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Radical rabbis in Judea and Samaria and their students have increasingly been calling to replace the IDF's principle of purity of arms with a brutal and vicious military strategy, Prof. Asa Kasher said this week in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.
The full interview with Kasher, who chaired the committee that drafted the IDF Spirit, the code of ethics of Israel's army, will appear in the Post on Friday.
"My intuition is that when you are a religious person you should in theory be more able to accept restraints," said Kasher, who has probably had more influence on IDF ethics than anyone else. "Religion is an entire framework of checks and balances and restrictions. There are human inclinations and forces and religion's purpose is to restrain them.
"In all aspects of life religion calls out: wait a minute stop and think. If you want to work, work, but not on Shabbat; if you want to eat, eat, but not everything; if you want a woman, go ahead but not just anyone; if you want sexual relation that's OK too, but not during the entire month, said Kasher, who is professor of professional ethics at Tel Aviv University. "But you see that in interactions with our enemy these people, religious people, express a type of brutality and viciousness."
Kasher said the brutality of religious Zionist rabbis, especially those in Judea and Samaria, is a direct result of their radical nationalism.
"They [religious Zionists] have transformed nationalism into a type of idolatry," said Kasher.
Kiryat Arba and Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior refused to respond directly to Kasher's charges against religious Zionist rabbis. But he said that the IDF's military ethics often deviated sharply from Jewish law.
'The Torah permits retaliatory attacks against an aggressive nation, even against non-combatant citizens of that nation," said Lior.
Lior said he based his opinion on the exegesis of Judah Loew Ben Bezelel (Maharal of Prague) on the biblical of story of Shimon and Levi (Genesis 34), who killed all the males of Shechem.
"From the Maharal we learn that even people who are not directly involved in the evil deeds can be punished in times of war. There is no need to search out the terrorist with tweezers."
Lior said this understanding of Jewish law had direct implications for how the IDF should handle the Kassam missile threat from Gaza.
"A retaliatory air or cannon strike by the IDF should follow each Kassam missile attack on our southern settlements from Gaza regardless of how many [Palestinian] civilians are killed as a result.
"If we start becoming compassionate with the cruel, we will end up being cruel with the compassionate."
In contrast, Kasher argued that every effort should be made to prevent civilian deaths on the Palestinian side. He said that indirect killing of civilians was permitted only in case when it was necessary to protect the lives of Israeli citizens.