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Israel: extremist rabbi who justified killing of non-Jews convicted

Israeli court in Jerusalem on 31 March 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli court in Jerusalem on 31 March 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency]

An extremist Israeli rabbi was convicted on Monday for inciting violence and hate crime against Palestinians. The maximum sentence for such an offence is five years in prison.

Yosef Elitzur, who lives in the illegal settlement of Yitzhar in the occupied West Bank, was indicted in 2013 for "incitement to violence" in publications condoning the killing of non-Jews. Elitzur was among the authors of a book called Torat HaMelekh, which is said to be a rabbinic instruction manual outlining acceptable scenarios for killing non-Jewish babies, children and adults.

A description of the book's hateful content published by Haaretz explained how, for example, "Thou Shalt Not Murder" applies only "to a Jew who kills a Jew". Non-Jews are considered "uncompassionate by nature" and attacks on them are believed to "curb their evil inclination". Babies and children of Israel's enemies may be killed, it said, since "it is clear that they will grow to harm us."

The rabbi also wrote two articles during a string of hate crimes against Palestinians termed "price tag attacks". Such attacks have been on the rise since 2017 and target the Christian and Muslim communities in occupied Palestine. Human rights groups have documented many acts of this kind, which have included violent attacks against random Palestinian civilians, and arson attacks against mosques and churches.

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In one of his articles, Elitzur condoned the "price tag attacks", saying that "these actions were directed mainly at the Arab population, which was shielding the criminals." In a second article he said that, "A growing number of people understand that action must be taken in order to defend themselves in the face of the evil that threatens Jews in the Land of Israel."

In passing her verdict, the judge said that she had examined the content of the articles and sought the opinion of experts, as well as considered other evidence before reaching the conclusion that, "The accused had published articles which extol violence, with their publication leading to a real possibility of violent action."

The head of the legal department of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism welcomed the verdict. Referring to the religious body of Jewish laws known as Halakha, the group said that, "Rabbis on the extreme right are the ones providing an ideological-halakhic basis for Jewish terror, or in its whitewashed term, Price Tag."

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