Israel Dragging Its Feet in Prosecution of Rabbi Who Justified anti-Arab Violence

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

The Israeli prosecution seems oddly reluctant to move against Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of Yitzhar, one of the authors “The King’s Torah,” a controversial tome offering halakhic conditions under which it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

Elitzur has failed to respond to letters summoning him to a hearing ahead of possible legal proceedings against him. The first such letter was sent in December 2016, after Attorney-General Avichai Mendelblit announced intentions to indict, subject to a hearing for Elitzur.

Under the law, the prosecution must wait at least a month between sending a summons to a hearing and putting the defendant on trial without hearing his side first. That 30-day hiatus ended in January, yet no indictments have been served.

A three-month delay in filing charges after sending a letter on a hearing is highly unusual and unreasonable, especially after the delays in the case already, criminal law experts told Haaretz. The prosecution did not comment as of writing.

Elitzur is one of the leaders of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva. Back in 2009, in an op-ed that may be used in his prosecution, he called for violence against Arabs, writing: “If the Arabs win because of violence against Jews, the Jews can also win through violence against Arabs. The strength of women, children and the old can be utilized to block a given road and during that time, a harsher action can be taken against hostile elements down that same road.”

The Israel Religious Action Center and the Tag Meir forum finally petitioned the High Court of Justice in 2015, demanding that Elitzur be tried for incitement.

According to the Israel Religious Action Center, shortly after the attorney-general announced that Elitzur would indeed face indictment, they were advised that first he would be summoned for a hearing.

The prosecution’s announcement seems to suggest that the suspicions against the rabbi are in fact based on articles Elitzur wrote before 2013, published in Jewish Voice, a website identified with the radical right.

In one, he wrote, for instance, that there is a “growing phenomenon of actions by angry Jews against the enemy. These can be seen as the desperate deeds of a people pushed into a corner, but go closer and it can be seen that these are the buds of a growing public that is taking responsibility for the safety of the Jews.”

In another article, Elitzur praised perpetrators of anti-Arab hate crimes known as “price tag” attacks, and said that “while no one wants to live in a state of anarchy, there are times when we must live by the rules of the jungle and show evil gentiles that Jews can also play that game.”

The day of the announcement that he would be indicted, Elitzur told the Jewish Voice that in hard times of this sort, when a “whole settlement faces destruction” (a reference to the illegal outpost of Amona), he had no leisure or inclination to comment on minutiae. He added that it was a shame that Mendelblit, the attorney general, whom he had described as “wicked,” was “busy doing deeds that hurt the people of Israel and its Torah. In any case, I shall continue to state with a clear voice that the Torah of Israel supersedes the courts of the gentiles,” and Jews should “ignore orders and laws that are cruel to compassionate Jews.”