Below is a Chapter from Max Blumenthal’s newly released book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.” Many who use alternative media as their news source will appreciate the veil Blumenthal is lifting by exposing not only the racism that permeates Israeli society but how it came about and who is responsible. Here is a short snippet from the books description –
In Goliath, New York Times bestselling author Max Blumenthal takes us on a journey through the badlands and high roads of Israel-Palestine, painting a startling portrait of Israeli society under the siege of increasingly authoritarian politics as the occupation of the Palestinians deepens.
Beginning with the national elections carried out during Israel’s war on Gaza in 2008-09, which brought into power the country’s most right-wing government to date, Blumenthal tells the story of Israel in the wake of the collapse of the Oslo peace process.
As Blumenthal reveals, Israel has become a country where right-wing leaders like Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu are sacrificing democracy on the altar of their power politics; where the loyal opposition largely and passively stands aside and watches the organized assault on civil liberties; where state-funded Orthodox rabbis publish books that provide instructions on how and when to kill Gentiles; where half of Jewish youth declare their refusal to sit in a classroom with an Arab; and where mob violence targets Palestinians and African asylum seekers scapegoated by leading government officials as “demographic threats.”
The following is an excerpt fromGoliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal (Nation Books, 2013).
As soon as I was inside the shop, a short, mild-mannered man greeted me in American-accented English. He was the owner, Michael Pomeranz, a former undercover narcotics agent and firefighter from New Jersey who had experienced a religious awakening and immigrated to Israel. When I inquired about the availability of a widely discussed book called Torat Ha’Melech, or the King’s Torah, a commotion immediately ensued.
“Are you sure you want it?” Pomeranz, asked me half-jokingly. A middle-aged coworker chortled from behind a shelf. “The Shabak [Israel’s internal security service] is going to want a word with you if you do,” he warned. When a few customers stopped browsing and began to stare in my direction, Pomeranz pointed to a security camera affixed to a wall. “See that?” he said. “It goes straight to the Shabak! [Shin Bet]”
Upon its publication in 2009, Torat Ha’Melech sparked a national uproar. The controversy began when the Israeli paper, Maariv, panned the book’s contents as “230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guidebook for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew.” The description was absolutely accurate.
According to the authors, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and may have been killed in order to “curb their evil inclinations.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [of Noah] . . . there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira and Elitzur insisted. Citing Jewish law as his source (or at least a very selective interpretation of it) he declared, “There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”
Torat Ha’Melech was written as a guide for soldiers and army officers seeking rabbinical guidance on the rules of engagement. Drawing from a hodgepodge of rabbinical texts that seemed to support their genocidal views, Shapira and Elitzur urged a policy of ruthlessness toward non-Jews, insisting that the commandment against murder “refers only to a Jew who kills a Jew, and not to a Jew who kills a gentile, even if that gentile is one of the righteous among the nations.”
The rabbis went on to pronounce all civilians of the enemy population “rodef,”or villains who chase Jews and are therefore fair game for slaughtering. Shapira and Elitzur wrote, “Every citizen in the kingdom that is against us, who encourages the warriors or expresses satisfaction about their actions, is considered rodef and his killing is permissible.”
Shapira and Elitzur also justified the killing of Jewish dissidents. “A rodef is any person who weakens our kingdom by speech and so forth,” they wrote. Finally, the rabbis issued an extensive but crudely reasoned justification for the killing of innocent children, arguing that in order to defeat “the evil kingdom,” the rules of war “permit intentional hurting of babies and of innocent people, if this is necessary for the war against the evil people.” They added, “If hurting the children of an evil king will put great pressure on him that would prevent him from acting in an evil manner—they can be hurt.”
Shapira and Elitzur justified killing babies and small children on the grounds of satiating the national thirst for revenge. “Sometimes,” the rabbis wrote, “one does evil deeds that are meant to create a correct balance of fear, and a situation in which evil actions do not pay off . . . and in accordance with this calculus, the infants are not killed for their evil, but due to the fact that there is a general need of everyone to take revenge on the evil people, and the infants are the ones whose killing will satisfy this need.”
In January 2010, Shapira and Elitzur were briefly detained by the Israeli police, while two leading, state-funded rabbis who endorsed the book, Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef, were summoned to interrogations by the Shin Bet. However, the rabbis refused to appear at the interrogations, essentially thumbing their noses at the state and its laws. And the government did nothing. The episode raised grave questions about the willingness of the Israeli government to confront the ferociously racist swath of the country’s rabbinate. “Something like this has never happened before, even though it seems as if everything possible has already happened,” the liberal commentator Yossi Sarid remarked with astonishment. “Two rabbis [were] summoned to a police investigation, and announc[ed] that they will not go. Even settlers are kind enough to turn up.”
