Jewish Week reports the bizarre and unsettling news that a major rabbinic leader in the American Orthodox movement told Yeshiva University students in Israel that if Ehud Olmert “gives away” Jerusalem they should resign from the army and shoot him:
In what appears to be a response to a question about serving in the Israeli army, the rabbi [and rosh yeshiva Herschel Schachter]…says: “First you have to know what the army is going to do. If the army is going to destroy Gush Katif, there’s no mitzvah to destroy Eretz Yisrael.
“If the army is going to give away Yerushalyim [Jerusalem], then I would tell everyone to resign from the army – I’d tell them to shoot the Rosh Hamemshalah [Prime Minister],” which prompted laughter from his audience.
“No one should go to the army if they [the army] are doing aveirus [sins],” the rabbi continued. “We’re talking if the army is seeing to it that the country is secure, if they’re doing the right thing.
“I’m not sure if the army is doing the right thing,” he added, “we have to look into that.”
I find it bizarre that a learned rabbi is holding forth on whether the Israeli government and its military are pursuing correct political and military strategies. Isn’t that a little outside his bailiwick? And since when does a rabbi from a respected institution like Yeshiva University say, even in a semi-jocular vein (if advocating assassination can ever be said to be jocular), that his students should kill a sitting prime minister? What is even more astonishing is that while apologizing for his remarks both the rabbi and YU’s president had the temerity to say that Rabbi Schachter didn’t believe them:
Statements I made informally have been publicly excerpted this week. I deeply regret such statements and apologize for them. They were uttered spontaneously, off the cuff, and were not meant seriously. And, they do not, God forbid, represent my views. Jewish law demands respect for representatives of the Jewish government and the state of Israel.”
How do you say something documented on YouTube (though unfortunately subsequently removed by the YU student who uploaded it) and then say you didn’t mean it? Was there some sort of mind control at work that forced him to say something he didn’t believe? Was he brainwashed a la George Romney in 1968? The fact that this rabbi gets little more than a public slap on the wrist says something about the sorry moral state of the Orthodox movement and about the strain of political extremism that runs rampant within it. Furthermore, incitement like this only makes it all the harder for an Israeli prime minister who actually will have to advocate sharing Jerusalem with its Palestinian inhabitants. How can such a position ever have any legitimacy if rabbinic leaders poison the well as this one has?
While I do not take lightly the extreme comments per se, one nonetheless needs to view them within the context they were said and it was clear by the audience’s laughter that Rabbi Schachter was engaging in jocularity. His off the cuff remarks to my mind are reminiscent of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s numerous comments delivered in popular lectures that were inappropriate, to say the least, though the Israeli attorney general determined that depsite the unsavory nature of these comments, they were protected under free speech and did not constitute any violation of any laws.
Hasan Bateson says
Sadly, whether it’s our religious or our political leaders, of whatever religion or nation, morality has given way to expediency. ‘Right or wrong’ hardly even enter into the discussion any more. It’s all about whether something works or not.
A commentator on another of your pieces wrote that he had no problem with waterboarding Daniel Pearl’s killer. There’s nothing unusual in this attitude, on either side.
If ‘right’ has any meaning in this time, it seems to be ‘whatever my side does’, with wrong similarly defined as ‘whatever the other side does’.
YU IS US says
SUCH A STATEMENT FROM A RABBI WHO IS REC US DOLLARS IS RADICLES
IS YESHIVA UNIVERSITY GET Federal dollars: $28,703,958
Richard Silverstein says
GIven the fact that an Israeli rightist has actually assassinated a sitting prime minister what precisely would you find “jocular” in the idea of a respected leader in the Orthodox community telling his students (even in jest) that they should kill the prime minister if he negotiates a sharing of Jerusalem with Palestinians? This is way beyond inappropriate. And in the U.S. such a statement, even in jest, would’ve earned the good rabbi a sitting with several FBI agents. We here in the U.S. don’t take such statements as jocular. Nor should the Shin Bet which should be investigating them but prob. won’t. Apparently they, like you & the rabbi’s students get the joke. I don’t.
Can you imagine if those words were utter around an Islamic school of learning?
