West Bank Rabbi, Author of Terror Text, Arrested for Mosque Torching

By Daniel Estrin

Published January 27, 2010.
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Just a week after the Forward published a feature about a book by two West Bank settler rabbis discussing scenarios for Jews to kill non-Jewish babies and innocents with the supposed blessing of Jewish law, one of the rabbi-authors has been arrested in connection with the recent torching of a nearby mosque.

Police took in Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira Tuesday for alleged involvement in the arson and vandalism of the mosque in Yasuf, a Palestinian village near the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, where Shapria lives and teaches at the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Shapira was initially questioned by Israeli police but was later transferred into the custody of the Shin Bet, Israel’s state domestic security agency, after he refused to answer questions related to the arson.

During a raid on Yitzhar last week, 100 Israeli security officials entered the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva and arrested 10 people, of whom five remain in custody as suspects in the arson case.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League has called upon Orthodox leaders to condemn “The King’s Torah” by Shapria and his fellow yeshiva rabbi, Yosef Elizur. The book, which has been endorsed by a number of prominent rabbis and been condemned by a few, has been met with silence from Israel’s chief rabbinate and a number of other Orthodox rabbis, despite requests for comment from the Forward and other Israeli media. The ADL is urging Israel’s chief rabbis, as well as Orthodox rabbis in the US and around the world, to “speak out against this text as a perversion of Judaism, cloaking itself as an authoritative interpretation of Jewish biblical law,” according to a January 26 statement by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.

The staunch antisemitism watchdog organization is well known for lashing out against Muslim extremists, white supremacists, and others who preach hatred of Jews. Though less common, it has also on occasion pointed an accusing finger at Jews. In recent months, settler violence has drawn the group’s particular ire. On December 16, the ADL’s Israel office condemned “extremist Jews” in the West Bank for beating an Israeli policewoman to protest the Israeli government’s temporary freeze on settlement building. The ADL linked the incident to a “deeply disturbing trend of increasing violence emerging from extremist Jews living in the settlements.”

Now, Foxman warns that “The King’s Torah” may have contributed to the atmosphere in which settler Jews attacked the Palestinian mosque in Yitzhar last December. Meanwhile, Israel’s Supreme Court this week rejected an appeal by the Twelfth of Heshvan, a coalition of Israeli religious organizations, to force Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to take immediate action against the book’s authors. The judges accepted the Attorney General’s request for more time to deal with the matter, noting that they trust he will publicly respond to the book soon, according to Asaf Pink, a lawyer representing the Twelfth of Heshvan coalition.

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