TEL AVIV // A book published this week by a radical Jewish rabbi from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and endorsed by prominent religious right-wing figures suggests killing any non-Jew, including children and babies, who pose a threat to Israel.
The book's publication, just days after the arrest of Jewish settler Jack Teitel, who is charged with a string of killings, including two Palestinians, reflects a growing antipathy towards Palestinians among Jews living in the occupied territory. Michael Warschawski, the founder of the Jerusalem-based Alternative Information Centre, said the book went public with a concept that was already being promoted in a quieter way by dozens of settler rabbis in internal community newspapers and speeches.
He said: "The thinking in the book is quite widespread among settlers. A substantial number of them have a very deeply racist philosophy against any non-Jews, and, more concretely, against Arabs. This is a racist book that in other countries would lead the attorney general to open a probe against the authors." The 230-page book, The King's Torah, was co-written by Yitzhak Shapira, considered to be a leading spiritual authority among the more radical Jewish inhabitants in the West Bank. Mr Shapira is the head of an Orthodox Jewish school in Yitzhar, one of the territory's most hardline settlements, located near Nablus.
The mass-selling Israeli newspaper Maariv described the book this week as "a guide to whoever is deliberating if and when it is necessary and permissible to take the life of someone who is not Jewish". According to Israeli press reports that provided excerpts of the book, the rabbis do not shy away from calling for the killing of any non-Jew who may threaten the state of Israel. They write: "In any place that the presence of a gentile endangers the existence of Israel, it is allowed to kill him - also if he is completely not to blame for the situation that has been created."
Children, the authors insist, should not be exempt from this fate. They add: "There is a reasonable explanation for killing infants if it is clear that they will grow up to hurt us - and in this situation, the strike should be directed at them." According to the book, the children of a non-Jewish leader may be targeted as a means of applying pressure. The authors say that even innocent people are allowed to be killed if they belong to a state that Israel considers an enemy. They also say: "Evil people should be treated with revenge and a like-for-like manner in order to be defeated."
The rabbis added that non-Jews could also be killed if they "violate - commandments" such as the prohibition against stealing, murdering or idol-worshipping. The authors, who base their ideas on Bible quotations, are careful to exclude any mention of Arabs when referring to non-Jews, but commentators said that Palestinians are their main target. Although the book will not be sold in mainstream Israeli bookstores, the authors are offering to sell it over the internet and their book includes endorsements from leading Jewish spiritual authorities in the West Bank to help draw more readers.
The document has fuelled criticism among many Israelis, mostly in the political Left and Centre, about the government's insufficient actions in curbing escalating violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians. Ophir Pines-Paz, a Jewish legislator from the centrist Labor Party, who demanded this week that Israeli police opened an investigation into whether the book was illegally inciting violence, was quoted in the Israeli media as saying, "it can only be imagined what the reaction would be if this were a book that promoted the spilling of Jewish blood".
Talab el Sana, a Palestinian Israeli legislator, said: "The settlements have turned into a hothouse for growing murderers and the rabbis are providing a fertile ground and legitimacy for them to commit their crimes." Condemnation that Israel was turning a blind eye to settler brutality was also drawn by last week's arrest of Mr Teitel, the US-born Jewish settler who is accused of waging a 12-year campaign of murder and violence.
In a case that has raised questions on how police have overlooked his crimes for such a long period of time, the 36-year-old father of four has been charged with targeting Palestinians, homosexuals as well as a left-wing Jewish history professor, who survived the Holocaust in Poland and who defended the rights of Palestinians to use armed resistance against Israel's occupation in the West Bank. The Palestinians he was charged with killing include a taxi driver from East Jerusalem, who police said was murdered in "revenge" for Palestinian suicide attacks in the 1990s.