The assault on freedom of speech in Israel by the leftist establishment continues, manifested in a series of arrests of rabbis merely for expressing opinions.
Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef (the son of Rav Ovadia Yosef) were both arrested for the “crime” of approving a book. In response, Rabbi Lior’s followers rioted violently. I strongly oppose such behavior, but I know it was triggered by the anti-democratic zeal of the prosecution in its attempts to suppress freedom of speech.
This is all about a 230-page esoteric book written by Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur concerning the halachic rules under which non-Jewish non-combatants may be killed during wartime. (The question of collateral harm to civilians arises in halacha as it does in other real-world ethical debates.)
The publication of the book was foolish and has served to needlessly antagonize non-Jews. Predictably, it is being featured on anti-Semitic websites as “proof” that Jews connive to murder gentiles (al-Jazeera ran a piece claiming rabbis approve the murder of gentile babies).
As one prominent Orthodox Israeli rabbi has said regarding the book, some rabbis should be prohibited from taking pen to hand. Just because something should theoretically be protected speech doesn’t mean it’s smart to say it or write it.
(Of course, the position of Israel’s leftist elite is that the book is not protected speech, and that even praising the book or recommending that others read it is illegal “incitement” and “racism.”)
Having said that, and given that the book was published, potential provocation notwithstanding, the Israeli judicial establishment has been using it as an excuse to suppress freedom of speech. The authors of the tract themselves have not yet been indicted but are expected to be.
Meanwhile, the leftist SWAT teams in the Ministry of Justice are going after any rabbi with anything positive to say about the book.
The persecution of rabbis for expressing an opinion on someone else’s book stands in sharp and dramatic contrast to the treatment of Sheikh Salah. Head of the Islamofascist movement in Israel, the sheikh regularly and openly calls for the annihilation of Israel.
Two years back, he spoke at the University of Haifa and called for Arab students to become suicide bombers. He is so openly genocidal that he was just arrested in Britain when he slipped through passport control and managed to enter the country. But with the exception of one incident when he punched a policeman, he has never been arrested or indicted in Israel.
Persecuting rabbis who exercise their freedom of speech about a controversial book is not all the anti-democratic left is up to. According to Haaretz, authorities are preparing to prosecute rabbis who call on Jews not to sell or lease property in Jewish neighborhoods to Arabs. This is “racist,” cry the leftists.
But it is evidently not racist for leftists and Arabs to call for the prohibition of sales and renting of property to Jews in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of East Jerusalem. There is no thought of prosecuting or indicting anyone for that.
The hypocrisy of the left when it comes to freedom of speech is mind numbing. At my own university (Haifa) the tenured left is obsessed these days with justifying and celebrating the decision by the law school to prohibit the singing of the Israeli national anthem lest it offend the delicate sensitivities of Arab students, some of whom regularly hold rallies with Hamas banners and who distribute photos of bin Laden.
Scores of tenured leftists are posting support for the decision on an internal university chat list. Some of those express the opinion that the anthem is a racist anti-Arab song and should be banned altogether. At least one Jewish faculty member called for the singing of the PLO anthem “Baladi Baladi” at the university. I have no doubt most of these people would also like to ban all Israeli flags from campus.
Now as it turns out, most of the tenured leftists so upset by the idea of Arab students having to be present when the Israeli national anthem is sung also just sent a petition to the university rector and president demanding that Sheikh Salah again be allowed to speak at the university. After that last incident on campus, when the genocidal sheikh called for suicide bombers, the university decided he would not be allowed to speak on campus again. (Tel Aviv University came forward to fill the void and hosted Salah a few weeks back.)
So here we have scores of tenured university faculty members insisting, in the name of freedom of speech and academic freedom, that the genocidal sheikh be allowed to speak on campus and call for mass murder of Jews. Many of those signing were faculty members of the law school.
So guess how many of those same people, including the law school’s tenured left, have expressed protest and indignation over the arrests of Rabbi Lior and Rabbi Yosef? How many objected to that infringement of freedom of speech?
That’s right, not a single one.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.