Left-Wing Petition to Indict 'Extremist' Rabbi

Reform, Tag Meir movements call on Attorney General to charge Rabbi Yosef Elitzur for 2009 article advocating tit-for-tat attacks on Arabs.

Ari Soffer ,

Rabbi Yosef Elitzur at 2010 court appearance
Rabbi Yosef Elitzur at 2010 court appearance
Roni Schutzer/Flash 90

Two left-wing Israeli NGOs have petitioned the High Court to indict a rabbi from Samaria, over an article he wrote six years ago which they allege advocates violence against Arabs and IDF personnel.

Rabbi Yosef Elitzur teaches at the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar, northern Samaria, an institution known as a hub of some particularly radical views, and whose leaders have often been associated with the so-called "Price Tag" movement.

In 2009, Rabbi Elitzur penned an article on the Kol Hayehudi website entitled "Mutual Responsibility", in which among other things he called for retaliatory violence against Palestinian Arabs, writing: "If the Jews don't have quiet, the Arabs won't have quiet. If the Arabs win because of violence against the Jews, the Jews will win by violence against the Arabs."

He also advocated mimicking the tactics of Arab "popular terror" cells, including blocking roads to facilitate ambush of "hostile" vehicles, and advocated vandalizing IDF vehicles parked in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria as a way of making them "persona non grata" and hence unable to enforce demolition edicts against Jewish-owned homes.

The rabbi is also a co-author of the controversial book Torat Hamelekh, which was the subject of a controversial criminal investigation - later closed without charge - for discussing circumstances in which it was permitted to kill enemy civilians according to Jewish law.

He was even banned from entering the UK in 2011 for "fomenting or justifying terrorist violence ... and seeking to provoke others to commit terrorist acts."

The Tag Meir organization and the Israeli Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center turned to the courts late last week in a bid to force Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to formally indict Rabbi Elitzur on suspicion of incitement to violence and terrorism.

In their petition, the groups asserted that views like those espoused by Rabbi Elitzur were responsible for the firebombing of a Palestinian family in the village of Duma in July, which left two parents and their infant child dead and a third child severely wounded.

No suspects have been identified or indicted in that case, but Israeli security officials say they are convinced it was the work of Jewish extremists. 

"It is clear that, today, the destructive and horrifying influence of the statements made in this article is no longer a hypothetical assessment ... The events of the last summer proved that incitement doesn’t end with acts like hateful graffiti, uprooting olive trees and puncturing car tires, but is translated into murder for racist motives," the petition reads.

The petitioners claim the six-year delay in issuing a decision over the pending indictment is illegal, and urged the Attorney General to act immediately to charge Rabbi Elitzur.