State Dragging Heels Over Prosecuting West Bank Rabbi for Incitement to Violence
Prosecution asks High Court for further extension before deciding whether to indict far-right Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of Yitzhar.
The state has asked the High Court of Justice for another extension in filing its position on whether or not to indict Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, who teaches at the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, for incitement to violence against Palestinians and certain Israelis.
A High Court petition, filed about a year ago by the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and the Tag Meir organization, specifically demanded Elitzur’s indictment over an article titled “Mutual responsibility” that was published in 2009.
In the article Elitzur wrote, “If Arabs are winning because of violence against Jews, then Jews, too, will win through violence against Arabs ... We can exploit the power of women, children and the elderly to block a certain road, and during this time enable harsher action against hostile parties further down that road.”
He also called for harassing Shai Nitzan, today the state prosecutor, who at that time was the prosecution’s point man for law enforcement in the West Bank. “His peaceful life must be disrupted,” Elitzur wrote. “His picture should be disseminated under the headline ‘Jew hater,’ and his neighbors should know what a devil lives in their neighborhood.”
Finally, he recommended raiding the offices of the army’s Civil Administration in the West Bank and causing “damage and destruction.”
The court has yet to rule on the request for the extension, which was filed at the very last minute, on October 1. The prosecution asked to be allowed to file its response by the middle of November, because of the Jewish holiday period. The state has already received a number of extensions in the past for filing its response.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is personally involved in making the decision whether to indict Elitzur for incitement, the prosecution told the court. Mendelblit held a meeting on the question on September 28 and at the end of the meeting instructed the state prosecutor’s office to conduct “a number of additional clarifications as soon as possible.” The attorney general asked prosecutors to ask the court for the extension at that same meeting in order to present the results of these clarification to the court, said the state in its request.
The state also related to the long time it has taken to formulate its position on charging Elitzur. “The respondents are aware of the time that has passed since the publication of the article that is the subject of the petition,” states the request. “But in light of the additional publications from 2013 and also from the month of December 2015, the respondents thought is would be improper to make a decision concerning only the publication of an article from 2009.”
In late August, the state prosecutor’s office submitted its response to the High Court petition demanding that Elitzur stand trial for incitement. It told the court it would give Mendelblit its recommendation on whether to file charges in another week, and that Mendelblit was expected to deal with the issue “during the month of September.”
The state has said in the past that it is considering charges of both incitement to racism and incitement to violence, based on several articles Elitzur published between 2009 and 2015.
In May, police questioned him under caution – meaning as someone who might be charged with a crime – about an article he had published the previous December on the website Hakol Hayehudi. The article dealt with the investigation into an arson attack that killed three members of the Palestinian Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village of Duma in July 2015.
“I hope they don’t catch the people who carried out the action in Duma,” Elitzur wrote. “I hope this because the pursuers and persecutors aren’t honest people who truly want to fix reality.”
He also referred to the Shin Bet security service’s Jewish Department, which focuses on Jewish terror, by the name given the Jewish department of the Soviet Union’s secret police.
In the past, Elitzur won notoriety as coauthor of “The King’s Torah,” a book that discussed if and under what circumstances Jewish law permits the killing of a non-Jew, and took a permissive approach to the question under specific circumstances.