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Israeli Ministry of Justice endorses extremist interpretations of Jewish Law

July 4, 2010 5 comments

Invitation to seminar

On Friday, July 9, the Ministry of Justice and the Jewish Legal Heritage Society will present a two-day seminar on Jewish laws concerning the Land of Israel.  [An invitation in Hebrew can be seen here and a translation is appended at the bottom of this post. H/T Dena Shunra.]

While I am not an expert on Jewish law, even a layman’s superficial examination of the itinerary reveals an extremely problematic agenda for a government. At best, this event serves as an official stamp of approval for the settlement movement; at worst, it provides legitimacy for extremist and hateful views. Here are the discussion topics:

  • The centrality of the Land of Israel in Jewish and general law
  • The commandment of settling the Land of Israel: “And you shall inherit it and you shall reside therein” (Nahmanides)
  • Obligation to take risks to settle the Land of Israel
  • The commandment of redeeming land in the Land of Israel
  • “And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity” (Leviticus 25:23)
  • “Show no mercy unto them” (Deuteronomy 20:16)
  • “Every person has four cubits in the Land of Israel” (Ketubot 111a)
The problematic nature of the topics is underscored by the background of two of the four speakers who will be interpreting them: Rabbi Dov Lior and Professor Nachum Rakover.


Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, provides the most extreme example.  At the New Jewish Congress in November 2007, Rabbi Lior called for a “return to real Zionism,” explaining that the Jewish People must settle and conquer the Land of Israel and that the latter commandment:

involves military force, with all the associated risks.  For many years we did not have the ability to fulfill this Torah commandment, but now we can – and so we must!  We must not fear the threats of the evil ones, but we must rather persist, and not allow the weakness of our government to become a ‘weeping for generations.’
His positions on Palestinians are extreme, as demonstrated by several statements he has made throughout the years.  For example, in 2008 he ruled that Jews must not employ or rent houses to Arabs.  Moreover, he has embraced violence against civilians publicly:
There is no term in the Halacha that states one must consider innocents during war. Of course we must stop terrorists from shooting, even if the only way to do so includes harming civilians.
And has called on IDF soldiers to refuse to evacuate settlements, since such an act is “illegal according to the laws of the Torah.”  There have been a number of cases in which he was responsible for soldiers’ refusal (Hebrew) to follow orders.

Even more remarkable is Rabbi Lior’s view of Baruch Goldstein’s terrorist attack in Hebron in 1994, when he murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs and injured many more.  When Goldstein’s coffin was brought to Rabbi Lior’s own settlement of Kiryat Arba for burial, Lior delivered a eulogy in which he praised Goldstein, saying that he:

was full of love for fellow human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others.
Most recently, Rabbi Lior endorsed (Hebrew) a book entitled Torat Melech (The King’s Torah), written by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, which explains when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.  The book argues that one may kill non-Jews and their children if their presence is dangerous to the Jewish people and if one is sure that the children will grow up and harm Jews.  Rabbi Lior called the book “very relevant especially in this time.”


Another lecturer headlining the event will be former Israeli Deputy Attorney General Professor Nachum Rakover, President of the Jewish Legal Heritage Society.  In an interview with BBC, Rakover posited that — when it comes to Israel — any State law that provides an obstacle to settling the Land of Israel in its entirety should be subverted.  The quote reads:

Our right to the ‘Land of Israel’ is a very important precept, according to the Torah.  There is a Hebrew idiom – the law of the land is the law – but there are laws between man and God which cannot be changed.  This applies to giving up land because the settlement of Jews in the ‘Land of Israel’ is one of the most important precepts of the Torah. The Torah was given for the purpose that Jews will preserve the Torah in the ‘Land of Israel’ in its entirety.
Categories: Jewish Fundamentalism

Renowned Israeli playwright compares Ameer Makhoul to Soviet “Prisoners of Zion”

May 20, 2010 2 comments

The story of the arrest and detention Ameer Makhoul is an eerie glimpse into the willingness of Israel’s security establishment to go to incredible and undemocratic lengths as it attempts to fight perceived internal “enemies.”   Makhoul, an Israeli citizen, was finally permitted to meet with his lawyers after 11 days, but only after his defense team threatened to boycott his detention extension hearing.

Shaken, Israeli playwright Yehoshua (Joshua) Sobol decided to break a taboo and equate Makhoul’s handling by the Shabak to the Soviet treatment of the “Prisoners of Zion.”

Censorship: The fate of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky

Op-ed, Yehoshua Sobol, Israel Hayom, May 12 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the tale of the arrest of Zion Grisha Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky, who was taken in the middle of the night by the KGB.  The story made waves through the international media, yet in Soviet Russia it was prohibited to mention the event in national media outlets.  As in all dark dictatorships, the intellectuals who wanted to know where they lived, developed a network for sharing alternative information: Mouth to Ear, a network that functions at the speed of one’s voice and passes through the thick walls and fences that surround the basement interrogation centers of the KGB.

