Rabbi Elitzur Segal has been convicted of “insulting a public servant” over unusually harsh criticism of former IDF Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Weiss.
In an article terming Rabbi Weiss a political appointee, Rabbi Segal accused Rabbi Weiss of committing several serious sins by telling IDF soldiers to obey orders to expel Israelis from their homes in Gush Katif.
Rabbi Segal wrote, “He is assisting in murder – a sin for which the punishment is stoning, assisting in immoral relations – a sin which one should die rather than commit, assisting in desecration of the Sabbath - a sin for which the punishment is stoning, and assisting in neglecting the mitzvah [positive command] to settle the land which is considered equivalent to the entire Torah.”
Justice Ilta Ziskind of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled that Rabbi Segal’s criticism crossed the lines of legality. “Even in the absence of a proven connection between [Rabbi Segal’s] article and harm to IDF Chief Rabbi’s reputation, it can certainly be said that the expressions used endanger the status of the IDF rabbinate in general, and the IDF Chief Rabbi specifically,” she wrote.
If Rabbi Segal had sincerely wished to fix failings that he saw in the IDF Rabbinate, she added, “he would have done well to turn to the IDF Rabbinate and to the Chief Rabbi himself and to point out the failings.” By publishing the article instead, he showed “that his aim was to hurt the IDF Chief Rabbi, not just to give constructive criticism,” she said.
Ziskind noted the importance of free speech and freedom to criticize, but argued, “It is possible to criticize in a manner that will not impact the status or position of a public servant.”
In the years since the article was published, Rabbi Weiss has expressed regret for supporting the Disengagement.