The governing body of the World Bnei Akiva international Zionist youth movement has decided not to fire its Secretary-General Rabbi Noam Perel despite his call for revenge following the murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
The movement’s Extended Secretariat convened on Wednesday to discuss possible disciplinary procedures against Perel, but in a vague statement issued on Friday said it “accepted Rabbi Noam’s apology,” which he issued first on Facebook three days after his initial comments and then again last Sunday.
The body said it had received reports from Bnei Akiva representatives from around the world, “and has been apprised of the substantial damage caused to [Bnei Akiva] around the world by Rav Noam Perel’s statement, despite his apology.”
The Extended Secretariat seemingly decided not to take any action against Perel, although did not say so explicitly, and instead called for the movement’s professional leadership to “establish a forum of representatives from around the world to advise on appropriate responses and next steps to address present challenges and to spread our message of love of humanity.”
The body said it “expresses its appreciation for Rav Noam’s dedication and hard work in the movement and accepts his honest apology,” and emphasized Bnei Akiva’s “love for humanity and our deep aversion to extremist actions that are antithetical to Judaism such as ‘price-tagging’ and acts of revenge.”
In his original comments on Facebook on Monday, June 30, the day the bodies of the three murdered Israeli youths were discovered, Perel said, “Three corpses of our youths were found dumped in a field; an entire nation and thousands of years of history demands revenge... The government should turn the army that was searching into vengeful soldiers; soldiers who will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins,” a reference to the Book of Samuel. “The humiliation will be atoned by the blood of the enemy and not by our tears.”
The murders severely strained inter-communal tensions in Jerusalem. Angry protesters marched down Jaffa Street in the capital shouting “death to Arabs” after the discovery of the corpses and an Arab boy was attacked during the demonstration.
In the early hours of July 2, 16-year-old Arab boy Muhammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and brutally murdered by suspected Jewish Israelis, leading to days of violent riots by Jerusalem’s Arab population.
In an official statement last Sunday Perel addressed the global Bnei Akiva membership saying “I am strongly opposed to any notion of revenge, and to any violent reaction by citizens against any person on earth.”
Perel’s original comments elicited wide-spread condemnation from Israeli politicians and international branches of Bnei Akiva, particularly those in the UK and the US.
Bnei Akiva North America (BANA ) issued a statement on Friday saying it found the decision not to dismiss Perel “very disappointing.”
“The Board demands that World Bnei Akiva immediately condemn the statements made by Rav Noam unequivocally and demands Rav Noam’s immediate dismissal,” BANA ’s statement said.
Bnei Akiva UK issued a public statement last week calling for the immediate removal of Perel from his position as secretary- general. A reaction from BAU K to the decision not to dismiss him was not received by time of press.
Co-chair of the Friends of World Bnei Akiva, Daniel Goldman, said that during Wednesday’s meeting of the Extended Secretariat it became clear that majority opinion among the branches of World Bnei Akiva was to accept Perel’s apology.
Goldman said his comments had brought the movement into disrepute and that Perel should take responsibility for his words and resign, although he noted that the movement had carried out due process in its deliberations on the issue.
According to sources within the Bnei Akiva movement, senior national-religious figure and chairman of the network of Bnei Akiva yeshivot and ulpanot Rabbi Haim Druckman was instrumental in recruiting support for Perel within the movement before Wednesday’s meeting, and publicly opposed demands that he step down.
A request for a response from Rabbi Druckman from The Jerusalem Post was not received by time of press.
Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday, Druckman said Perel’s comments about revenge had referred specifically to actions that should be taken by the IDF and were not a call for individuals to take revenge themselves.
“In no way was this [a call for killing Palestinians] because he was referring to the army. Don’t accuse him of things he didn’t write,” Druckman told Army Radio host Razi Barkai.
“We are living in a state with an army, and he demanded this from the army, he wasn’t telling any private individual to take the law into his own hands or to carry out security activities. Murder is always murder,” Druckman said.
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