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Following these statements, Eliyahu was charged by Israel’s attorney general with incitement to racism, a crime under Israeli law. The attorney general dropped the charge after Eliyahu agreed to release a statement claiming his remarks referred only to Arabs who actively supported terror and that he was otherwise respectful of all people.
In 2010 Eliyahu was at it again. Amid his concerns that a new medical school to be opened in Safed would attract more Arabs to the city, he published a letter, along with other rabbis, contending that selling or leasing land to non-Jews was prohibited according to Jewish religious law. He reinforced this message by organizing a conference to address the “danger of assimilation” in Safed. Eliyahu was not satisfied, however, by merely issuing statements, and later that year he personally visited an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor and veteran of the 1948 war who had rented out an apartment to Arab students in order to persuade him to terminate the lease. Once again, following calls by civil society organizations, Israel’s attorney general opened an investigation, which was recently dropped for lack of sufficient evidence to satisfy the burden of proof.
To any reasonable person who believes in humanism, democracy and the basic dignity of man, it is clear that Eliyahu is not fit to be a public figure or a religious leader, and less so one associated with an organization like MDA. Regrettably, MDA has not heeded calls to cancel this appointment.
This is where MDA supporters and all Israelis could use Mayor Bloomberg’s help. In the commemoration ceremony Bloomberg spoke of his father, a man who believed in “a world where your last name would not be cause for discrimination… where his son and daughter would have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.” These are powerful words. Eliyahu’s words and actions are the exact antitheses of such beliefs. Should Bloomberg step up and object to Eliyahu’s appointment and revoke his donation until Eliyahu is relieved, he will have earned his own place worthy of commemoration in the annals of Jerusalem and Israel.
Zohar M. Nevo is a Jerusalem based attorney whose opinion pieces have appaeared in Haaretz and The Marker.