Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch 311.
(photo credit: Dudi Vaknin / Pool)
In a hearing on Wednesday at the High Court of Justice, Supreme Court President
Dorit Beinisch instructed the Attorney-General’s Office to inform the court
within 60 days whether or not it will issue an indictment against Chief Rabbi of
Safed Shmuel Eliyahu for incitement to racism.
RELATED:A-G orders incitement probe into Safed rabbi
The hearing was called
following a petition by Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) – the public and
legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel – which sought a
contempt-of-court order against the Attorney- General’s Office for failing to
abide by an agreement it made with Eliyahu in 2006.
stipulated that an indictment that had been served against Eliyahu for allegedly
racist comments made in 2003 and 2004 would be annulled if he apologized for his
comments, retracted them, and pledged not make similar comments in the
According to IRAC, comments made by Eliyahu in 2010 in interviews
with Haaretz and Ma’ariv, as well as a halachic ruling in October of that year
calling for Jews not to sell or rent property to non-Jews – which was later
supported by 49 other rabbis – violated this agreement, according to which
Eliyahu’s previous indictment should now be renewed as a result of this alleged
Among some of his comments, Eliyahu called Arab culture
“cruel,” and said that “as soon as you give a place for Arabs among us, it takes
them five minutes to start doing whatever they want.”
contempt-ofcourt order itself was not granted, IRAC attorney Einat Hurvitz told
The Jerusalem Post
that she was extremely pleased with Beinisch’s decision since
she agreed with the substantive argument that the Attorney-General’s Office
should speedily decide whether or not to indict Eliyahu again.
hearing, Eliyahu’s attorneys argued that there was no case for a
contempt-of-court order and that Eliyahu’s statements had been distorted by the
The Attorney-General’s Office said that Eliyahu’s comments of 2010
needed to be examined to see if they could be considered incitement to racism,
to which Beinisch retorted, “It’s taken you quite a while to make a
Anat Hoffman, the executive director of IRAC, said that they
had used the request for a contempt-of-court order as a tool to force the A-G’s
office to expedite its decision.
“We wanted to draw attention to the
foot-dragging of the state in this matter, and the manner in which it has turned
a blind eye and a deaf ear to this issue,” she told the Post
end, what worries me is the burnt mosque in Tuba Zanghariya. That time no one
was in the mosque, but next time maybe blood will be spilt. The failure to deal
with the issue is preventing the law from being enforced, and this will lead to
new catastrophes unless it is dealt with,” she said.
On Tuesday, the
Attorney- General’s Office announced that it was opening a criminal
investigation into the comments made by Eliyahu in 2010 following the submission
of IRAC’s petition for a contempt-of-court order in December 2010. Hoffman
stated that the Attorney-General’s Office had only announced the investigation
because of Wednesday’s hearing in the High Court.
In response to the
announcement of the investigation yesterday, Eliyahu issued a statement saying
that “an investigation regarding his various public statements will allow [him]
to clarify his position clearly and unequivocally, which is that the state must
act against parts of the Arab population who support terror, and not against the
entire Arab community.”
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) expressed his
opposition to the investigation of Eliyahu, labeling it as “persecution” and an
attempt to silence rabbis.
He said that he did not consider the halachic
ruling against selling or renting property to non-Jews to be
“It’s not racism; it is a call to protect the city [of Safed] and
to protect its character,” he told the Post.
“Why is the state
investigating rabbis when no one investigates Kheir Nassrallah, the mayor of
Peki’in, for trying to prevent Jews from entering the city,” Ben-Ari
Hoffman said that the issue was crucial to Israeli
“The Arab population is the witness that Israel can make it in
the Middle East,” she said. “If we can successfully integrate them and
make them part of our society, then it will show that we can succeed
“As a member of a religious movement, I also happen to think that
Rabbi Eliyahu is besmirching Judaism,” Hoffman continued.
tells us 36 times to treat minorities with respect and as equals, because, it
says, you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Every time he opens his mouth, I
want the High Court to get him to close it again.”