Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Israel news photo: Flash 90

MK Esawi Frij of the Meretz party is seeking to bar Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, son of the late Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu, from consideration for the post of Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Frij wrote a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein calling on him to disqualify Rabbi Eliyahu for racism.

“This morning I encountered a campaign for ‘rabbi’ Shmuel Eliyahu to serve as Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel,” Frij wrote.

“As you certainly know, as the one who ordered a criminal investigation against him on suspicion of incitement to racism when Rabbi Eliyahu published racist statements and incitement against the Arab community in Israel – as Rabbi of Tzfat, Eliyahu ruled that [Jews] should not rent or sell apartments to Arab citizens,” he continued. “Eliyahu was quoted saying worse things, for which you ordered a criminal investigation.”

“This is a primitive racist, who incites and who hates Arabs,” he said. “It’s an outrage that someone who called not to rent apartments to Arab students in Tzfat could get a prize for his racism and be named the Chief Rabbi of Israel.”

“It would be a shameful stain on the state of Israel, which has had its name sufficiently stained… I expect that the Attorney General will not allow a racist and inciter to compete for the government post of chief rabbi,” he concluded.

Rabbi Eliyahu, much-respected scholar and leader in the religious Zionist world,  faced a criminal probe for allegedly calling Arab culture "cruel" and suggesting that it "normalizes violence," despite clear calls for violence on the part of Muslim leaders. He has also been accused of racism by the left for opposing the sale of apartments in Tzfat to Arabs. Rabbi Eliyahu countered that Arab groups with Saudi funding are seeking to take over the city, making the sale of apartments to Jews a Zionist interest.