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IDF Chief Rabbi Teaches Torah to Terrorists, Advises Soldiers to Show Palestinian Civilians ‘No Mercy’

Haaretz brings word of two chilling stories concerning the IDF’s chief rabbi and his sympathies for the extreme nationalist views of the settler movement.  The first recounts the religious fervor which the army’s religious cadre attempted to instill in the troops:

…The army rabbinate’s publications [offered to soldiers] during the fighting reflects the tone of nationalist propaganda that steps blatantly into politics, sounds racist and can be interpreted as a call to challenge international law when it comes to dealing with enemy civilians.

Haaretz has received some of the publications through Breaking the Silence…Other material was provided by officers and men who received it during Operation Cast Lead. Following are quotations from this material:

“[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.”…The text is from “Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner,” who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.

The following questions are posed in one publication: “Is it possible to compare today’s Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David?” Rabbi Aviner…says…: “A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land … They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country … Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence.”

The IDF rabbinate…describes the appropriate code of conduct in the field: “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers. ‘A la guerre comme a la guerre.'”

This view is eaches also echoed in publications signed by Rabbis Chen Halamish and Yuval Freund on Jewish consciousness. Freund argues that “our enemies took advantage of the broad and merciful Israeli heart” and warns that “we will show no mercy on the cruel.”

Given the IDF’s behavior in Lebanon and Gaza, I no longer believe we can call the IDF the people’s army. It is the settler’s army, inspired largely by settler ideas. With children of the secular increasingly seeking ways to avoid the army, this leaves the ranks populated much more prevalently by the Orthodox, which tends to be a far more nationalist cohort.

This to an extent explains the increasing willingness to resort to cruel tactics that might never have been approved by an army run by Yizhak Rabin during the 1967 War when he was chief of staff.

Haaretz also reports that the rabbinate has permitted other literature on army bases which espouses views of the extreme settler movement:

One such flyer is attributed to [students of a rabbi who praised] Baruch Goldstein, who massacred unarmed Palestinians in Hebron. It calls on “soldiers of Israel to spare your lives and the lives of your friends and not to show concern for a population that surrounds us and harms us. We call on you … to function according to the law ‘kill the one who comes to kill you.’ As for the population, it is not innocent … We call on you to ignore any strange doctrines and orders that confuse the logical way of fighting the enemy.”

In other words, the above document calls on the IDF to deliberately treat Palestinians civilians as if they were the same as combatants. This is a deliberate violation of the laws of war. One wonders why the IDF would countenance such material being offered to its soldiers.

The second article describes religious counseling that the chief rabbi provided for settler extremists convicted of plotting bomb attacks against Palestinian civilians, including a girl’s school:

The chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces has in the past year been visiting prisoners associated with extreme right-wing groups, some of whom are serving jail sentences for planning or helping to carry out terrorist attacks against Arabs…

Brig. Gen. Rabbi Avichai Ronski…has met with the prisoners to teach them about Judaism. The IDF Spokesman’s Office responded to a query about the visits by saying that the encounters were a private initiative of Ronski.

“The initiative did not involve a formal IDF visit and was not instigated by the IDF,” the spokesperson said.

The Israel Prisons Service, when queried, responded: “We have received requests by the chief IDF rabbi to meet with prisoners, which we vetted and approved, in part.”  

Interesting that the IDF attempts to dissociate itself from the meetings by claiming they were arranged at the rabbi’s initiative. Yet the IDF approved the visits which, in effect, gives the army’s heksher for them. This is a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. The army doesn’t want to appear to be favoring terrorists, yet it allows its own chief rabbi to shower them with special attention. If this isn’t the height of hypocrisy…

Here’s what a few of those nice Jewish boys were convicted of attempting:

The Bat Ayin group was exposed in April 2002, when police arrested two of its members, Shlomo Dvir and Yarden Morag, as they were laying a large explosive device near a Palestinian school for girls in A-Tur in East Jerusalem.

As far as I’m concerned, the chief rabbi and army that employs him are hopelessly morally compromised by such horrific behavior. While they’re at it, why doesn’t Ronski schedule regular counseling sessions with Yigal Amir in which he can teach him the proper Jewish way of shooting a sitting prime minister. Maybe he can find suitable verses in the Tanach or Talmud to comfort Amir as he serves his life sentence.

Finally, this passage didn’t surprise me very much. I’m never surprised that a group supported by Lev Leviev and doing the settler’s bidding plays such an integral part of the chief rabbi’s propaganda efforts:

The programs – run in close coordination with the Elad right-wing…organization, dedicated to expanding Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem – have expanded greatly under Ronski’s command.

Is this the type of Judaism we as Jews support?  How can Israel or the IDF expect Diaspora Jews to fall into line with such repugnant, racist views?  I’m not even asking how Israelis themselves can countenance this since for some reason they don’t raise a hue and cry over it.  But such noxious attitudes will drive an ever deepening wedge between Israel and Diaspora.  Surveys suggest a growing sense of alienation of young Jews toward Israel.  Apparently, this doesn’t concern Israel’s political leaders a whit.  When there is a split between perceived national interest and good relations with the Diaspora, the former always trumps the latter.

I worry that there may come a time when support for Israel from us will be essential for its survival.  Then, there may not be enough support to secure for Israel what it needs.  And this will be the fault of decades of Israel thumbing its nose at the concerns and interests of Diaspora Jews, not to mention debasing its own moral values.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Lazynative January 27, 2009, 2:18 AM

    This to an extent explains the increasing willingness to resort to cruel tactics that might never have been approved by an army run by Yizhak Rabin during the 1967 War when he was chief of staff.

    Given that Rabin authorised the beating with clubs of unarmed demonstrators during the first intifada I think we can perhaps exclude any concern for “cruel tactics” employed by him.

    Israeli tactics have always relied on disproportionate force, with unarmed civilians as frequently the targets, the policy of reprisal raids carried out in the 1950s are a clear indication of this, the Quibiya massacre being a prime example.

    It is time perhaps that this myth of the IDF as military force that did not commit persistent and basic human rights violations and atrocities be buried to rest. It didn’t just happening in 2003, or the Lebanon war of the 1980s, it has a long and ugly history.

  • Richard Witty January 27, 2009, 4:46 AM

    The reason for the willingness to abandon values and scruples is the perception that Israel is at war and that options for peace don’t exist.

    Once one has committed to war, the only options are succeed or die.

    When one has committed to peace, the challenge is “how do I make contact? How do I change hearts (mine and theirs)?

    The same logic applies to how dissent is conducted, though obviously only in words and not in physical violence.

  • ellen January 27, 2009, 1:44 PM

    You and your readers may be interested in this Fresh Air Segment which features interviews with Ethan Bronner and President Jimmy Carter (separately):

    link to wnyc.org

    Jan 27.

  • Mike Ghouse February 4, 2009, 12:57 PM

    These criminals wear the labels of Rabbi, Imam, Pastor or Pundit, but they are no good bums. Please separate Judaism, Jews and Israel from the criminal minds who may wear the labels, but have not gotten the religion in them. It is time for the majority to speak up and not let these rogues malign their nation and their religion. All it takes for evil to continue is for good men to do nothing. Muslims have continuously condemned the rogues among them, now the Jews need to take this up. All of us need to speak out against the rogues among us. Mike Ghouse

  • B.BarNavi February 5, 2009, 8:28 PM

    Certain elements that have previously commented on this blog have railed against Golus Jews for not moving to Israel in mass numbers, and for having a “Galut mentality”. Yet they wonder why we aren’t so enthusiastic about moving to a place tainted with the worst elements of our own faith.

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