Israel's AG closes probe of Safed chief rabbi over anti-Arab racism
Yehuda Weinstein: impossible to prove that Safed chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, was not misquoted by media.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has decided to close the case against against Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu for alleged incitement to racism.
The move comes only several weeks after Weinstien decided not to indict rabbis who wrote and backed the book "Torat Hamelech" (The King's Torah), which argues there are times when Jews are allowed to kill gentiles who pose no physical threat.
Weinstein decided to investigate whether any criminal intention could be found in the remarks made by Eliyahu in relation to the edict forbidding sale of flats to Arabs. The Attorney General decided last November not to indict Eliyahu because of the edict itself, but was troubled by several comments that the rabbi had allegedly made. According to the media, Eliyahu said that "Arab culture is very cruel," and "Arabs use different codes and violent norms that amount to an ideology. Just like their stealing agricultural products is an ideology. Just like extortion of protection money from farmers in the Negev is an ideology." Eliyahu was also quoted as saying, "the moment you allow an Arab space among us, it takes him five minutes to start doing whatever he wants to do."
Eliyahu was questioned by the police, and the decision to close the case was reached, according to the Attorney General, because it was impossible to prove the quotes attributed to him in the media reflected his words accurately.
Weinstein published a statement saying that the police investigation concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to conclude that Eliyahu had indeed said the offensive remarks, some of which could be perceived as racist incitement. Moreover, there was no possibility of rejecting the notion that there was a difference between the things Eliyahu said and the published quotes.
Weinstein added that the journalists had not recorded the interviews. Concerning one of these interviews, Eliyahu pointed to a letter he wrote to one news media, claiming that his quotes were distorted.
Furthermore, journalists who were questioned could not help establish that the offensive remarks were quoted verbatim, and several of them said explicitly that some of the quotes might have been altered. "One cannot negate the possibility that these remarks were edited and that they do not accurately reflect the words of the rabbi," Weinstein's statement said.
Weinstein justified his decision in November not to indict Eliyahu following the anti-Arab edict, by saying that it would be hard to prove that the edict was published with the intention to incite, as the law requires. The Attorney General said he believed rabbis who supported the edict could enjoy the protection of the law in relation to quotes from prayer and religious books. Weinstein added that as far as edicts are concerned, one must refrain as much as possible from criminal procedures, apart from extreme cases such as edicts allowing physical harm to a certain population due to racist motives.