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November 18, 2009

It's permissible to kill Palestinians

Reuel S. Amdur

Reuel S. AmdurJewish settlers’ attacks on Palestinians and destruction of their crops and other property are justified according to Jewish law, says Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira.

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira released his book The King’s Torah on November 9.  In it he goes into great detail on when it is permissible to kill gentiles.

When a gentile has sinned or violated the laws handed down by God to Noah (idolatry, theft, male homosexuality, blasphemy, etc.) and is killed by a Jew, “there is nothing wrong with the murder.” 

While at one point the book says that the killing must be ordered by a court, it also says that “Even individuals from the nation being attacked may harm them,” referring to an attacking “evil kingdom.”

The role of a court becomes somewhat ambiguous, as many of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not recognize the state of Israel as legitimate.  They await the messiah to bring in a legitimate government.  That leaves the question of the legitimacy of Israeli courts in question. 

Where Jews are endangered, the book tells us that “It is permissible to Kill the Righteous Among Nations even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation” that Jews face. 

What’s more, “One must consider killing even babies. . . because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents.”  And, “If hurting an evil king’s children will pressure him to stop acting maliciously, you can hurt them.”

The practical implications of this religious perspective are evident.  If it is acceptable to kill babies who might otherwise grow up to be as wicked as their parents, who might want to protect their land, and if you can hurt the children of “the wicked king”, it follows that it is appropriate to attack Palestinian children going to school. 

Since God has decreed all of the West Bank and more to the Jews, it becomes clear that Palestinians are of the “evil kingdom” trying to prevent settlers from taking possession of land that is rightly Jewish. 

An Israeli colonel who was stationed in the West Bank called upon his superiors and on Israeli legal authorities to take action against “provocateurs”, including Rabbi Shapira. 

He called attention to students from Shapira’s yeshiva (religious school) who were committing crimes against Palestinians in the area. 

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz noted that “Shapira is among the rabbis who signed a manifesto in support of the suspects in a brutal attack on two Arab youths on Holocaust Remembrance Day in May.” 

The book has been endorsed by other “prominent rabbis” (Ha’aretz) in Israel. 

Two, Yitzhak Ginzburg and Yaakaov Yosef, wrote their endorsements in the book itself. 

Ginzburg was earlier jailed for inciting racism against Arabs.  He is the author of a book praising Baruch Goldstein, the settler who entered a mosque during prayer and opened fire at random, killing 29 worshippers before he was overcome and killed himself. 

Shapira’s book was released at a memorial event for Rabbi Meier Kahane, a man who advocated expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. 

However, the book never mentions Arabs or Palestinians by name.  Probably Shapira wanted to avoid Ginzburg’s fate of conviction for racism.

Shapira’s world view is being acted out in Israel and Palestine.  We have mentioned something of the behavior of the settlers, but there is more. 

Not long before the release of Shapira’s book, Yaakov Teitel was arrested for the 1997 murder of a Palestinian shepherd in the West Bank and an Arab taxi driver in Jerusalem. 

He is also accused of bomb attacks, one during a gay pride parade.  Before his arrest, an unknown person entered a gay community center in Tel Aviv and opened fire, killing two people, undoubtedly justified by the laws of Noah.

All of this must be put in perspective. 

The views of Shapira and his supportive colleagues are in fact the views of an extremist fringe, with even some settler rabbis expressing disagreement. 

And many settlers live in the West Bank for economic reasons.  Israel has made it very advantageous financially to take up residence in West Bank communities. 

When the report about the book appeared in Ha’aretz, almost all the blogs expressed horror and outrage. 

Yet, the situation in the West Bank, with the ongoing attacks on Palestinians and their property, demonstrates that, especially among some of the settlers, the book has its resonance. 

The Israeli program of settlement expansion at the expense of the Palestinians, while not inspired by Shapira, nevertheless serves to reinforce that outlook.  It becomes acceptable to treat Palestinians as obstacles to be overcome. 

Unfortunately, the kind of thinking displayed by Shapra and his associates is not restricted to the Middle East. 

In an issue of the American Jewish magazine Moment, a number of rabbis were asked how Jews’ Arab neighbors should be treated.  Almost to a man, they took the position that they should be treated fairly and their rights protected.  I said “almost”. 

Rabbi Manis Friedman, of the Ultra-Orthodox Chabad sect, had a different take: “I don’t believe in western morality, i.e., don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.  The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites.  Kill men, women and children (and cattle).”

Reuel S. Amdur is a freelance writer living near Ottawa.

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