The Attorney-General’s Office announced on Monday that the authors of the book Torat Hamelech, which says it is permissible in some situations to kill non-Jews according to Jewish law, will not be indicted.
Investigations against rabbis who gave their approbations to the book will also be closed.
The book, published in 2009, was written by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, as an analysis of the Jewish laws of the permissibility of killing non-Jews during times of war and peace. The book was condemned as racist by many pluralistic groups who claimed it incited violence and racism against Arabs and other minorities in Israel.
The publication of the book in 2009 sparked a huge public outcry, which also saw Israel’s two most respected rabbis, Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and leader of the non-hassidic Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, come out in public opposition to the publication of Torat Hamelech.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said that the investigation was being closed because there is not enough evidence that the book was published with the intention to incite racism.
Weinstein wrote that Torat Hamelech is written in a general manner and does not call for violence.
According to Weinstein, works pertaining to rulings on religious law or publications of religious sources should not be dealt with in criminal proceedings in order to preserve freedom of religion.
In addition, Weinstein said that it was hard to assert that the book permits individuals to act, rather than a ruling authority.
In addition to the attorney-general’s investigation, a petition against Shapira and Elitzur was brought to the High Court of Justice by the Reform Movement in Israel and other pluralistic Jewish groups several weeks ago. The groups demanded the Attorney-General’s Office and the justice minister explain why the rabbis had not been indicted for racial incitement.
According to the petition, the book “explicitly claims that the life of a Jew is worth more than the life of a non-Jew, and permits the killing of innocent people including children.”
Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that closure of the case sends a message that “racial incitement is permitted in Israel and bears no price.”
“This is the most racist book written in Hebrew in recent years,” Kariv continued. “This is a dangerous message that will lead not just to more words of incitement, but also to actions.”
One extract of the work argues that it is permitted to kill infants on the enemy side during warfare “if there is a good chance they will grow up to be like their evil parents.”
In another example, rabbis Shapira and Elitzur state, “every citizen of our kingdom who opposes us and who encourages [our enemies’] fighters or expresses satisfaction with their deeds is considered an assailant and may be killed.”
Prominent rabbis Dov Lior and Ya’acov Yosef, who gave the book their approbation, were both invited by the police for questioning following its publication but refused to present themselves. They were arrested and brought for questioning in 2011, causing public outrage from the religious community.
Although Shapira and Elitzur did not make any official statement in their own defense, they argued in a published letter that the work was a book of Jewish law which reviews and explains religious sources but does not provide practical instructions as to how to behave and is certainly not written as a book of directives.