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Legal Expert: Rabbis Have the Same Rights as Professors

Dr. Haim Shane expressed serious doubts over whether the Attorney General has a case against Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 11/22/2011, 10:51 PM

Dr. Chaim Shaarei
Dr. Chaim Shaarei
Flash 90

Dr. Haim Shane of Shaarei Mishpat College doubts Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein can prove Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu has committed criminal incitement.

"In an era when everyone emphasizes the importance of freedom of expression as the essence of democracy, we must understand that there is nothing material here to prosecute," Shane said of Weinstein's announcement that he would probe 'public statements' made by Rabbi Eliyahu.

"In academia there are lecturers who say whatever they think and nobody puts them on trial. This is the essence of free expression. We must recognize the right of rabbis is the same as that enjoyed by professors," said Shane.

Shane told Arutz Sheva he is convinced Rabbi Eliyahu has done nothing criminal, "The test of restricting freedom of expression is whether there is a reasonable danger violence will result from one's words."

He explained, "I do not think what Rabbi Eliyahu said is of such a nature. I do not think the investigation against him will result in prosecution. I am convinced - in the end - that it will turn out that Rabbi Eliyahu did not cross the line into incitement."

Civil rights advocates note that the right of free expression is not limited to professors and rabbis – which would disenfranchise the vast majority of Israelis – but applies to every citizen. Professors and rabbis are just heard by more people and the media picks up on what they say.