Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel EliyahuFlash 90

The Attorney General and Legal Advisor to the Government has decided to end the investigation that was opened against Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, Rabbi of Tzfat, eight months ago, on suspicion that he incited to racism.

The Justice Ministry issued a statement Sunday in which it explained that the decision was made "because it cannot be proven that the utterances attributed to the rabbi, as they were published in the press, do indeed reflect accurately what was actually said by him."

Among alleged statements that were probed were, “The Arab culture is very cruel,” and “The Arabs behave according to different codes, and violent norms that have turned into ideology." The rabbi allegedly stated that examples of this new Arab “ideology” now include stealing farm equipment from Jews and blackmailing farmers for protection against thefts. He also supposedly said that “The minute you make room for Arabs among Jews, it takes five minutes before they start to do whatever they want."

These quotes appeared in journalistic interviews that were held with the rabbi after he co-signed a Halakhic decree that forbade Jews from selling or renting apartments in the Land of Israel to Arabs. The State Attorney's Office (SAO) originally considered whether to press charges regarding the decree itself but decided not to.

Police questioned Rav Eliyahu and the journalists who published his alleged pronouncements. The investigators found that there is insufficient evidence that the rabbi actually said the things attributed to him in the way that they were published. The journalists do not possess recordings of the statements, and in one case, the rabbi wrote a letter to the news outlet immediately after the publication denying he had said what was attributed to him.

Some of the journalists specifically admitted that changes may have been made in the content.

The SAO noted that Rav Eliyahu has co-signed a published opinion, alongside other Zionist rabbis, in which the signatories express their disagreement with a letter that called for discrimination against non-Jewish citizens. "This is not so; the state of Israel is obligated to treat all of its citizens as having equal rights. This approach is rooted both in the Torah and in state laws," the rabbis wrote.

In Israel, the term "racism" is applied to any derogatory statement or discriminatory behavior against people of a certain nationality, ethnicity or culture, although some argue that the word does not fit the deep rooted national, political and religious struggle between Arabs and Jews.