(In 2011, British security officials prohibited Rabbi Elitzur from entering the UK in a formal letter signed by the Home Secretary for “fomenting or justifying terrorist violence . . . and seeking to provoke others to commit terrorist acts.”)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained an eerie silence about the rabbis’ flouting of the law. Following the publication of Torat Ha’Melech, Netanyahu strenuously avoided criticizing its contents or the authors’ leading supporters. Netanyahu’s submissive posture before the country’s religious far right highlighted the power religious nationalist figures wielded both in his own party and in his governing coalition. For the prime minister, a showdown with the rabbis threatened to unravel his coalition, derail his agenda, and alienate his party’s hardcore base in “Judea and Samaria.”
When Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, established the country’s Chief Rabbinate, he pulled from a pool of religious nationalists following in the tradition of the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Abraham Isaac Kook, and his son, Zvi Yehuda Kook, the spiritual leader of the Gush Emunim who spearheaded the settlement movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after 1967.
“I will never agree to the separation of religion and state,” Ben Gurion once told Yeshayahu Leibowitz. “I want the state to hold religion in the palm of its hand.” Ben Gurion thus entered into a Faustian bargain with both the non-Zionist ultra orthodox and the still-marginal religious nationalist camp, buying their loyalty to establish the image the secular government of Israel believed it needed to appear “Jewish” in the eyes of the world. Leibowitz chastisted Ben Gurion for his fecklessness, warning that however mediocre and malleable the state rabbis might have seemed, their thirst for power was insatiable, and their reactionary impulses obvious. As usual, his prophecies were ignored, and his most dire predictions were fulfilled.
Convinced they were living in the era of redemption, Zvi Yehuda Kook and his followers exploited the tacit alliance with secular Zionism to realize the dominionist goals of religious nationalism, positing the state as an ass that the Gush Emunim would ride until “the fulfillment of the Zionist vision in its full scope.” The Torat Ha’Melech affair demonstrated how far the Kookists had come since embarking on their heavenly mission. The dynamic that Ben Gurion had hoped to create had been entirely reversed, with the Israeli rabbinate holding the state in its palm, and molding it as it pleased.
On August 18, 2010, a pantheon of Israel’s top fundamentalist rabbis convened an ad hoc congress at Jerusalem’s Ramada Renaissance hotel to flaunt their power. I stood in the audience with settlers and hardline rightists, watching in astonishment as one state-sanctioned rabbi after another rose from the podium to speak in defense of the authors of Torat Ha’Melech.
My roommate, Yossi David, agreed to accompany me to the Torat Ha’Melech congress. He was the perfect person to help me translate the seemingly arcane Hebrew religious formulations that were likely to fill discussions at the event. Yossi was raised in an ultra-Orthodox home and was forced to spend his adolescence in a stuffy yeshiva where sports and the study of foreign languages were forbidden. He suffered under layers of stiff religious garb in the stultifying summer heat but never turned against the faith until the extremist environment his rabbis cultivated became unbearable.
Five months after leaving his family and the ultra-Orthodox community, he had enlisted in the army, having been told by his adoptive family that it was the best way to assimilate into secular society. After basic training, Yossi was assigned to what is known in army speak as “the textile factory in Dimona,” but what is actually Israel’s secret nuclear reactor. His assignment was rescinded, however, when he was outed for dating a Palestinian girl, resulting in his deployment to Hatmar Etzion, a base near the settlement of Efrat. “I was still wearing a hot uniform, just like in the yeshiva, and still worshipping the God of Israel, but now the God was the commanders—the generals and the chief of staff —and my Torah was my gun.”
