The police did not use common sense in arresting Rabbi Dov Lior, says former High Court judge Yaakov Turkel, who said that the rabbi’s alleged incitement consisted of merely writing a foreword for a provocative book.
Police arrested him earlier this week as he was driving to Jerusalem and released him after questioning the rabbi about his foreword to the book, which has been criticized for alleged incitement. The arrest of the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hevron set off angry protests in the national religious community as well as from more secular Jews.
Turkel said the issue “should have been kept on a low flame,” explaining that the police could have questioned Rabbi Lior at his home instead of creating a public display.
“It is a pity that the national religious youth were drawn to protest the arrest” considering that police do not investigate many questionable statements by leaders of the hareidi religious and other communities, Turkel added. “Freedom of expression is needed, especially for academics, teachers and rabbis,” he said.
Interviewed on Israeli radio, the retired justice, highly respected for his knowledge in judicial law and rabbinic sources, said that he always has been a champion of free speech. He noted that the book for which Rabbi Lior wrote a preface “may not be to my taste” but there are statements by Muslims in northern Israel and from Jewish leaders that constitute incitement but are accepted because of the right of freedom of expression.
Turkel also said that the foreword by rabbis for books serve as halachic approvals but “should not be taken seriously because not all of them are given wholeheartedly. “A rabbi’s approval for a book is not necessarily a Torah opinion that has to be judged as if violating a law.”
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni scored Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for not criticizing the arrest, which she said was disrespectful and a slap at the honor of a Torah sage.