And thus, thanks to the Mouth to Ear network, every person with some critical opinion regarding the Soviet Empire knows exactly and how and why something happened to Grisha Ameerovitch-Makholsky.  At 3:00am 16 brutes from a special unit of the KGB surrounded Grisha’s house, which is located in a suburb in the distant northern port city of Danyaprokhifovsik.  Five thugs from the special unit broke into the apartment, separated Grisha from his wife and daughters – Dina and Yehudit, refused to identify themselves when asked, and proceeded to search the entire apartment without demonstrating a search warrant.  They took the personal journals of Grisha and his daughters, as well as the girls’ math workbooks.  When they wanted to take Grisha as well, Mrs. Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky stubbornly demanded that the brutes present an arrest warrant.  So they extracted an arrest warrant dated two weeks prior to that night.

In retrospect, the Nobel Prize winner Professor Eliushkin-Sacharov, one of the directors of Man-is-Man, raised these points for consideration: if the security threat was urgent such that the Soviet security forces could wait almost two weeks from the day the warrant was signed until it was implemented, why did the search and arrest have to take place at 3:00am, violently, and in front of the children?  Furthermore, Professor Sacharov asked why the detainee was not permitted to consult with his lawyer, as his wife claims.

But this was not the end of the story.  It turns out that despite the zealous Soviet censorship and the fearful long and strong hand of the KGB, the Mouth to Ear network managed to broadcast news of the grave violation of human rights that occurred.  However, though in Soviet Russia it was prohibited to inform citizens of misdeeds committed by the secret security services, it was permissible to vilify Israel without restraint – the Mouth to Ear network broadcasted the story as if it took place in Israel instead of in Soviet Russia.  And not to a Jewish detainee named Zion but rather with an Arab detainee.  Even the name of the city Danyaprokhifovsik was replaced by the name of a northern Israeli port city, and the name of Grisha Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky was changed to an Arab name.  Further, the name of the organization of Zionist NGOs that Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky led was altered in the rumors to the name of an organization of Arab NGOs.  In this way, the story of the arrest of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky was broadcasted to all corners of Soviet Russia.

It is difficult to believe that only 50 years have passed since the dark days in which the story of Ameerovitch-Makhoulsky took place, which seems – today – as if it took place before the days of Noah’s Great Flood.  How wonderful that such a dark and shameful event could never take place in a democratic and free country like the Jewish and democratic State of Israel.

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On the partisan politicization of “Jerusalem Day”

May 13, 2010 3 comments

Shachar-Mario Mordechai is a poet living in Tel Aviv. He is the 2010 recipient of Tel Aviv Municipality’s nationwide “Poetry By the Way” competition. His poems, translations and reviews have been published by various magazines, literary supplements and online site. His book of poems, “History of the Future,” will be published later this year by Even Hoshen Publishing House. A second book will be published by Am Oved as part of his prize for the Poetry By the Way competition.

If I forget thee

Shachar-Mario Mordechai, Maariv, May 12 2010 [Hebrew original here and bottom of post]

On Iyar 28, 5727 (June 7, 1967), the third day of the Six-Day War, IDF troops entered the Old City of Jerusalem. Within less than a year the Knesset established Iyar 28th as Jerusalem Day. After some three decades, while Binyamin Netanyahu was serving his first term as the prime minister of Israel, the Knesset conferred legal standing on that day: It established that this day would commemorate the connection between the city and the Jewish people and that, as such, it was incumbent upon us to celebrate it as a national holiday.

I am a Jew, and I do not forget Jerusalem (nor do I forget my right hand, and certainly not my left), and I recognize the undeniable connection between my people and the holy city. However, it is beyond me why I am obliged to celebrate (or lament) Jerusalem specifically in the context of 1967. I won’t, as Elie Wiesel put it, say that Jerusalem is above politics, since everything that is connected to Jerusalem — and perhaps to every issue in our world — is political.  And it is not inconceivable that any day chosen to celebrate Jerusalem Day should be imbued with political significance (even our distant neighbours to the east, the Iranians, celebrate Jerusalem Day — though it is a shame that they do not do so in the tradition of Cyrus). But in my opinion it is more than a tad unfair to mark Jerusalem Day — by law — in keeping with the whims of former MK Hanan Porat and the signature of Binyamin Netanyahu.

Where does that legislation put me? I, like many others in Israel today, believe that 1967 sowed the destructive seeds that have the potential capacity to derail Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. I believe that the occupation of another people undermines Israel’s security, its standing among the nations, its character as a just society, the Zionist vision of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel (and not the entire Land of Israel), and that it also undermines our hold on Jerusalem.