By the end of his time in the army, Yossi was questioning everything, not just religious and army life, but the entire philosophy of Zionism. “The society educates you to be stupid. If you ask questions you are immediately labeled an annoying person. If you ask questions, you can’t accept racism,” he said. “If you ask questions, you can’t accept violence. You might be able to accept it for ten, twenty years, even, but after a while, if you keep questioning, it all falls apart. Maybe our national slogan should be, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’”
In 2005, Yossi visited Jerusalem’s first gay pride march out of curiosity. He arrived at the end of the event, finding himself in a scene of chaos. A young man had just lunged into a crowd of marchers and slashed three men with a knife he had just purchased. The perpetrator turned out to be a 30-year-old ultra-Orthodox fanatic named Yishai Shlisel. “I came to murder on behalf of God. We can’t have such abomination in the country,” the unrepentant Shlisel said afterward. Yossi remembered Shlisel from his yeshiva days. “I realized then that if I had stayed, if I hadn’t asked questions, that he could have been me,” he said.
Having suffered inside the two most powerful institutions in Israeli society, the army and the synagogue, Yossi finally found a measure of personal freedom studying for his graduate degree in sociology at Hebrew University. There, he explored issues of identity and his own connection to the Middle East through the radical Mizrahi discourse pioneered by academics such as Ella Shohat and Sami Shitrit. Yossi was born into a Tunisian family and saw himself as a part of the Arab world, defying the typical Israeli orientation toward Europe. He recalled the days before Oslo, before the separation, when he could take trips to Gaza with his grandfather, who spoke Arabic and employed Palestinians on his farm. One day, while standing in a market in Gaza City, his grandfather pointed back toward Israel, to the Ashkenazim, and remarked, “These are our cousins.” Then, motioning to the Palestinians in the street, he declared, “These are our brothers.”
“He completely reversed the dynamic we were raised on in Israel,” Yossi said. “It made a big impression on me.”
Before we left for the Torat Ha’Melech congress, Yossi showed me how to dab water on a knit kippa so that it would stay affixed to my head. We posed as modern Orthodox settler types out of concern that the secular media might not be particularly welcome at such a gathering, and that participants might be more open to volunteering their opinions to fellow religious Jews.
Outside the conference hall, in a 1970s-era hotel lobby decked out with mirror columns, track lighting, and fake plants, a clean-cut, 30-something man with a knit kippa checked our IDs, presumably to confim that we had Jewish names, then waved us in with an approving nod. In the hall, prayers had just begun. Now I was swaying from side to side with a crowd of bearded settlers, chanting along to every prayer I could remember. Nearby stood a secular-looking young man with a red Golani Brigade T-shirt. Yossi recognized him as an Im Tirtzu activist from Hebrew University. His shirt showed a crude drawing of a tank above the slogan, “Force Without Mercy.”
At the conclusion of prayers, eight major state-funded rabbis ambled up to the platform above the crowd, most representing an official yeshiva from a settlement or major Israeli city. With their long, gray beards, black suits, black fedoras, and wizened appearances, they looked as though they had been lifted from the imagination of some deranged anti-Semite. And here they were to defend a book that openly justified the mass slaughter of gentile babies, though to be sure, not all were willing to say that they agreed with its contents. The only point the rabbis agreed on, at least openly, was that the state should never scrutinize or punish the speech of religious authorities. With their penchant for firebreathing tirades against Arabs, homosexuals, and other evildoers, these rabbis knew they were next in line if Shapira and Elitzur were officially prosecuted.
Yaakov Yosef was escorted into the gathering by Baruch Marzel, a notoriously violent leader of the Jewish terrorist group, Kach. Up at the podium, Yosef hailed Marzel as a “gever,” or a great man of honor. Yosef was the son of Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual guide of the Shas Party and former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel. Despite Ovadiah Yosef’s penchant for outrageous ravings (“Goyim were born only to serve. Without that, they have no place in the world,” he proclaimed in a weekly sermon), he opposed the publication of Torat Ha’Melech, calling it “racist” and dangerous to Israel’s international image. But since joining the extremist, cultic Jewish sect of Chabad, Yaakov had taken on a decidely more radical posture than his father. (Elitzur was a Chabad rabbi.)
In his speech, Yosef attempted to couch Torat Ha’Melech within the mainstream tradition of the Torah. Quoting from Psalms Chapter 79 in order to demonstrate the book’s supposed consistency with established Halakhic teachings, Yosef declared, “Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name; for they have devoured Jacob and destroyed his homeland.” He then reminded his audience of the Passover tale. “We asked the Jewish people, ‘You don’t want to read from the Hagadah at the Passover table [citing the slaughter of non-Jews]? Does anyone want to change the Bible or the statements of the Torah?” Shapira and Elitzur’s only crime, Yosef claimed, was remaining faithful to the oral and written statements contained in the Torah.
