Court Asks State: Why King's Torah Authors Not Indicted?

Case against authors of allegedly racist book was closed in May 2012.

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday evening ordered Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to explain why he has not idicted the authors of “Torat Hamelech” (The King's Torah), Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, and Rabbis Dov Lior and Yitzhak Ginsburg, who granted rabbinic approbation to the book, for sedition, incitement to racism and incitement to violence.

The court injunction came following a legal debate over a petition filed jointly by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, 12 Heshvan: Promoting Tolerance in an Orthodox Context, the Kolech Religious Women’s Forum and others who demanded the prosecution of the book’s authors for incitement and racism. The injunction calls on Weinstein to explain why they have not been prosecuted and why the police does not confiscate copies of the book until the issue is settled in court. Weinstein is also called on to explain why Lior is not subject to a disciplinary hearing for his statements, and why he has not been suspended from his position as the rabbi of Kiryat Arba. Weinstein and the rabbis have two and a half months to respond to the injunction.

During the court hearing the State Prosecutor's Office disclosed that it recently served notice to the managers of the “Hakol Hayehudi” (Jewish Voice) website, Avraham Binyamin and Joshua Hess, that they would be prosecuted, subject to a hearing, for incitement to violence and racism. This decision was reached with Weinstein's approval.

According to the charges, the website is suspected of posting inciteful content directed at Palestinians and Israeli Arabs between August 2009 and February 2012. In addition to the Internet, this material also appeared in brochures that were handed out in public places, bearing the Hakol Hayehudi logo. The inciting material has still not been removed from the website. One of the items in question is an article called “mutual responsibility” written by Elitzur, one of the authors of Torat Hamelech.

Attorney Yuval Roitman from the State Prosecution's division dealing with High Court cases says that a final decision has yet to be made regarding Elitzur’s prosecution. Roitman tried to justify the Attorney general’s decision to close the file against the book’s authors and the approbation granters, defending the lenient interpretations given after reading this book.

“I assume that your honors have read or will read the book in its entirety," Roitman said. "The picture that emerges from such reading is different than the impressions obtained only by hearing a handful of quotes. One should read the whole book in order to understand the context in which it was written. It is difficult to counter this context in a legal argument. It does not deal with concrete issues connected to Palestinians or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have to view this through the lens of legal criminality. When I read the book I cannot ignore the fact that the book deals with issues of Jewish religious law without expressly saying that the term "non-Jews" refers to the Arab populace. Before laying charges we must be certain beyond reasonable doubt that what is written supports such a claim.”

Justice Edna Arbel replied that “the issue is not what the writer intended but what the reader understands.”

In May 2012 the state prosecutor decided to close the case against Shapira and Elitzur, as well as Lior and Ginsburg, due to lack of evidence. The book, published in 2009, deals with the issue of when Jewish law permits the killing of a non-Jew. A letter sent by Assistant State Prosecutor Shlomi Abramson to petitioners stated that “the attorney general has decided to close the cases due to lack of evidence that would meet the high standards of a criminal court. Weinstein believes that the content of the book should be condemned and reviled, but this should be done in the court of public opinion, as indeed happened when the book was released.”

Olivier Fitoussi