Israel’s religious right can no longer absolve itself of responsibility for the actions of radicals who grew in its midst, and now finds itself at “a critical juncture” in its handling of the phenomenon, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said Saturday.
“I see the attempt to say these are ‘wild weeds,'” Lapid said, referring to the Hebrew expression often used by the right to describe far-right extremists. “Sadly these are not ‘wild weeds.’ They grew in a well-cultivated patch of earth,” Lapid, whose centrist party is a member of the opposition, said at a cultural event in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem.
“People who come out today asking ‘How did this happen to us?’ Where have you been? Don’t you know what Rabbi (Yitzchak) Ginsburgh tells his students? Don’t you know what Rabbi (Dov) Lior tells his students? Religious Zionism cannot disassociate itself so easily by claiming this is an isolated fringe.”
Ginsburgh is an American-born rabbi who has been accused of racist remarks which sanction violence against Arabs. In the past he has spoken in support of the actions of Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 people and injured over a hundred in the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994. Dov Lior was involved in the publishing of the 2011 text “The King’s Torah,” which discusses situations in which it is permissible for Jews to kill non-Jews. Lior is also known for saying that Jews should not rent homes to Arabs.
Lapid went on: “Where were you when (radical Jews) hurled rocks at security forces in Beit El? Did any of them get up and say ‘We will not have this in our camp?’ Now they call them wild weeds.
“They are not wild weeds. They have ideological support, they have political support, and this is a critical juncture for religious Zionism — how they conduct themselves in the coming days.”
The threat of right-wing extremism has been at the forefront of the national agenda recently, as authorities continue to investigate the murders of the Dawabsha family in July, allegedly by Jewish terrorists.
Several suspects have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the firebombing attack that killed three members of the family, amid accusations by friends and family that they are being “tortured” by their interrogators.
Meanwhile dozens of supporters of the Duma suspects were filmed earlier this month hailing the killings and demanding more “revenge” during frenzied celebratory dancing at a wedding in Jerusalem, drawing condemnation and disgust from left and right.
Also Saturday Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into rabbis who she says are supporting right wing extremists.
The groom, along with others in attendance at the wedding, is reportedly friends with Jewish extremists detained in connection with the attack.
At a cultural event in Neve Monson Saturday, Gal-on said “an incited religious group, that celebrates the death of a baby their friends burned to death, cannot operate without spiritual leadership.”
She added: “An investigation is required not only against the young men, but also against the rabbis who support them and encourage acts of revenge.”
On Friday nearly 50 religious Zionist rabbis signed a letter condemning all acts of violence against Arabs and expressing support for the Shin Bet national security agency in its investigation of the fatal Duma firebombing attack.
“We condemn and reject all the detestable manifestations of violence and hatred, such as ‘price tag’ [attacks], directed against Arabs,” the 47 religious leaders wrote, referring to anti-Arab attacks and vandalism. “We rule that these actions are entirely contrary to the Torah of Israel and Jewish values.”
A former head of the Shin Bet security service said Friday that the threat posed to Israel by a terrorist “underground” of religious far-right extremists has reached unprecedented levels, worse even than in the lead-up to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.
“We’re at a worse point than before the assassination of Rabin,” said Carmi Gillon, who headed the agency when Rabin was murdered, in a Channel 2 interview on Friday night.
Gillon said that far-right extremists such as those currently in detention for their suspected involvement in the Duma firebombing in July are “a professional underground in every regard.”