Safed chief rabbi calls on state to exact 'revenge' against Arabs
Right group urges censure of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu for calls to 'hang children of Mercaz Harav gunman from tree.'
The chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, is calling on the government to carry out "state-sanctioned revenge" against Arabs in order to, in his words, restore Israel's deterrence.
The Musawa Center for Arab Rights in Israel said it planned to urge the Attorney General to censure Eliyahu over the comments and punish him "at the fullest severity of the law."
In a piece penned for this upcoming weekend's edition of the newsletter "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu," Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu wrote: "It's time to call the child by its name: Revenge, revenge, revenge. We mustn't forget. We have to take horrible revenge for the terrorist attack at Mercaz Harav yeshiva," referring to the incident in which eight students were killed earlier this month.
"I'm not talking about individual people in particular, I'm talking about the state," Eliyahu wrote. "[The state] has to pain them to the point where they scream 'Enough,' to the point where they fall flat on their face and scream 'help.' Not for the sake of satisfying the need for revenge but for the purposes of deterrence."
In the newsletter, which was distributed to synagogues around the country, Eliyahu proposes "hanging the children of the terrorist who carried out the attack in the Mercaz Harav yeshiva from a tree."
"Two weeks have passed since the attack and we haven't heard of any retaliatory operations by Israel," the Safed chief rabbi wrote. "Something is amiss among the decision makers at the top. At one time, this was a basic component of Israel's policy. Every operation by the 'fedayeen' - the prior name used to describe terrorists - would bring a painful response. Today, they have forgotten the meaning of 'deterrence force'. The IDF's capacity for deterrence is gone."
The rabbi added that he "already sees all the bleeding hearts clicking their tongues, moving uncomfortably in their chairs, contorting their faces at this display of 'depravity' and beginning to spout their slogans. 'Barbaric.' 'Amoral.' 'Inciter' and the rest of the usual words that are frequently blurted out from their mouths. Don't pay them any mind. With their way of doing things, there won't be a state here in another 30 years. They've already taken the trouble to arrange foreign passports for their children. We'll stay here. We need to live with those who understand very well the language of revenge."
Activists at Musawa pointed to prior statements in which the rabbi made statements which were viewed as problematic by the Arab community.
"This isn't the first time the rabbi from Safed incites against Arabs," a Musawa spokesperson said. "In 2004, Eliyahu gave a radio interview in which he called on homeowners neither to rent out their homes nor sell their homes to Arabs."
The activist also accused the attorney general of being too selective in enforcing laws against expressions of racism and incitement.
"Whenever Mazuz receives a complaint about an instance of incitement and racism, he defends the freedom of expression for the Jewish inciters while, on the other hand, hands down an indictment against [the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement] Sheikh Ra'ad Salah," the activist said. "Calls to torture and take revenge against Arabs are incitement to racism and violence, and we expect the justice system to act and crack down on the phenomena that lead to violence."
The head of Young Meretz, Uri Zachi, urged Mazuz to investigate the rabbi and to prohibit the disseminating of the newsletter "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu."
Officials in the Reform Movement also issued harsh condemnations in response to Eliyahu's statements.
"Jewish history is rife with extremists whose fanaticism brought disasters upon the nation while sullying its moral character," Rabbi Gilad Kariv said. "It would be best if the concept of revenge, as opposed to the concept of deterrence, would be a foreign one to the state of Israel as a democratic state of law and as the state of the Jewish people. Rabbi Eliyahu's comments are further proof of the attorney general's serious error in deciding to retract an indictment against Rabbi Eliyahu for incitement to racism in exchange for a shady apology."