(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Attorney-General’s Office announced on Tuesday night that if Safed Chief
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu formally declares his intention to run for the position of
Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, he will be invited to a hearing with
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to explain derogatory comments the rabbi made
about the country’s Arab minority.
Several appeals have been made of late
to the attorney general asking him to prohibit Eliyahu from running because of
what are considered racist statements he made in the past.
received the backing of Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben- Dahan as
well as other members of the conservative wing of the Bayit Yehudi
“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
Last week, MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) wrote to the attorneygeneral
asking that Eliyahu be disqualified from running for the position.
addition, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has called on Justice
Minister Tzipi Livni to take disciplinary action against Eliyahu for his
ACRI cited several comments made by the rabbi about the Arab
community, including saying “Agricultural theft by Arabs is an ideology,” “A Jew
must chase away Arabs” and “Expulsion of Arabs from Jewish neighborhoods is part
of the strategy.”
Livni said on Tuesday that she was examining the
possibility of opening up disciplinary procedures against Eliyahu and that she
had requested the opinion of the attorney-general about whether her office has
the authority to initiated such a process.
“Rulings and statements
supporting the discrimination on a nationalist basis and which have a whiff of
racism could damage the delicate fabric of relations, and deepen the hatred and
internal rift, between us and the Arab citizens of Israel,” Livni
Meretz MK Esawi Frej welcomed the attorney-general’s announcement,
and noted that he had asked Weinstein two months ago to prohibit Eliyahu from
“It’s embarrassing enough for the State of Israel that a dark
racist, homophobe who hates Arabs serves in an official position as chief rabbi
of Safed. I hope that this hearing will be the final chapter in the illegitimate
candidacy of “Rabbi” Eliyahu for senior office,” Frej said in a statement to the
In 2006, Eliyahu was indicted for racial incitement for comments
he made in 2002 and 2004. The charge was conditionally dropped when the rabbi
apologized for his comments, retracted them and pledged not make similar
comments in the future.
In 2004, Eliyahu was quoted in local newspaper
Kol Ha’emek V’hagalil as saying that a college for Arabs should be created so
that only Jews could attend Safed Academic College, to prevent intermingling by
young Arabs and Jews.
And in December 2010, the rabbi initiated an open
letter, signed by 50 prominent rabbis, arguing that Jewish law prohibits selling
or renting property to non-Jews.