An open letter by a group of Israeli rabbis accusing US Secretary of State John Kerry of declaring a war against God for his efforts to broker an Israeli- Palestinian peace came under harsh criticism by the American Orthodox Jewish community on Thursday.
The letter, which was published by the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel – an activist group opposed to any political accords with the Palestinians, warned that the secretary must cease such activities to avoid divine punishment.
“Your incessant efforts to expropriate integral parts of our Holy Land and hand them over to Abbas’s terrorist gang, amount to a declaration of war against the Creator and Ruler of the universe!” the rabbis wrote.
“If you continue on this destructive path, you will ensure your everlasting disgrace in Jewish history for bringing calamity upon the Jewish people,” the letter continued, invoking the specter “heavenly punishment for everyone involved.”
In a joint release, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, which together represent a large plurality of modern-Orthodox Jews in the United States, repudiated the nationalist rabbis’ words, which they defined as “extreme and offensive rhetoric.”
The committee seemed to “arrogate to themselves unusual insight into the desires of the Almighty,” the American Jewish groups remarked mockingly.
While world Jewry and especially those living in Israel have “ serious concerns” regarding Kerry’s proposals, “such concerns must only be expressed with civility and on the substance of the issues, not degenerating into personal venom and threats,” the organizations asserted.
While OU and RCA have aired their own objections with the Obama administration, they stated, “we have found no reason to question their intentions in pursuing this effort.”
“The letter of the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel may represent the views of its signators; it does not represent ours.”
Avraham Avi-Hai, a former chairman of the United Israel Appeal and a former member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency, sent a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein asking him to open an investigation into the letter and its authors on suspicion of incitement to murder.
Avi-Hai’s attorney wrote to Weinstein saying that the accusations in the letter that Kerry was “waging a war against God” and that he might be subject to divine punishment could be construed as giving license to kill Kerry.
“In light of the events of the not too distant past, in particular the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, such statements should not be taken lightly especially when coming from the mouths of rabbis who serve as the heads of institutions and have influence over their students,” wrote Avi-Hai’s lawyer in his letter to the attorney- general.