Israeli Rabbi Indicted for Inciting Racism

Published June 06, 2003, issue of June 06, 2003.

JERUSALEM — Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein decided this week to indict Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburgh, a controversial West Bank settler activist and a leader in the Lubavitch chasidic community, for incitement to racism.

Rubinstein’s decision followed a police investigation launched in response to a formal complaint by Jerusalem attorney David Schonberg. Schonberg charged that Ginzburgh’s book “Tipul Shoresh,” or “Root Treatment,” contains racist comments that violate laws on incitement, including a comparison of Arabs to a cancer.

Army Radio quoted Ginzburgh’s lawyer, Naftali Werzburger, as saying the timing of the decision was puzzling because the book was published two years ago. Werzburger said Ginzburgh was being persecuted for expressing religious and philosophical beliefs.

Ginzburgh’s book claims that the land of Israel belongs only to the children of Israel and that no non-Jew has the right to live in the area unless he is a convert or a righteous gentile. The book contains calls for the Arabs to be expelled from Israel and for the land to be “cleansed” of foreigners. It also calls on readers not to employ or trade with Arabs.

Ginzburgh, an American immigrant who holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, is one of the heads of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, which had been located in Nablus but was evacuated during the intifada and then destroyed by Palestinians. He is considered one of the leading intellectuals of the Israeli wing of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement.

He has been investigated repeatedly on suspicion of incitement and sedition in connection with anti-Arab statements and writings, including repeated public statements of support for Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of Palestinians at prayer in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Ginzburgh’s 1998 book “Baruch Hagever” — which can be translated as both “Baruch the Man” and “Blessed is the Man” — had praised Baruch Goldstein’s deeds, prompting a lengthy police investigation that ended with a decision by state prosecutors not to indict. However, Ginzburgh received a warning from police that criminal proceedings would be launched if he should reiterate such statements in the future.

Ginzburgh served two months in administrative detention in 1996, following a speech on the second anniversary of Goldstein’s massacre in which he reportedly argued that Jews are required to exact revenge for Jewish blood, supposedly based on the writings of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

His arrest became the focus of a worldwide protest campaign led by Lubavitch rabbis demanding his release. Following his release, he was brought to the United States by a faction of the Lubavitch movement for a fund-raising and publicity tour, during which he aroused further controversy.



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