Begin: Measures needed against no-rent rabbis

MK Ya’acov Katz ‘bewildered’ by A-G’s action against rabbis, but not those who call to not rent or sell to Jews in e. Jerusalem.

December 12, 2010 22:12
3 minute read.
SAFED CHIEF Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu

Eliyahu 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

With doubts increasing as to whether legal action can be taken against the dozens of city rabbis who signed a statement prohibiting renting or selling land to non-Jews in Israel, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud) reiterated on Sunday the need for public-moral measures against those who signed the letter.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday instructed his office to examine whether “criminal and disciplinary aspects allegedly exist” in the letter.

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The attorney-general said that “while the legal aspect of the issue is more complex,” he believes that the “statements attributed to the rabbis raise problems... in regard to people with a public position” and “are not in keeping with appropriate public conduct,” a message from his office said.

“One must differentiate between the legal and public situation,” Begin told The Jerusalem Post, stressing the public significance of such a discriminatory letter. “From a moral-public point of view, the city rabbis should not be able to continue to proceed carrying on their public responsibilities, if they do not retract their letter, as some have already done.”

While not elected by the public, they are publicly appointed figures who serve in official positions as municipal rabbis, Begin said.

“It would be morally-publicly impossible for them to continue in their official positions on behalf of the public,” he said, reiterating a similar statement he made on Thursday morning, before Weinstein made his announcement public.

When asked if the public might side with the rabbis on this issue, as suggested by a few recent polls, Begin explained that the rabbis were appointed by the state, the establishment, which is against such sentiment.

As for the polls, well, it might be that “once again I am in disagreement with the public,” he said.

In response to a question from the Post about what practical measures the government might take against these rabbis, Begin replied that “first of all, we must respond, publicly, to indicate to the public, to the Arab sector, that we do not agree with the letter.”

A group of right-wing activists recently approached head of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an attempt to convince him to add his signature to the letter against renting or selling land in Israel to non-Jews, Channel 2 reported Sunday night.

According to the report, the senior Sephardi adjudicator refused to sign, and told the activists that it was “an unnecessary and harmful petition, such statements shouldn’t be made, next thing we know Jews in London and Paris will be told the same thing.”

Meanwhile on Sunday, National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz wrote a letter to Weinstein, in which he expressed his amazement over hearing that the attorney- general had ordered his people to look into whether the rabbis’ letter contained elements of criminal incitement to racism.

“My bewilderment comes as we have never heard you similarly instructing your attorneys to examine criminal elements in the declarations of radical-left public figures, who demonstrate and ceaselessly that homes in Jerusalem should not be sold or rented to Jews,” Katz wrote. “The perplexity is even greater, since your office is in the Shimon Hatzadik [Sheikh Jarrah] neighborhood, where weekly such demonstrations take place.”

Katz urged Weinstein’s swift response, “to refute the sentiments within the public I represent,” which might “feel that you are continuing the path your predecessors led and the dominant line among your attorneys, which displays hatred and persecution against anything that smacks of Judaism and Torah.”

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