Israel's AG Closes Probe Into Authors of Allegedly Racist Book

Investigation of two West Bank rabbis who wrote a religious text, Torat Hamelech fails to produce necessary evidence on which to base an indictment for incitement to racism and violence, AG says.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced on Monday that he is closing the investigation of two revered West Bank rabbis who wrote a religious text, Torat Hamelech (The King's Torah ), which argues there are times when Jews are allowed to kill gentiles who pose no physical threat of violence. The authors are rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, while the text was endorsed by leading Chabad Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg and Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior.

Weinstein wrote that the investigation failed to produce the necessary evidence on which to base an indictment for incitement to racism and violence against the book's authors and supporters. "Evidence issues enjoin the closing of this case," wrote Weinstein. "Negative responses to this book can be made at the public level."

The attorney general's decision stirred vehement criticism on Monday, particularly on the part of complainants who turned to the High Court of Justice with demands that the rabbis responsible for the text be indicted, and that the book's dissemination be blocked. The High Court petition is still pending. The complainants contend that Weinstein's decision creates a precedent, one never intended by the country's legislative branch - that rabbis can incite in a violent or racist fashion with impunity.

The book Torat Hamelech, published in 2009, is described by its authors as a discussion of circumstances in which Jewish law permits killing in times of war and peace. Among other judgments, the book states: "When we approach a gentile who has violated the seven laws of Noah and kill him out of devotion to the upholding of these Noahide laws, this is not forbidden." Elsewhere, the book holds that "a person who encourages war provides strength to a king and his soldiers who persist with the war. Thus any person in a kingdom who encourages soldiers or tolerates their actions can be considered a dangerous pursuer [rodef], and can be killed." In February 2011 a decision was reached to open an investigation of the authors and those who endorsed it publicly. Following this decision, Shapira and Elitzur were questioned. Lior was also summoned for questioning, but ignored the summons for months, and eventually announced he would not answer it.

On Monday, Assistant State Prosecutor Shlomi Abramson wrote to those who complained to Weinstein about this text, including Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and the Israel Religious Action Center. Abramsom's letter indicates that Shapira and Elitzur invoked their right to remain silent when questioned by police. However, the two detailed the rationale behind the book in a letter they sent to the Education Ministry's director general, explaining it is a "book about Jewish law which reviews and explicates Torah sources. The book does not dictate how people should act; this is not a book that conveys orders for action, and is instead a book for study and discussion written in terminology used in yeshiva discourse."

The authors claimed their book states explicitly that "the killing of a gentile is forbidden by Torah," but they immediately added:"the text indicates that harm can only be brought to a person who does not uphold the seven laws of Noah, and such harm can only come about in special circumstances."

Moti Milrod