West Bank Rabbi to Stand Trial for Incitement to Violence Against Arabs

Co-author of controversial 'The King's Torah' indicted only after a High Court petition demanded the state press charges against him for inflammatory online writings

Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the Yitzhar settlement in court in 2010.
Moti Milrod

A prominent West Bank settlement rabbi was indicted on Tuesday for incitement to violence for online articles praising perpetrators of hate crimes against Palestinians.

The indictment of Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the settlement of Yitzhar comes after a two-year delay by the state, which filed charges only after a High Court petition demanded as much.

The allegations relate to articles that Elitzur wrote on the website Hakol Hayehudi, which is identified with the extreme right, in which the rabbi called for violence against Arabs.

According to the indictment, Elitzur’s articles received a sympathetic reception from many people and remained on the website, even though he could have had them removed.

Elitzur is also co-author of the controversial “The King’s Torah” (“Torat Hamelech”), a book which relies on halakha – Jewish religious law – to make a case for the killing of non-Jews in certain circumstances. (The publication of the book in 2009 prompted a police investigation of its authors on suspicion of incitement to racism, but no one was prosecuted.)

In May, 2013, Elitzur, rabbi of Yitzhar’s yeshiva, wrote on the site that: “There is a growing phenomenon of acts taken by warm Jews against the enemy. They can be seen as desperate acts of a public pushed into a corner, but a closer look reveals that these are the buds of a growing public that is taking responsibility for the security of the Jews,” including activity in what Elitzur called “enemy territory.” These are the first signs of “Jewish confidence, mutual responsibility and seeing to the well-being of Jews in the Land of Israel and in the world,” he wrote. Later the same month, he wrote: “We understand well why people feel the need to act against evil when they are persecuted and beaten by a hostile and alienated establishment ...”

A decision on whether to indict Elitzur remained on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s desk for at least two years before criminal charges were filed. At the end of 2015, the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Tag Meir, an anti-racism group, petitioned the High Court of Justice for an order requiring Elitzur’s indictment. After several delays, the state replied that an indictment would be filed, subject to a prior hearing. Elitzur was summoned to a hearing but did not respond.