Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Killing Innocent Arabs

I have no tolerance for violence. Especially murder. That is the position taken by a very controversial ‘Halacha’ book by a radical Rabbi, Yitzhak Shapira. He ‘gives Jews permission to preemptively kill gentiles under certain conditions in wartime’.

I have no respect for this man whatsoever. Here is a man who under the guise of ‘intellectual Halachic discussion’ advocates murdering innocent people. Unfortunately I am not surprised by this mentality. Even though he is a Lubavitcher Chasid, he is of the mentality usually associated with the extreme right wing of religious Zionism that sees every Arab in Israel as a potential murderer of Jews.

I am sure he did not actually advocate going out and killing a few Arabs randomly walking down the street even in a time of war. But I am equally sure that his hatred for the Arab caused him to write the portion of his book that uses Halacha to justify murder ‘under certain conditions’.

The question arises as to whether in a free society one shouldn’t be able to say or write whatever he pleases, no matter how odious. I certainly agree that freedom of speech is a fundamental right of any democracy. But as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr. writing for the majority said in a freedom of speech case:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

It is therefore justifiable on the part of Israel to prevent such an obscenity from being published. There is no greater ‘clear and present danger’ than inciting a frustrated and angry Arab populace to the kind of violent reaction they have demonstrated time and again – costing the lives of far too many innocent Jews. Telling Jews that it is Halachicly permissible to kill non Jews – even children ‘under the right conditions’ is an invitation for the kind of Arab uprising that ends up with a lot of dead Jews.

There has been much made of the endorsement of this book by two prominent Rabbis, Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi, Dov Lior and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Sephardi Gadol Rav Ovadia Yosef.

The Israeli government called them in for questioning. I can’t really blame them for wanting to question these rabbis about endorsing such a book. They have refused to be questioned. In the case of Rabbi Lior, he was arrested for incitement suspicions. He was released after 2 hours of questioning.

But before he was released his religious Zionist supporters and sympathizers went to the streets and protested so violently that it rivals the riots by the Meah Shearim types in their protests against things they don’t like. As I’ve said in the past. The extremists from both camps are birds of a feather. Violence is their calling card. That they are on opposite ends of the Hashkafic spectrum is beside the point.

These are people who take the law into their own hands when they see something they don’t like and disrupt the public peace by creating dangerous conditions via their rioting. Like setting tires on fire. VIN has posted pictures and a video of the rioters. It can be seen here.

They are no better than animals. Instead of ‘defending the Kavod’ of their Rav – which is probably what they thought they were doing, they endangered innocent lives, polluted the air and created a huge Chilul HaShem! I hope the Israeli government prosecutes them to the limit of the law and throws them in jail for a while so they can think about what they have done.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s son Yonatan defended his father’s position to not to appear before authorities. From the Jerusalem Post:

“This is study-hall discourse,” Yosef's son Yonatan said of Torat Hamelech on Tuesday. “The Torah itself says much more extreme things – like those who desecrate Shabbat must be killed. Does that mean that anyone who reads the weekly portion should be indicted for incitement? Everyone understands that there is a difference between the text and the actions; nobody thinks that religious people are going to go out and kill secular people for not keeping Shabbat.

“There is no reason for investigators to meddle in halachic issues, and besides – it’s not rabbis who take people out to war, rather the government and the army,” said Yosef.

Of course that is true. Theoretical discourse is different than calling for action. But what he fails to understand is the incendiary nature of a book permitting the killing of innocent people - even children - ‘under certain conditions. One that could bring death and destruction to the Jewish people in a climate where there is so much frustration and anger that is so easily incited to hurt us.

It is therefore disappointing that these two rabbis endorsed such a book, even if there is some sound Halachic reasoning behind it. The book quite clearly yells ‘Fire!’ in the crowded theater of Israeli society. These rabbis refused to be interrogated saying that Halacha is above the law and not subject to questioning by a secular government. They may be technically right. But that is a poor excuse for not simply answering a few questions. Israel would be derelict in its duty if they did not try to prevent the results of a book that legitimizes murdering innocent Arabs ‘under certain conditions’!

Furthermore, it is not too much of a stretch to say that a few hot-headed extremists will be justified by this ‘Psak’ to start killing a few Arabs they don’t like. After all how much justification do the Baruch Goldsteins of the world need to do the kind of thing he did - killing innocent Arabs while they were in prayer at Maaras HaMachpela?

Sometimes I wonder about our vaunted ‘Jewish intelligence’. What possible gain was there in giving this book an approbation?!