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Saturday, 12 November 2011

‘Jews May Kill Non-Jewish Babies’ - Orthodox Rabbis


Article first published as "Jews May Kill Non-Jewish Babies" - Orthodox Rabbis on Technorati.

 A blistering report by the Israel Religious Action Centre  accuses state-funded Israeli rabbis of racism and criminal racial incitement.

The 40-page dossier, published last week during a conference at The Knesset (Israel Parliament), claims how some rabbis interpret Jewish law to argue that  “Jews can kill non-Jewish babies because they may one day grow up to be enemies.”

IRAC and Anat Hoffman, its Executive Director often come to blows with the (ultra) Orthodox establishment but the impact of this particular report may have been weakened by the coincidental death of Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel, head of Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva (Talmudic Academy) on the day of publication.

During December 2010, Hoffman then warned  that criminal action could  be taken against allegedly racist Orthodox rabbis who forbade people to sell or rent properties to non-Jews. They could also face dismissal, she said. But it seems that almost 12 months on, nothing has changed.

Writing last week in The Pluralist, IRAC’s newsletter, she said:

“Racial incitement in the name of Judaism is a regular occurrence in Israel. IRAC works to change this reality. On the last day of the summer Knesset session, we presented a bill supported by 20 Knesset members to better define racial incitement and to regulate enforcement.

“ … This is the first report of its kind, compiling detailed cases of incitement by state funded rabbis. The 40-page report includes some material that is very difficult, such as the book Torat Hamelech which states that “Jews can kill non-Jewish babies because they may one day grow up to be enemies.”

“Incitement is a criminal offence in Israel. Unfortunately, there has been almost no enforcement in the case of rabbis. Forty-eight cases have been brought to court and in only one case was there a conviction. None of the rabbis featured in our report, most of whom are state funded, has had a disciplinary case opened against them (my emphasis – NIW).

“We created this report to remind the Israeli public of the harm that incitement can cause. We are also showing that the racist interpretations that some rabbis have espoused are an extremely fundamentalist approach to Halacha, Jewish law . The bible reminds us 36 times to treat strangers kindly because we were once strangers in Egypt. By bringing this report to the Knesset, we aim to raise awareness that these rabbis are being financed by the public and that there should be a limit to what they can or cannot do.

“Words can kill. The language of incitement that the rabbis use can draw real blood as we learned sixteen years ago when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Yigal Amir murdered Rabin at a peace rally that followed a barrage of statements by radicals, among them rabbis, calling for Rabin’s death. Without rabbinic consent, this would never have happened. Rabin’s murder was inspired by these extremists. They were using Halacha to challenge theL law of Israel.

“Has anything changed since Rabin’s assassination? A poll was released today stating that 39% of Israeli Jews believe another politically motivated murder is possible. We continue to see the consequences of incitement. Rabin’s death is only the most extreme example but it doesn’t end there. Seven mosques have been burned in the last few months by price tag attacks inspired by rabbis.

“The use of provocative language in this country is a dangerous threat to us all. Let's do something about it.”

At the report’s launch, she added:  “Presumably someone who devotes his life to sacred matters must meet high standards of ethics and morality … but the reality is that these rabbis are not called to account for actions which would be considered a violation of the law, if they were made by any other state employee.”

* The Israel Religious Action Centre is the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel and was founded in 1987 with the aim of advancing pluralism in Israeli society. Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel



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