Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Revered Israeli Rabbi Preaches Slaughter of
Settlers Step Up “Price-Tag” Policy
By Jonathan Cook
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 8, 2010
Jonathan Cook considers the ideas of a leading Israeli rabbi,
Yitzhak Shapira, who together with another rabbi, Yosef Elitzur, has
written a book in which he sanctions the murder of Palestinian children
A rabbi from one of the most violent settlements in
the West Bank was questioned on suspicion of incitement last week as
Israeli police stepped up their investigation into a book in which he
sanctions the killing of non-Jews, including children and babies.
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira is one of the leading ideologues of the extreme wing
of the religious settler movement. He is known to be a champion of the
“price-tag” policy of reprisal attacks on Palestinians, including
punishing them for attempts by officials to enforce Israeli law against
So far the policy has chiefly involved violent
harassment of Palestinians, with settlers inflicting beatings, attacking
homes, throwing stones, burning fields, killing livestock and poisoning
“…[Rabbi Yitzhak] Shapira is trying to redefine the conflict with the
Palestinians, turning it from a national conflict into a religious one...”
Dror Etkes, Israeli settlements expert
It is feared, however, that Shapira’s book, The King’s Torah, published
last year, is intended to offer ideological justifications for widening
the scope of such attacks to include killing Palestinians, even children.
Although Shapira was released a few hours after his questioning
on 26 July, dozens of rabbis, as well as several members of parliament,
rallied to his side, condemning the arrest.
Shlomo Aviner, one of
the settlement movement’s spiritual leaders, defended the book’s arguments
as a “legitimate stance” and one that should be taught in Jewish
But in a sign of mounting official unease at Shapira’s
influence on the settlement movement, the Israeli military authorities
also threatened last week to enforce a decade-old demolition order on
Yitzhar’s seminary, which was built without a permit.
a Tel Aviv-based expert on the settlements, said the order was unlikely to
be carried out but was a way to pressure Yitzhar’s 500 inhabitants to rein
in their more violent attacks.
He said the authorities had begun
taking a harder line against Yitzhar only since Shapira and several of his
students were suspected of torching a mosque in the neighbouring village
of Yasuf last December.
“Shapira is trying to redefine the
conflict with the Palestinians, turning it from a national conflict into a
religious one. That frightens Israel. It doesn’t want to look as though it
is fighting the whole Islamic world,” Etkes said.
He added that
the rabbi and his supporters were closely associated with Kach, a movement
founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane that demands the expulsion of all
Palestinians from a “Greater Israel”. Despite Kach being banned, officials
have largely turned a blind eye as its ideology has flourished in the
“It may be illegal to call oneself Kach but the
authorities are more than tolerant of settlers who hold such views and
carry out violent attacks. In fact, what Kahane was doing in the 1980s
seems like child’s play compared with today’s settlers.”
“There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they
will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed
deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, The King’s Torah
In the 230-page book, Shapira and his co-author, Rabbi Yosef Elitzur,
also from Yitzhar, argue that Jewish law permits the killing of non-Jews
in a wide variety of circumstances. The terms “gentiles” and “non-Jews” in
the book are widely understood as references to Palestinians.
They write that Jews have the right to kill gentiles in any situation
in which “a non-Jew’s presence endangers Jewish lives” even if the gentile
is “not at all guilty for the situation that has been created”.
The book sanctions the killing of non-Jewish children and babies: “There
is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up
to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and
not only during combat with adults.”
The rabbis suggest that
harming the children of non-Jewish leaders is justified if it is likely to
bring pressure to bear on them to change policy.
The authors also
advocate committing “cruel deeds to create the proper balance of terror”
and treating all members of an “enemy nation” as targets for retaliation,
even if they are not directly participating in hostile activities.
The rabbis appear to be offering justifications in Jewish law for
collective punishment and other war crimes of the kind committed by the
Israeli army in its attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008.
Pamphlets similarly calling on soldiers to “show no mercy” were
distributed by the army’s rabbinate as troops prepared for the Gaza
operation, in which 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians,
were killed. Religious settlers have come to dominate many combat units.
An investigation last year by
Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, found Shapira’s seminary had
received government funds worth at least 300,000 US dollars in recent
years. American and British groups have also contributed tens of thousands
of dollars in tax-deductible donations.
According to the Jerusalem
Post newspaper, the Yitzhar settlers have responded to the demolition
order against their seminary by threatening to publish documents showing
that the housing and transport ministries were closely involved in the
The settlers have repeatedly rampaged through nearby
Palestinian villages, most notoriously in September 2008, when they were
filmed shooting at homes in Assira al-Kabaliya, smashing properties and
daubing Stars of David on homes. Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of the
time, termed the settlers’ actions a “pogrom”.
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur “advocate committing
‘cruel deeds to create the proper balance of terror’ and treating all
members of an ‘enemy nation’ as targets for retaliation, even if they are
not directly participating in hostile activities.”
The same year a religious student from Yitzhar was arrested for firing
home-made rockets at Palestinian villages close by.
Yitzhar’s settlers marched through the village of Huwara and pelted a
Palestinian family’s home with stones in “reprisal” for the arrest of 11
of their number.
A settler from Yitzhar was questioned last month
over the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old Palestinian, Aysar Zaban, in May,
reportedly after stones were thrown at the settler’s car. The teenager was
shot in the back.
Last week, the settlers attacked Burin, shooting
at villagers and burning fields.
In most of these cases, the
settlers who were arrested were released a short time later either by the
police or the courts. In January, a Jerusalem judge freed Rabbi Shapira
for lack of evidence in the arson attack on the mosque.
Ginsburg, an authority on Jewish law and a mentor to Shapira, was
questioned by police on 29 July over his endorsement of the book. In the
past Ginsburg has praised Baruch Goldstein, a settler who opened fire in
Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, killing 29 Palestinian worshippers.
In 2003 Ginsburg was accused of incitement for publishing a book that
called for the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied
territories, but the charges were dropped after he issued a “clarification
A group calling itself “Students of Yitzhak Ginsburg”
recently distributed a leaflet urging Israeli soldiers to “spare your
lives and the lives of your friends and show no concern for a population
that surrounds us and harms us”.
What is Kach?
Kach was founded in 1971 by the late Meir Kahane, an American rabbi who
immigrated to Israel. He won a seat in the Israeli parliament in 1984 on a
platform of expelling all Palestinians from Israel and the occupied
territories. As an MP, he drafted legislation to revoke the Israeli
citizenship of non-Jews and ban sexual relations between Jews and
The political party was banned from running for the
Israeli parliament in 1988 and the movement was outlawed six years later.
Although the group is considered a terrorist organization in the United
States and most of Europe, its ideology has been allowed to thrive in the
Today, dozens of rabbis espouse an interpretation of
Jewish religious law identical to or worse than Kahane’s.
Ben Ari, a former Kach leader, was elected as an MP last year for the
far-right National Union party, which holds four seats in the 120-member
Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the parliament’s third
largest party and is foreign minister, briefly joined the party before it
was banned. His own party’s anti-Arab “No loyalty, no citizenship”
programme includes echoes of Kahane’s ideology.
Jonathan Cook is a
writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are
Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake
the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's
Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is
A version of
this article originally appeared in
The National, published in Abu Dhabi. The version here is published by
permission of Jonathan Cook.