In order to maintain Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state and in order to have Israel be — even if only partially so — a just society, there is no choice but to disengage from East Jerusalem. When I say East Jerusalem, my intention is a disengagement from the Shuafat refugee camp, Abu Dis, Sur Baher, el-Azariyeh. Certainly not from the Old City. Not from the holy basin. The Old City will be administered jointly so as to ensure that religious freedoms are not infringed upon and so that we will be able to visit the Western Wall whenever we want. And when I say joint administration I am not contradicting the words of the Prophet Micha, who said: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the House of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it…for the Law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

That is why I am hard put to celebrate Jerusalem Day on Iyar 28th. Why am I denied the right to celebrate wholeheartedly my connection — as a Jew and an Israeli — to the city? Why Iyar 28th? Why shouldn’t Jerusalem Day be established immediately after the mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av, so as to commemorate the emergence from mourning over the city’s destruction to celebration over its rebuilding?  And when I say rebuilding I am not referring to Sheikh Jarrah. Just as we make the impossible transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day, why shouldn’t we celebrate Jerusalem Day immediately after Tisha B’Av? I know that Binyamin Netanyahu won’t pick up the gauntlet. But you there, you MKs who are worried about the fate of Jerusalem and the fate of Israel, can anyone hear me?!

Photo: Mati Milstein

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Categories: Jerusalem

Can the US afford to ignore the JDL?

March 7, 2010 4 comments


On February 14 2010, Israel Hayom published an article by Efrat Porsher suggesting that the Jewish Defense League (JDL) is reorganizing to defend Israeli speakers on campuses in the US and UK and to “prevent diplomats from enemy countries or from countries that are hostile toward Israel from speaking at university venues.”  Due to the violent history of this organization — such an endeavor should worry the US as it attempts to prevent domestic terrorist attacks.

The JDL was founded in 1968 by Rabbi Meir Kahane, who then immigrated to Israel and established the Kach political party with similar ideological roots.  In 1988, Kach was outlawed under the revised Knesset Elections Law for inciting racism, having advocated for the cleansing of Arabs from Biblical Israel.  Kach and its offshoot, Kahane Chai (“Kahane Lives”) are listed by the State Department as foreign terrorist organizations.  In recent months, Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari has asked to hold a discussion in the Knesset in commemoration of Kahane, which Israel Radio commentator Moshe Negbi compared to a memorial session for a Hamas terrorist.  In 1989, in response to the murder of Ziva Goldovsky “for nationalist reasons” by an Arab man during the First Intifada, Kahane wrote:

Let every Jewish parent remember the tragedy of this 18 year old Jewish child and look to their own. Those who love their children- know what the Arabs would do to them! See what the Arabs did to Ziva Goldovsky and know that this is what awaits our own. And look what the Jewish Left did to an 18 year old child, and make an oath never to let it happen to our own. Mapam Youth, Hashomer HaTzair, Ratz Youth, Habonim, Dror. These are the youth groups of the Left that destroy the Jewish soul on their way to murdering the Jewish body.

Ben Ari

With such roots, it is not surprising that although — explicitly — the JDL renounces terrorism and felonious acts (along with racism), numerous arrests of their leaders and members strongly suggest otherwise.One such arrest clearly indicates their status as a terrorist organization: In December 2001, JDL Chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and member Earl Krugel, 59 were arrested for planning the bombing of the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles and the San Clemente office of freshman Congressional Representative Darrell Issa, R-California. The two plotters met repeatedly during October of that year to plan the attacks, and during one secretly audiotaped meeting, Krugel allegedly said that Arabs “need a wakeup call” and the JDL needed to do something to one of their “filthy” mosques.  In 2002, Rubin – who had served as Chairman of the JDL since 1985 and had been arrested 40 times by his own count – committed suicide while in custody and in 2005, Krugel was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

In a 2004 Congressional testimony on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, John S. Pistole, Executive Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence unit of the FBI, listed the thwarted terrorist attack as one of the successes of his unit.  This planned bombing was also described in a different FBI report, which called the JDL a “violent extremist Jewish organization.”  Other FBI documents have simply labeled the JDL “a proscribed terrorist group.”

JDL Logo

With such a track record, US counterterrorism authorities should be on high alert for an attempt by the JDL to become active on campuses and other public venues where their enemies may express unacceptable views.  It would be extremely irresponsible and reckless for the US to ignore the possibility that JDL members will use violence or terror, as they have in the past.  In Israel, Yigal Amir was publicly applauded by Kahane supporters for assassinating Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Israel has paid a high price for allowing these elements to grow in influence and numbers.  Hopefully, official US silence on this issue is not a sign of complacency. If it is, Americans may soon pay its price.