Fundamentalism into the mainstream
Fundamentalist rabbis have approved murder, attacks on Arabs, illegal land seizures and racist segregation, and have ignored the murder of a prime minister.
First, the daily lesson: "A soldier who takes part in the war against us, but does so only because he is forced to by threats, is an absolute villain .... We are referring to any sort of participation in the war: a combat soldier, a support soldier, civilian assistance or any form of encouragement and support." And: "Even if civilians are tied up or imprisoned and have no choice but to stay and serve as hostages, it is possible to kill them."
Also: "In discussions on the killing of infants and children ... it is reasonable to harm children if it is clear they will grow up to harm us. Under such circumstances they should be the ones targeted." And finally: "There is no need to discuss the question of who is and is not innocent, just as when we are defending against evil we do not hesitate to strike at limbs that were not actually used in actions against us."
These are quotes from the book "The King's Torah" ("Torat Hamelech" ) by rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur; it was published by Hamercaz Hatorani, near Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva. Many important rabbis have supported the two rabbis, and these quotes are part of the reason they are being investigated for suspected incitement and racism. Their refusal to be questioned allegedly was based on the fact that no one should be questioned or tried for his opinion.
In essence, their refusal places the law of the Torah above the law of the state. Rabbi Dov Lior, who backed the book, explained his opposition to their being interrogated as follows: "The harassment of the rabbis because of their halakhic views stands in direct opposition to the principles of freedom of religion and expression that are accepted by the state." Indeed, is it possible to accuse someone of hating gentiles? In a Jewish state?
Nothing new, so far. Fundamentalist rabbis have approved murder, attacks on Arabs and their property, the illegal takeover of land, racist segregation between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi female pupils, and have ignored (at least ) the murder of a prime minister. After all, the source of authority of those same rabbis, the book of books, is full of hair-raising descriptions of the vengeance exacted by the Children of Israel on the peoples of this land.
As for the humanity of "the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate Me," killer of the Egyptian firstborn, we can hold a seminar or two. Thumbing their noses at the law of the state is not an invention by Lior or similar rabbis. As far as disrespecting the law is concerned, Lior is an excellent pupil of Rabbi Moshe Levinger. Only naivete or pretending can explain the surprise at the spitting in the face of the police as they try to investigate the rabbis who provided a wall of defense to abomination.
What is new is that these are no longer "hilltop rabbis," "wild weeds" or "fence hoppers" who are turning their backs on the instructions of great rabbinical figures and the law. They and their supporters are transforming zealous fundamentalism and the shameful "The King's Torah "into the mainstream.
After all, what were the critics upset about? Not the content of the book some say they oppose ("of course I don't support it" ), but rather the state's audacity to undermine the freedom of expression of the source. No religious protest movement stood against the content; no one wrote a text to counter this Jewish Wahhabism. Suddenly, that same community that sanctifies rabbinical hierarchy, the absolute obedience to the rabbis, is shocked by this affront to freedom of expression.
But these fundamentalists, responsible for the training of tens of thousands of yeshiva students who become soldiers, wash their hands when their followers and students carry out the rabbis' orders. No rabbi has been tried for an illegal act by a civilian or soldier because of his teachings. After all, they are only tutors, and then "permission has been granted." In "properly functioning" states like Saudi Arabia or Egypt it has long been understood that the responsibility of a religious figure is no less than that of a terrorist. They arrest and imprison, exile or silence in different ways the preachers who raised generations of murderous zealots. Turkey removes from the military anyone who expresses excessive religious fervor.
In Israel, on the other hand, former chief military rabbi Avihai Rontzki initiated a meeting of intelligence soldiers with Rabbi Lior, the backbone of "The King's Torah." The following was said about the Israel Defense Forces' ethics code: "When there is a conflict between orders based on the ethics code and a halakhic instruction, of course one must follow halakha" - Jewish law. It's not incitement that's dangerous, but rather its transformation into the accepted and central form of discourse.