“And in the U.S. such a statement, even in jest, would’ve earned the good rabbi a sitting with several FBI agents. We here in the U.S. don’t take such statements as jocular. Nor should the Shin Bet which should be investigating them but prob. won’t. Apparently they, like you & the rabbi’s students get the joke. I don’t.”
The burden of proof is upon you to corroborate this assertion. Do you have any relevant precedents to this end? It is not sufficient to strip away a person’s constitutional right of freedom of speech merely based on the text without taking into account the *context* in which the statement was made. Israel’s Supreme Court on numerous occassions has ruled that the US standard of freedom of speech is the law of the land in Israel. If the problematic statement does not constitute incitement for violence or racism per se, such as R. Schachter’s off the cuff remark made before a group of U.S. students, as opposed to a militant group in the West Bank as was the case of Rabbi Ido Elba who lost his appeal before before the Israeli Supreme Court for his publication of a pamphlet asserting that Maimonides did not consider killing non-Jews as a crime of murder (so as I am not misunderstood – it most certainly is murder and is perhaps a graver sin due to the desecration of God’s name coupled with the act of murder itself).
For more information on the Ido Elba case, see http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.pl?13+Duke+J.+Comp.+&+Int'l+L.+155+pdf.
Richard – I look forward to your response (and hope this comment is posted this time).
Richard Silverstein says
Do you think that a person either in Israel or the U.S. has the right to advocate killing the prime minister or president? I assure you that even such remarks made in jest are investigated by the Secret Service as if they are entirely serious.
And you think the dean of an Orthodox rabbinical school telling his students to kill the prime minister doesn’t constitute “incitement?” I assure you that people have been killed with far less incitement.
Thanks for your response to my comments, though I still wait to receive from you precedents to substantiate your assertions that to date remain ungrounded barring your “assurances.”
I patiently await your reasonsed response.
Richard Silverstein says
Stop speaking in riddles & say what you mean.
Emil Grunzweig was murdered by a rightist hand grenade tossed at a Peace Now rally. Had he lived he might have become a minister in an Israeli government like Yuli Tamir, also a former Peace Now activist. What did he do to deserve his fate? The extreme religious right vomited out Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin who was inspired by endless incitement to murder preached by Yigal Amir’s mentors before he shot the prime minister. How much incitement do you think it takes before someone with a violent aberrant personality decides to kill someone they think is a traitor to their people? Not to mention the incitement to kill Arabs which is far stronger & not constrained by any religious or ethnic taboos against killing one’s own.
I object to your assertion that I “am speaking in riddles” and respectfully ask you to refrain from ad-hominem attacks that avoid responding to my original question, which I, unfortunately need to restate for a third time. Here goes:
You made the following pronouncement on U.S. law:
“And in the U.S. such a statement, even in jest, would’ve earned the good rabbi a sitting with several FBI agents. We here in the U.S. don’t take such statements as jocular.”
Please show me even one case where the FBI or other law enforcement agencies pursued an off-the-cuff statement made in jest. To the best of my knowledge, no investigations were made into the invective statements recently made by Pastor Jeremiah Wright, and they were certainly not made in jest.
The tragic death of Emil Grunzweig and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, both of which I mourned deeply, are non-sequitors to this discussion.
I hope I am sufficiently clear for you now.
Richard Silverstein says
Kohelet: Saying you are speaking in riddles is not an ad hominem attack. Saying you are fat & ugly (which I haven’t said) would be an ad hominem attack.
The FBI has contacted Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs at least twice about racist, violent comments written by several of his readers. The FBI does this sort of thing every day. The fact that you believe it doesn’t happen is incredible. Pastor Wright has threatened no one with violence in his sermons & there would be no reason to investigate him. Rabbi Schachter & other Orthodox rabbis have called point blank for the assassination of the prime minister. You don’t see the difference???
I have received written threats through my blog which I’ve reported to the police. Joel Beinin was subject to a death threat from Rachel Neuwirth, an Israeli-American Kahanist & he reported it to the Stanford police dept. These sorts of things happen every day I’m afraid & one of these days will lead to real violence. The owner of Masada2000 threatened Michael Lerner with physical harm. I don’t know whether Lerner reported this to the FBI but he should have.
