July 6, 2011


Israel's Rightward Turn (Benny Morris, July 5, 2011, National Interest)

Perhaps Shimon Peres's worst mistake was back in November 1995, when he failed to throw the book at – or even mildly harrass – the coterie of right-wing leaders and rabbis who had allegedly incited the assassination of his predecessor, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

For months, right-wing politicians, including Ariel Sharon, had painted Rabin as a traitor for having embarked on the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians and handed over territory, in Gaza and the West Bank, and weapons to Yasser Arafat's PLO. Several rabbis connected to the settler movement had reportedly given spiritual cover to the plotters, who included the gunman Yigal Amir, by ruling that Rabin was subject to the halachic laws governing one who handed over Jews or sovereign land to the enemy, din moser (the judgement of one who hands over a Jew, or, by extension, Jewish land, to gentiles) or din rodef (the judgement of one who chases a Jew). For both, a death sentence was seen as apt. Amir later hinted that he had consulted one or more rabbis before embarking on the assassination.

But Peres, taking over from Rabin at that chaotic time, failed to move against those who had paved the way for the assassination, and the chance to subordinate the hard right's spiritual guides to Israeli law was missed (the statute books include laws against incitement to murder). Within months, Peres lost the premiership to the tyro politician Netanyahu in general elections that all had assumed would be a walkover for Labor.

Last weekend, the police briefly arrested and interrogated two alleged spiritual miscreants, Dov Lior, who was already a prominent settler movement rabbi in the Rabin days, and Yaakov Yosef, the son of Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas Party and, by extension, of Israel's Sephardi ultra-orthdox community.

Lior is currently the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Arba, the Jewish suburb of Hebron and bastion of Gush Emunim (the Bloc of the Faithful), which orchestrated the expansionist settlement movement in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) since the early 1970s. Lior and Yosef had refused to respect a police summons for questioning after they had given a rabbinic stamp of approval to Torat Hamelekh (the thinking of the king), a book that appeared two years ago that discusses halachic rulings concerning the killing of goyim (i.e., in context, Arabs). The book is emblematic of the drift rightward of the Israeli public, and of its racist fringe.


Posted by at July 6, 2011 6:07 AM

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