Genocide announced

"All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and even
their beasts." This was the religious opinion issued one week ago by
Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute, a
long-established religious institute attended by students and soldiers
in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. In an article published
by numerous religious Israeli newspapers two weeks ago and run by the
liberal Haaretz on 26 March, Rosen asserted that there is evidence in
the Torah to justify this stand. Rosen, an authority able to issue
religious opinions for Jews, wrote that Palestinians are like the
nation of Amalekites that attacked the Israelite tribes on their way
to Jerusalem after they had fled from Egypt under the leadership of
Moses. He wrote that the Lord sent down in the Torah a ruling that
allowed the Jews to kill the Amalekites, and that this ruling is known
in Jewish jurisprudence.

Rosen's article, which created a lot of noise in Israel, included the
text of the ruling in the Torah: "Annihilate the Amalekites from the
beginning to the end. Kill them and wrest them from their possessions.
Show them no mercy. Kill continuously, one after the other. Leave no
child, plant, or tree. Kill their beasts, from camels to donkeys."
Rosen adds that the Amalekites are not a particular race or religion,
but rather all those who hate the Jews for religious or national
motives. Rosen goes as far as saying that the "Amalekites will remain
as long as there are Jews. In every age Amalekites will surface from
other races to attack the Jews, and thus the war against them must be
global." He urges application of the "Amalekites ruling" and says that
the Jews must undertake to implement it in all eras because it is a
"divine commandment"


Rosen does not hesitate to define the "Amalekites of this age" as the
Palestinians. He writes, "those who kill students as they recite the
Torah, and fire missiles on the city of Siderot, spread terror in the
hearts of men and women. Those who dance over blood are the
Amalekites, and we must respond with counter-hatred. We must uproot
any trace of humanitarianism in dealing with them so that we emerge

The true outrage is that most of those authorised to issue Jewish
religious opinions support the view of Rabbi Rosen, as confirmed by
Haaretz newspaper. At the head of those supporting his opinion is
Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the leading religious authority in Israel's
religious national current, and former chief Eastern rabbi for Israel.
Rosen's opinion also has the support of Rabbi Dov Lior, president of
the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and Rabbi
Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Safed and a candidate for the post
of chief rabbi of Israel. A number of political leaders in Israel have
also shown enthusiasm for the opinion, including Ori Lubiansky, head
of the Jerusalem municipality.

There is no dispute among observers in Israel that the shooting in
Jerusalem three weeks ago that killed eight Jewish students in a
religious school was pivotal for Jewish authorities issuing religious
opinions of a racist, hateful nature. The day following the Jerusalem
incident, a number of rabbis led by Daniel Satobsky issued a religious
opinion calling on Jewish youth and "all those who believe in the
Torah" to take revenge on the Palestinians as hastily as possible. A
week following the operation, a group of leading rabbis issued an
unprecedented religious opinion permitting the Israeli army to bomb
Palestinian civilian areas. The opinion is issued by the "Association
of Rabbis of the Land of Israel" and states that Jewish religious law
permits the bombing of Palestinian civilian residential areas if they
are a source of attacks on Jewish residential areas. It reads, "when
the residents of cities bordering settlements and Jewish centres fire
shells at Jewish settlements with the aim of death and destruction,
the Torah permits for shells to be fired on the sources of firing even
if civilian residents are present there."

The opinion adds that sometimes it is necessary to respond with
shelling to sources of fire immediately, without granting the
Palestinian public prior warning. A week ago, Rabbi Eliyahu Kinvinsky,
the second most senior authority in the Orthodox religious current,
issued a religious opinion prohibiting the employment of Arabs,
particularly in religious schools. This religious opinion followed
another that had been issued by Rabbi Lior prohibiting the employment
of Arabs and the renting of residential apartments to them in Jewish
neighbourhoods. In order to provide a climate that allows Jewish
extremist organisations to continue attacking Palestinian citizens,
Rabbi Israel Ariel, one of the most prominent rabbis in the West Bank
settlement complex, recently issued a religious opinion prohibiting
religious Jews involved in attacks against Palestinians to appear
before Israeli civil courts. According to this opinion, they must
instead demand to appear before Torah courts that rule by Jewish
religious law.

