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?