The Lod District Court on Wednesday convicted an Israeli man from a flashpoint northern West Bank settlement of inciting violence after he wrote a social media post claiming there would be no religious transgression involved in killing a police officer during the demolition of a Jewish home.
The court accepted an appeal from state prosecutors and overturned a 2019 decision that found Nahum Shalom Ariel not guilty on charges of inciting violence and insulting a public servant.
After security forces razed a number of illegal structures in his settlement of Yitzhar in 2014, a resident of the town wrote in an online community forum that she supported throwing rocks at police officers carrying out such demolitions, even if it would lead to their deaths.
“There is no halachic [Jewish legal] problem in killing a soldier during an overnight demolition,” Ariel responded. He invoked a biblical law relating to property owners who kill thieves during a nighttime robbery, whose actions are seen as a form of self-defense and do not subsequently receive the death penalty over the killing.
As for the charge of insulting a public servant, the court convicted Ariel based on a later post on Facebook in which he identified the officer involved in the demolition, posted his picture, and called him a “villain” and “religious dog.”
In accepting the state’s appeal, the panel of judges wrote that Ariel’s statements were “not a mere expression of opinion but rather an argument that justifies killing a soldier…These words… cannot be interpreted in any other way except as a call to violence and the ‘real possibility’ that this call will lead to violence being carried out is clear.”
A year ago, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court ruled that one could not argue that Ariel in his statements was calling on others to target soldiers — just that there is no religious prohibition against it. Moreover, the court agreed with the defense’s position that the suspect, then 26 years old, was not a religious authority and that therefore there is no weight to his remarks.