In Israel, civil law should rule over Jewish law
Those who oppose racism can be satisfied with the first part of the decision, while advocates of anti-Arab racism can enjoy the legal canopy the attorney general spread over Jewish law.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to make things easy for himself. On the one hand, he ordered police to investigate Safed chief rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on suspicion of making statements that constitute racial incitement. On the other hand, he refrained from ordering that Eliyahu be investigated for halakhic rulings he issued that were also allegedly of a racist nature.
In theory, there was something here for everyone. Those who oppose racism can be satisfied with the first part of the decision, while advocates of anti-Arab racism can enjoy the legal canopy the attorney general spread over Jewish law.
The practical result should not surprise anyone: From now, every racist and person who hurls invective can formulate his opinions as a halakhic ruling, sprinkling it liberally with the relevant biblical verses, and thus protect himself from a police investigation.
This is not a new invention; one can find such formulations on hundreds of websites run by radical Islamic organizations, who know well how to adapt religious law to their ambitions and hatred.
Meanwhile, when left-wing groups are accused of racism, let alone of "forgetting what it is to be Jews," they aren't subject to investigation, but rather to brutal laws hastily legislated against them.
Beyond Weinstein's legal judgment regarding the difficulty of proving incitement to racism based on Jewish law, the attorney general has given a wide opening to all kinds of crimes that are committed in the name of Jewish law. If halakha exempts one from punishment when it supports racism, why prosecute soldiers who refuse orders at the instruction of their rabbis operating in the name of Jewish law?
Prosecuting for incitement is indeed controversial. It's simple enough to claim "incitement" in an effort to silence opponents and stifle public discourse.
But when incitement against Arabs is part of the culture of public discourse and is accepted as a measure of one's loyalty to the state, it is liable to become - and in many instances has become - a type of legitimate mode of operation. The burning of mosques, acts of terror by Jews against Arabs and the prohibition against renting apartments to Arabs are only some of the products of this culture of incitement - as is the attorney general's capitulation out of seeming awe of Jewish law.
It is incumbent for the attorney general to give state law its proper due, and subjugate halakha to it.