Haaretz newspaper noted that what Rabbi Ariel was trying to achieve
through this religious opinion has in fact already taken place. The
first instance of such a court in Kfar Saba ordered the release of a
young Jewish woman called Tsevia Teshrael who attacked a Palestinian
farmer in the middle of the West Bank. And there are Jewish religious
authorities that glorify killing and praise terrorists, such as Rabbi
Yitzhaq Ginsburg, a top rabbi in Israel who published a book entitled
Baruch the Hero in memoriam of Baruch Goldstein, who committed the
Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994 when he opened fire and killed 29
Palestinians as they were performing the dawn prayer in Hebron in the
southern West Bank. Ginsburg considers his act "honourable and glorious".

The danger of these religious opinions lies in the fact that the
religious authorities issuing them have wide respect among religious
Jewish youth. And while only 28 per cent of Israel's population is
religious, more than 50 per cent of Israelis define themselves as
conservative and grant major significance to opinions issued by Jewish
religious authorities. According to a study conducted by the Social
Sciences Department of Bar Elon University, more than 90 per cent of
those who identify as religious believe that if state laws and
government orders are incongruous with the content of religious
opinions issued by rabbis, they must overlook the former and act in
accordance with the latter.

What grants the racist religious opinions a deeper and far-reaching
impact is the fact that for the last decade followers of the Zionist
religious current, who form nearly 10 per cent of the population, have
been seeking to take control of the army and security institutions.
They are doing so through volunteering for service in special combat
units. The spokesperson's office in the Israeli army says that
although the percentage of followers of this current is low in the
state's demographic makeup, they form more than 50 per cent of the
officers in the Israeli army and more than 60 per cent of its special
unit commanders. According to an opinion poll of religious officers
and soldiers supervised by the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya and
published last year, more than 95 per cent of religious soldiers and
officers say that they will execute orders from the elected government
and their leaders in the army only if they are in harmony with the
religious opinions issued by leading rabbis and religious authorities.

Wasil Taha, Arab Knesset member from the Tajammu Party led by Azmi
Bishara, says that these religious opinions lead to the committal of
crimes. He mentions religious opinions issued by a number of rabbis in
mid-1995 that led to the assassination of former Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin at that time. "If that's what happens when
religious opinions urge attacks against Jewish leaders such as Rabin,
what will the situation be like when they urge attacks against
Palestinian leaders and the Palestinian public?" he asks. "We, as Arab
leaders, have begun to feel a lack of security following this flood of
religious opinions, and we realise that the matter requires a great
deal of caution in our movements as we are certain that there are
those who seek to implement these opinions," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Taha dismisses those who ask about the role of the government and
Israeli political cadre in confronting these extremist religious
opinions. "The ministers in the Israeli government and the Knesset
members compete to incite against the Palestinian public and don't
hesitate to threaten expulsion of the Palestinians who live on their
land in Israel and carry Israeli citizenship outside of Israel's
borders, just as former deputy premier Avigdor Lieberman and
representative Evi Etam did," Taha said. He notes that Palestinian
citizens within Israel have begun to take extreme precautionary
measures since the issue of these religious opinions, including
security measures around mosques and public institutions and informing
officials of public demonstrations so that members of Jewish terrorist
organisations can be prevented from attacking participants. Taha holds
that the sectors of the Palestinian population most likely to be
harmed by these religious opinions are those living in the various
cities populated by both Jews and Palestinians, such as Haifa, Jaffa,
Lod, Ramleh and Jerusalem.

Palestinian writer and researcher Abdul-Hakim Mufid, from the city Um
Fahem, holds that the religious opinions of rabbis have gained major
significance due to the harmony between official rhetoric and that of
the rabbis. Mufid notes that official Israeli establishments have not
tried to confront the "fascist" rhetoric expressed in these religious
opinions even though they are capable of doing so. "Most of the rabbis
who issue tyrannical religious opinions are official employees in
state institutions and receive salaries from them. And the state has
not held these rabbis accountable or sought to prohibit the issue of
such opinions," he told the Weekly.

Mufid points out that when the official political institution is in a
crisis, the Zionist consensus behind these religious opinions grows
more intense, and offers as an example the religious opinions relied
upon by Rabbi Meir Kahane in the early 1980s to justify his call to
forcefully expel the Palestinians. Mufid adds that Israel in practice
encourages all those who kill Palestinians, and points to the way that
the Israeli government dealt with the recommendations of the Orr
Commission that investigated the Israeli police's killing of 13
Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in October of 2000. The
government closed the file even though the commission confirmed that
the police had acted aggressively towards the Palestinian citizens.
Mufid suggests that what makes the racist rhetoric the rabbis insist
upon influential is the silence of leftist and liberal voices, and the
lack of any direct mobilisation against it.