A three-justice panel of Israel’s High Court of Justice slammed Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and police for their tepid and incompetent investigation of the authors of the notoriously racist book Torat HaMelech (The King’s Torah), lashed out the book for its overt racism, and then proceeded to deny a petition filed by various anti-racism NGOs asking that the book’s authors, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur – the two top students of extremist Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh – be criminally charged with incitement to violence and racism.
Above: Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, left; Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, right
High Court Panel Lashes Out At Racist Rabbinic Book, But Then Chooses Not To Order Its Authors Indicted For Incitement To Racism And Violence
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A three-justice panel of Israel’s High Court of Justice slammed Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and police for their tepid and incompetent investigation of the authors of the notoriously racist book Torat HaMelech (The King’s Torah), lashed out the book for its overt racism, and then proceeded to deny a petition filed by various anti-racism NGOs asking that the book’s authors, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur – the two top students of extremist Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh – be criminally charged with incitement to violence and racism, Ha’aretz reported.
Three years ago Weinstein closed the cases against the authors, Shapira and Elitzur, and against Ginsburgh and Rabbi Dov Lior, who both wrote glowing endorsements of the book.
“The steps taken [in the investigation] were far from satisfactory and were too little, too late,” Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote in the majority decision issued yesterday. “The cancer of racism represented by the authors requires better than this, and it could be that this issue will come up again.… my heart leans toward prosecuting.”
Dissenting Justice Salim Joubran noted that “such an insignificant investment of effort and resources [by the state] could be interpreted as an attempt by the respondents” – Weinstein and the state – “to do the minimum necessary.”
Rubinstein, who is Orthodox, reportedly said prosecution would be “difficult” because the book is speaking about halakha (Orthodox Jewish law) and because “most of the laws [in the book] deal with the rules of war, which by nature relate to the state and not to the individual.”
Among many other things, the book argues that enemy babies sleeping in their cribs can be killed during war without guilt or concern because they will, if left alive, grow up to hate Jews.
Ginsburgh defines "state of war" to be any time period in which enemies occupy any part of the Biblical Land of Israel or threaten it in any way. That means Palestinians living in Hebron or Ramallah, even if they are peaceable, are viewed as occupiers.
Ginsburgh and his followers also do not recognize the current state as legitimate. Instead, they want to form their own state based on their racist understanding of halakha, and it could equally be argued that the book was meant as a handbook for that state, not the State of Israel. And since Ginsburgh’s students and followers have for quite some time allegedly engaged in racist violence against Muslims and Christians and seem to view themselves as a quasi-army, it could just as easily be argued that that book does incite non-state actors to racist violence in an attempt to foment a revolution – all facts Rubinstein did not cite.
But Rubinstein did compare the Torat HaMelech book case to the earlier case against Rabbi Ido Alba, who wrote a halakhic monograph permitting the killing of non-Jews. Alba was convicted of incitement to racism, but Rubinstein pointed out that Alba also helped acquire weapons for violent operations – apparently meaning that in his mind, with a concrete physical step of trying to commit a violent act, incitement to racisim and violence cannot usually be prosecuted.
“My heart leans toward prosecuting, while my head has many doubts, even though every part of me rejects the opinions and ideologies of the authors,” Rubinstein said. “We’re dealing with a book that wears Jewish garb but is truly anti-Jewish because it defames Judaism. It conveys an evil spirit that isn’t hard to read as being directed against Arabs, who are our neighbors.…[However,] we must examine whether intervening in the attorney general’s decision is grounded sufficiently in law, and if we find that this is not the case, even if there is moral justification for the petitioners’ claims and inherent sympathy for them, with a heavy heart we will not grant the petition.”
Justice Miriam Naor had a similar view.
“A little imp appeared out of nowhere and whispered in my ear, ‘Put the respondents on trial; let them stand before a court and perhaps they will be forced to explain themselves and undergo a cross-examination, even if nothing came of it and they were acquitted…[But] we are judges…we must weigh relevant considerations and relevant considerations alone,” Naor wrote.
The dissenting Justice, Salim Joubran, wrote that the A-G’s understanding of the law against incitement means it can almost never be used, and that isn’t right.
“The current threshold, as expressed by the attorney general’s instructions, leads to prosecution for incitement in only a handful of cases.…[Because of this, [the law against incitement to racism could] become dead letters in the Israeli legal code.”
The petition was filed in 2012 by the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC), Kolech (which is an Orthodox women’s legal aid and advocacy NGO), Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Coalition Against Racism in Israel.
“The ruling is saturated with harsh comments about the book’s racist expressions…two of the leading inciters who have a large following of students ready to turn the book’s hate speech into reality.…In these days so full of tension and violence, we hope the law enforcement authorities acknowledge the court’s harsh words to prevent further incidents of racist violence,” Ruth Carmi of the RAC told Ha’aretz.
Gadi Gvaryahu, who heads the Tag Meir NGO which fights against nationalist and religiously based racism, said his groups was in “shock and sorrow” over the ruling, noting the book encourages revenge attacks like the one committed by Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, and the gruesome murders of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014 and the Dawabsheh family in July of this year.
“We are studying the ruling and are considering a request for another hearing based on the Honorable Justice Joubran’s minority opinion and the fact that no clear precedent was set in the Alba ruling. We respect the High Court but will ask for a rehearing before an expanded panel of nine justices,” Gvaryahu reportedly said.