jerusalem three weeks ago that killed eight Jewish students
in a religious school was pivotal for Jewish authorities issuing religious
opinions of a racist, hateful nature. The day following the Jerusalem incident,
a number of rabbis led by Daniel Satobsky issued a religious opinion calling
on Jewish youth and "all those who believe in the Torah" to take
revenge on the Palestinians as hastily as possible. A week following the
operation, a group of leading rabbis issued an unprecedented religious
opinion permitting the Israeli army to bomb Palestinian civilian areas.
The opinion is issued by the "Association of Rabbis of the Land of
Israel" and states that Jewish religious law permits the bombing of
Palestinian civilian residential areas if they are a source of attacks
on Jewish residential areas. It reads, "when the residents of cities
bordering settlements and Jewish centres fire shells at Jewish settlements
with the aim of death and destruction, the Torah permits for shells to
be fired on the sources of firing even if civilian residents are present
- The opinion adds that sometimes it is necessary to respond
with shelling to sources of fire immediately, without granting the Palestinian
public prior warning. A week ago, Rabbi Eliyahu Kinvinsky, the second most
senior authority in the Orthodox religious current, issued a religious
opinion prohibiting the employment of Arabs, particularly in religious
schools. This religious opinion followed another that had been issued by
Rabbi Lior prohibiting the employment of Arabs and the renting of residential
apartments to them in Jewish neighbourhoods. In order to provide a climate
that allows Jewish extremist organisations to continue attacking Palestinian
citizens, Rabbi Israel Ariel, one of the most prominent rabbis in the West
Bank settlement complex, recently issued a religious opinion prohibiting
religious Jews involved in attacks against Palestinians to appear before
Israeli civil courts. According to this opinion, they must instead demand
to appear before Torah courts that rule by Jewish religious law.
- Haaretz newspaper noted that what Rabbi Ariel was trying
to achieve through this religious opinion has in fact already taken place.
The first instance of such a court in Kfar Saba ordered the release of
a young Jewish woman called Tsevia Teshrael who attacked a Palestinian
farmer in the middle of the West Bank. And there are Jewish religious authorities
that glorify killing and praise terrorists, such as Rabbi Yitzhaq Ginsburg,
a top rabbi in Israel who published a book entitled Baruch the Hero in
memoriam of Baruch Goldstein, who committed the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre
in 1994 when he opened fire and killed 29 Palestinians as they were performing
the dawn prayer in Hebron in the southern West Bank. Ginsburg considers
his act "honourable and glorious".
- The danger of these religious opinions lies in the fact
that the religious authorities issuing them have wide respect among religious
Jewish youth. And while only 28 per cent of Israel's population is religious,
more than 50 per cent of Israelis define themselves as conservative and
grant major significance to opinions issued by Jewish religious authorities.
According to a study conducted by the Social Sciences Department of Bar
Elon University, more than 90 per cent of those who identify as religious
believe that if state laws and government orders are incongruous with the
content of religious opinions issued by rabbis, they must overlook the
former and act in accordance with the latter.
- What grants the racist religious opinions a deeper and
far-reaching impact is the fact that for the last decade followers of the
Zionist religious current, who form nearly 10 per cent of the population,
have been seeking to take control of the army and security institutions.
They are doing so through volunteering for service in special combat units.
The spokesperson's office in the Israeli army says that although the percentage
of followers of this current is low in the state's demographic makeup,
they form more than 50 per cent of the officers in the Israeli army and
more than 60 per cent of its special unit commanders. According to an opinion
poll of religious officers and soldiers supervised by the Interdisciplinary
Centre Herzliya and published last year, more than 95 per cent of religious
soldiers and officers say that they will execute orders from the elected
government and their leaders in the army only if they are in harmony with
the religious opinions issued by leading rabbis and religious authorities.
- Wasil Taha, Arab Knesset member from the Tajammu Party
led by Azmi Bishara, says that these religious opinions lead to the committal
of crimes. He mentions religious opinions issued by a number of rabbis
in mid-1995 that led to the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin at that time. "If that's what happens when religious
opinions urge attacks against Jewish leaders such as Rabin, what will the
situation be like when they urge attacks against Palestinian leaders and
the Palestinian public?" he asks. "We, as Arab leaders, have
begun to feel a lack of security following this flood of religious opinions,
and we realise that the matter requires a great deal of caution in our
movements as we are certain that there are those who seek to implement
these opinions," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
- Taha dismisses those who ask about the role of the government
and Israeli political cadre in confronting these extremist religious opinions.
"The ministers in the Israeli government and the Knesset members compete
to incite against the Palestinian public and don't hesitate to threaten
expulsion of the Palestinians who live on their land in Israel and carry
Israeli citizenship outside of Israel's borders, just as former deputy
premier Avigdor Lieberman and representative Evi Etam did," Taha said.
He notes that Palestinian citizens within Israel have begun to take extreme
precautionary measures since the issue of these religious opinions, including
security measures around mosques and public institutions and informing
officials of public demonstrations so that members of Jewish terrorist
organisations can be prevented from attacking participants. Taha holds
that the sectors of the Palestinian population most likely to be harmed
by these religious opinions are those living in the various cities populated
by both Jews and Palestinians, such as Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramleh and Jerusalem.
- Palestinian writer and researcher Abdul-Hakim Mufid,
from the city Um Fahem, holds that the religious opinions of rabbis have
gained major significance due to the harmony between official rhetoric
and that of the rabbis. Mufid notes that official Israeli establishments
have not tried to confront the "fascist" rhetoric expressed in
these religious opinions even though they are capable of doing so. "Most
of the rabbis who issue tyrannical religious opinions are official employees
in state institutions and receive salaries from them. And the state has
not held these rabbis accountable or sought to prohibit the issue of such
opinions," he told the Weekly.
- Mufid points out that when the official political institution
is in a crisis, the Zionist consensus behind these religious opinions grows
more intense, and offers as an example the religious opinions relied upon
by Rabbi Meir Kahane in the early 1980s to justify his call to forcefully
expel the Palestinians. Mufid adds that Israel in practice encourages all
those who kill Palestinians, and points to the way that the Israeli government
dealt with the recommendations of the Orr Commission that investigated
the Israeli police's killing of 13 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship
in October of 2000. The government closed the file even though the commission
confirmed that the police had acted aggressively towards the Palestinian
citizens. Mufid suggests that what makes the racist rhetoric the rabbis
insist upon influential is the silence of leftist and liberal voices, and
the lack of any direct mobilisation against it.