A settler rabbi who praised and encouraged attacks against Palestinians in two articles was indicted Tuesday on charges of incitement to violence.
The charge sheet against Yitzhar settlement rabbi Yosef Elitzur cited two inflammatory articles written by the controversial teacher and columnist in 2013. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit approved the indictment against Elitzur, filed Tuesday at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
Elitzur is the co-author of the controversial “Torat Hamelech” book, which suggested that Jewish law permits killing non-Jews in certain circumstances, though he has faced no charges of incitement to violence for that text.
In the first article, published online a day after the murder of Evyatar Borovsky, an Israeli father of five, in a West Bank terror attack in July 2013, Elitzur praised Jews who carried out hate crimes against Palestinians as “buds of a growing public that take responsibility for the security of the Jews.” He wrote that such assailants represented a vision for a government that truly represents the Jewish people.
In a second article published later that month, Elitzur went further, suggesting that Jewish extremist attackers were doing the IDF’s work in “containing” Palestinian terrorism. He said that revenge crimes should be seen in a “positive sense” in order to unite the Jewish people.
Both articles appeared on the Hakol Hayehudi website.
The indictment against Elitzur, a senior rabbi of Yitzhar’s Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, said he should have removed the content when both articles received considerable feedback from supporters of such attacks. However, Elitzur failed to do so, the court documents said.
“Torat Hamelech,” the 2009 book Elitzur co-authored, intended as a compendium of Jewish religious laws on relations between Jews and non-Jews, came under heavy fire for discussing circumstances in which Jewish law permits the killing of non-Jews, based on a selective and controversial reading of Jewish texts.
Many saw the book as justifying violence against Palestinians and Arabs. One chapter states that the prohibition of “Thou shalt not kill” does not apply to a Jew who kills a gentile. It also claims that it is permitted to kill an enemy during a state of war even if he poses no threat. In addition to a chapter on the spiritual inferiority of non-Jews, the authors write that even noncombatants and children, if they are non-Jewish, may be killed in war.
While the authors — Elitzur and Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira — are affiliated with the right-wing settler movement, the book and its claims were immediately rejected by the majority of mainstream Orthodox leadership.
The charges on Tuesday came after the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and anti-racism group Tag Meir filed a petition against Elitzur to the High Court of Justice, imploring the attorney general to sign off on a police indictment.
Speaking with The Times of Israel following the indictment, IRAC attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski said her organization has been pursuing prosecution of Elitzur since 2010, and had filed two additional petitions before that. She pointed out that the last petition cited an even more inflammatory article from 2009 in which Elitzur provided instructions on how to carry out attacks against Arabs.
She praised the indictment in a separate written statement, calling it a “worthy decision” from the court. “Rabbi Elizur wrote and published many inflammatory statements that fell on the attentive ears of his students — some of them involved in terrorist acts against Arabs,” she said.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.