Rabbi Dov Lior, a national- religious leader and the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, published a letter on Monday saying that Jewish law permits destroying the entire Gaza Strip to bring peace to the south of the country.
Lior said that he had received questions about whether Jewish law permits harming a civilian population not directly involved with the combatants.
He first cited the opinion of the Maharal of Prague, a renowned 16th-century rabbi, who wrote that a nation under attack can wage a fierce war against the assaulting nation, and that it is not obligated regarding the safety of people who are personally involved in hostilities.
“At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area according to the army minister’s judgment, and not to needlessly endanger soldiers but rather to take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy,” Lior wrote.
Addressing the hostilities with Hamas, the rabbi continued to say that “in the case of Gaza, it would be permitted for the defense minister to even order the destruction of all of Gaza so that the South will no longer suffer and to prevent injury to our people, who have been suffering for so long from the enemies surrounding us.”
“Talk of humanitarianism and consideration are nothing when weighed against saving our brothers in the South and across the country and the restoration of quiet to our land,” he said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On condemned Lior’s comments and called on the attorney- general to open an investigation against him for incitement.
“Rabbi Dov Lior’s racist comments have for some time not been in the realm freedom of speech. We’re talking about a man who praises mass murder, who stands behind those who murder innocents and who took part in the incitement that led to the murder of a prime minister,” Gal-On said in reference to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
“These type of comments aren’t made in an empty space, but constitute an inseparable part of the dangerous and tempestuous atmosphere prevailing in Israeli society in recent weeks,” she said.
“There is therefore a real concern that these comments will become a genuine threat to the lives of more innocent people.
These are not words of incitement written on the Web by anonymous sources, but by a chief rabbi in Israel, and therefore they must be addressed with appropriate severity.”
Lior once wrote an approbation for a book called The King’s Torah that was co-written in 2009 by radical settler figure Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, which permitted killing civilian non- Jews in times of war.
He was summoned by police for questioning on grounds of incitement to violence but refused to report for questioning, saying the Torah was not open to police investigation. He was subsequently arrested and brought for questioning but no charges were made.