Israel's Justice Ministry: No One Is Above the Law, Even Rabbis

Officials respond firmly to the attacks on Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, following the arrest of Rabbi Dov Lior Monday on suspicion of incitement.

Justice Ministry officials on Tuesday came out in defense of Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who been under public attack in the wake of Rabbi Dov Lior's arrest a day earlier for allegedly encouraging incitement.

Lior was arrested, questioned, and released on Monday after refusing to appear for an inquiry for his endorsement of the controversial book, “Torat Hamelech,” which justifies killing non-Jews.

Rabbi Dov Lior
Olivier Fitoussi

His arrest prompted several protests, as right-wing activists attempted to block the entrance to Jerusalem and around 200 protesters gathered outside the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem.

20 MKs have signed an appeal to disband Nitzan's team. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said Tuesday that Nitzan, with help from Attorney General Yehuda , "holds the entire settler community as guilty until proven innocent."

Ariel added that "the recommendation to question Rabbi Lior underscores a strategy of intimidation and silencing, that reflects an atmosphere of incitement coming from the state prosecution."

But some of the attacks on Nitzan were more violent in nature. A poster has been circulating featuring a photograph of Nitzan and the words: "enemy of the Torah." Far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir said Nitzan is "brewing up a storm." Due to past protests by the right-winger against Nitzan there is already a security detail guarding his home in Jerusalem.

Justice department officials wrote in a letter that "in a law-abiding state, where a president, prime ministers, ministers and MKs, religious leaders and senior public figure have been questioned, no one is above the law.

The officials emphasized that for a long time there have been negotiations with the rabbi's aides in an attempt to bring him to questioning in a dignified and quiet way. "These attempts were rejected, so there was no choice but to issue the arrest warrant," they wrote.

Earlier on Tuesday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not supporting law enforcement and justice officials. "How do you not defend the officials in the Justice Ministry who are working to uphold the law, while there is severe incitement against them from the outside?" Livni asked.

"No one likes to see a rabbi arrested, including me," Livni said. "And I also don't like to see a prime minister under investigation or a president going to prison, but Israel must maintain itself as a law-abiding country where everyone is equal before the law."