A-G bars Eliyahu from chief rabbi election for anti-Arab remarks

Eliyahu denies making many of the remarks attributed to him, and says some comments were distorted by others.

Eliyahu 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Eliyahu 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has barred Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu from running for the position of Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel because of derogatory statements he made in the past regarding the Arab community.
Earlier this month, the Attorney-General’s Office announced that if Eliyahu formally declared his intention to run for the position, he would be invited to a hearing with the attorney-general to explain his comments.
In a letter of response addressed to the Attorney-General’s Office after clarification of his statements was requested, Eliyahu wrote that he did not make many of the remarks attributed to him and that some were distorted by others.
“Some were never said by me, and some were said in contexts that were radicalized and presented out of the Torah context in which they were said,” Eliyahu wrote.
Eliyahu’s campaign staff in response accused the attorney-general of harming democracy.
“On Tisha Be’av night the attorney-general chose to trample on democracy. It seems that the attorney-general, who has permitted serious acts of members of Knesset against IDF soldiers and given support to the heads of the Islamic Movement, has decided to hold an ad hoc tribunal against Rabbi Eliyahu and turn himself into a prosecutor, judge and hangman,” Eliyahu’s office said in a statement to the press.
“Weinstein, who understands that a big majority on the electoral committee will elect Rabbi Eliyahu, decided to break the rules and in an unprecedented step, without authority, without a hearing or a verification of the claims, created a new reality according to which a candidate who is not liked the legal elite cannot enjoy the defense of the authorities.”
Several appeals had been made to the attorney-general asking him to prohibit Eliyahu from running because of what are considered racist statements he made.
Eliyahu previously received the backing of Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben- Dahan and other members of the conservative wing of the Bayit Yehudi party.
“Following requests that have reached the attorney-general regarding the candidacy of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu for the position of chief rabbi, it has been decided that when the issue becomes relevant the rabbi will be afforded a hearing on this matter,” the Attorney- General’s Office said.
Jeremy Sharon and JTA contributed to this report.