Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in court on January 20, 2010.
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in court on January 20, 2010. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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A leading rabbi in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar has encouraged Israel Defense Forces soldiers to make use of the outlawed "neighbor procedure" while operating in Palestinian areas.

"Anything you do to keep the war tough is permissible, and obligatory according to the torah," Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, headmaster of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, wrote in fliers distributed to his students.

"According to true Jewish values, your lives come before those of the enemy, whether he is a soldier or a civilian under protection. Therefore, you are forbidden from endangering your own life for the sake of the enemy, not even for a civilian," Shapira declared.

Shapira was arrested over the summer for encouraging Jews to kill Gentiles in his book "The King's Torah." The preface of the book, which was published in November, states that it is forbidden to kill non-Jews - but the book then apparently describes the context in which it is permitted to do so.

The rabbi's decree came less than a month after the southern command military court convicted two IDF soldiers of using human shields during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, in the winter of 2008-2009.

The soldiers were convicted of offenses including inappropriate behavior and overstepping authority for ordering an 11-year-old Palestinian to search bags suspected to have been booby trapped.

The conviction is the first such conviction for soldiers who made use of human shields during an operation, an act strictly prohibited in IDF protocols.

The incident occurred during a search conducted by Givati soldiers in southern Gaza City in January 2009. An investigation was launched last July, after a United Nations report on children in armed combat brought the details of the event to the military police's attention.
The indictment also relied on a complaint filed by the Israeli chapter of the Defense for Children organization.

The IDF spokesperson's unit stressed that, during every incursion, soldiers were told that forcing civilians to assist in military operations was strictly forbidden, especially if such action were to endanger their lives.