Police Interrogate Rabbi Over Torah Opinion
Rabbi Chaim Greenspan of Yeshiva in Mitzpe Jericho was arrested and interrogated over his religious views by police in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The interrogation was pursuant to Rabbi Greenspan affixing his signature to a circular along with dozens of rabbis following the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva massacre in Jerusalem on 6 March 2008.
During the attack a lone Arab gunman entered the yeshiva and opened fire, murdering five and wounding eleven. The gunman was also killed during the attack.
The circular signed by the rabbis contained a rabbinic opinion that Jews were obligated to take practical steps to protect Jewish lives.
"Stop engaging the Arab enemy," the rabbis implored. "Do not bring the enemies into our homes and schools, do not purchase goods from the enemies, and do not employ the enemies."
Last Monday Rabbi Gideon Benjamin, Rabbi of Nof Ayalon and Rosh Kollel of the B'sha'alvim yeshiva, was also taken into custody for interrogation by police for signing the same circular.
Persecution of rabbinic leaders by legal officials has been on the rise under the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Rabbis have routinely faced criminal investigations and interrogations for expressing impolitic religious views.
Both Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef were arrested earlier this year after they wrote introductions attesting to the coherent reasoning (but not necessarily their personal agreement) of the book Torat Hamelekh, which discusses in detail the obligations of a Jewish army vis-a-vis a non-Jewish enemy in times of war.
Meanwhile, last week Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein opened a criminal investigation against Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on "suspicion of incitement to racism."
Weinstein claimed he would restrict the probe to "public statements" rather than "religious opinions" expressed by Rabbi Eliyahu, but critics say there is little difference as a rabbi's position is inherently public by nature.
Civil rights observers say Israel's incitement laws are written so vaguely as to be ripe for abuse noting that left-wing politicians, professors, and pundits frequently make more severe statements without fear of legal consequences.
The rabbis’ statements, irrespective of their religious character, would be protected speech in most enlightened Western democracies. The pursuit of rabbis for expressing their views, rights observers say, is political persecution carried out under the color of law.