“Rabbi Schachter & other Orthodox rabbis have called point blank for the assassination of the prime minister. You don’t see the difference???”
It is now apparent to me that you never heard the 39-second audio recording that was posted on YouTube and summarily removed by the person that posted it or by YouTube itself within one day. Had you heard the recording you never would have made the false and baseless allegation that Rabby Schachter called for assassinating the prime minister. I have personally spoken with a grandfather of one of the students whose was laughing at the [inappropriate] off-the-cuff remark made by the rabbi and I myself heard the recording (I also never Rabbi Schachter personally and can assure to you that he does not espouse any of these views and individuals like yourself are truly making a storm in a teacup over an unfortuante slip of the tongue), and he assured me that his grandson and for that matter ALL of the students who attended this lecture understood that this statement was made in jest, and that this statement was most certainly not a “point blank call for assassinating the prime minister.”
As to other “rabbis”, I think I have an idea as to who you are referring to, and these are probably the same “rabbis” that supported the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein – I kindly ask you NOT to lump Rabbi Schachter will these individuals. It is these irresponsible statements that I am speaking out against. I may not work for the FBI or the Shin Bet, but were I Rabbi Schachter’s attorney, I would advise him to file a civil suit against you for slandering his good will with libelous allegations.
As to Pastor Jeremiah Wright, I am truly suprised at you. How can you not see the clear and present danger in his invective?! In his recent sermon delivered at Howard University he blamed America for starting the AIDS virus, training professional killers, importing drugs and creating a racist society that would never elect a black candidate president. If, God forbid, a US elected official is attacked by someone who claims her or she was incited by this hate-speech, I would most certainly deem that Pastor Wright bears culpability, while at the same time, I would not consider Rabbi Schachter responsible in any way were God forbid, a similar attack made against an Israeli elected official. The difference is clear: Pastor Wright made a hateful, racist sermon with complete sincerity, whereas Rabbi Schachter is being attacked for a slip of the tongue taken COMPLETELY out of context.
There were a few typos in the first paragrpah of my above comment written in haste that I wish to correct.
1. In the parenthetical I meant to write “I also KNOW Rabbi Schachter personally…”
2. It is Rabbi and not Rabby, naturally.
3. It was the grandson WHO was laughing and not whose [voice was heard] laughing
Richard Silverstein says
The verbatim transcript of his remarks is quoted in this post. He clearly called for assassinating the prime minister. How do you get the chutzpah to say the charge is “false & baseless??” If you have a copy of the tape I’d like to hear it. Trying to claim that he meant this statement is jest is just plain weak.
Do me a big favor. Send Rabbi Schachter the link to this post and urge him to sue me. I’ve just won a libel suit filed by a Los Angeles Kahanist and I’d like nothing more than to see Rabbi Schachter’s attorney explain to a judge that he didn’t mean the words that he’s quoted as saying. You also clearly know nothing about U.S. libel laws. Truth is the best defense against a libel charge and I’ve alleged nothing more than the words the good rabbi actually said. Truth will win.
I don’t believe America is responsible for the AIDS virus but 30% of Black Americans do. As for training killers–what do you think the CIA does? Helps little old ladies across the street? Of course they train killers & that is what Wright correctly criticizes. I don’t know about importing drugs but the drugs get here somehow don’t they? Someone imports them. And the U.S. does a piss poor job of stopping their importation. And as for creating a racist society–you bet we live in a racist society. And people like you are a perfect reflection of that. And even if you’re not racist, you’re ignorant of what African-Americans think or believe which is only slightly less offensive.
What a fever dream. This reminds me of Daniel Pipes warning that Islamic extremists would assassinate Barack Obama because he was a Muslim apostate. The only person claiming that Jeremiah Wright would inspire anyone to an act of violence is you. The only person who believes something like this is even possible is you and other right-wingers. And you’re the type of person who would guarantee a Black man would never be elected president–and you’d only be confirming Jeremiah Wright’s pt. of view.
A “SLIP OF THE TONGUE?” Telling one’s students to assassinate the prime minister is NOT a slip of the tonuge. You’re the worst type of apologist. Really pathetic. And not believeable by half.