Next, Rabbi Haim Druckman, rose to speak. A former member of Knesset and winner of the 2012 Israel Prize for education, Druckman was a figurehead of Jewish extremism in Israel. In 1980, after a group of settlers embarked on a semi-successful terror plot to maim the leading Palestinian mayors of the West Bank (they crippled the mayors of Nablus and Ramallah), Druckman celebrated: “Thus may all of Israel’s enemies perish!” Hunched over the podium, the hoarse-throated Druckman was careful to avoid endorsing the contents of Torat Ha’Melech, volunteering only that he “hope[d] what happened here will end soon and that we will never have to make such conferences again.”
A more strident statement of support came from Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, head of the state-sponsored yeshiva in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. Yehoshua Shapira bellowed, “The obligation to sacrifice your life is above all others when fighting those who wish to destroy the authority of the Torah. It is not only true against non-Jews who are trying to destroy it but against Jewish people from any side.”
Outside the conference hall, where the Kahanist Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari milled around with Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, another aide he pulled from the ranks of Kach, Yossi and I chatted with a 22-year-old settler who spoke to us in an American accent. We demanded to know if he was willing to defend the provisions in Torat Ha’Melech justifying the murder of innocent children. Without hesitation or any initial shame, the young man, who refused to give his name, told us, “There is such a concept in Jewish law as an enemy population, and under very, very specific circumstances, according to various rabbinic opinions, it would be seemingly permissible to kill, uh, uh….” For a moment, he trailed off, and his eyes darted around the room. But the settler managed to collect himself and complete his statement. “To kill children,” he muttered uncomfortably.
The genocidal philosophy expressed in Torat Ha’Melech emerged from the fevered atmosphere of a settlement called Yitzhar located in the northern West Bank near the Palestinian city of Nablus. There, Shapira helps lead the settlement’s Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, holding sway over a small army of fanatics eager to terrorize the Palestinians tending to their crops and livestock in the valleys below them. Shapira was raised in an infl uential religious nationalist family. Like Yaakov Yosef, he took a radical turn after joining the Chabad sect under the tutelage of Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh, the director of Yitzhar’s Od Yosef Chai yeshiva who defended seven of his students who murdered an innocent Palestinian girl by asserting the superiority of Jewish blood. In 1994, when the Jewish fanatic Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Ginsburgh lionized Goldstein in a lengthy article titled “Baruch, Hagever,” or “Baruch, the Great Man.” Ginsburgh cast Goldstein’s murder spree as an act consistent with core Halakhic teachings, from the importance of righteous revenge to the necessity of the “eradication of the seed of Amalek.”
Under the direction of Ginsburgh and Shapira, Od Yosef Chai has raked in nearly $50,000 from the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs since 2007. The Israeli Ministry of Education has supplemented the government’s support by pumping over $250,000 into the yeshiva’s coffers between 2006 and 2007. Od Yosef Chai has also benefited handsomely from donations from a tax-exempt American non-profit called the Central Fund of Israel. Located inside the Marc Brothers Textiles store in Midtown Manhattan, the Central Fund transferred at least $30,000 to Od Yosef Chai between 2007 and 2008. (Itamar Marcus, the brother of Central Fund founder Kenneth, is the director of Palestine Media Watch, a pro-Israel organization ironically dedicated to exposing Palestinian incitement). In April 2013, the Israeli government finally announced it would cease funding Od Yosef Chai, citing the yeshiva as a threat to public safety.
Though he did not specify the identity of the non-Jewish “enemy” in the pages of his book, Rabbi Shapira’s longstanding connection to terrorist attacks against Palestinian civilians exposes the true identity of his targets. In 2006, another rabbi in Shapira’s yeshiva, Yossi Peli, was briefly held by Israeli police for urging his supporters to murder all Palestinian males over the age of 13. Two years later, Shapira was questioned by Shin Bet under suspicion that he helped orchestrate a homemade rocket attack against a Palestinian village near Nablus. Though he was released, Shapira’s name arose in connection with another act of terror, when in January 2010 the Israeli police raided his settlement seeking the vandals who set fire to a nearby mosque. After arresting 10 settlers, the Shin Bet held five of Shapira’s confederates under suspicion of arson. None ever saw the inside of a prison cell.
Asked if the students at the Oded Yosef Chai yeshiva were taking the law into their own hands in attacking Palestinians, one of Shapira’s colleagues, Rabbi David Dudkevitch, replied, “The issue is not taking the law into our hands, but rather taking the entire State into our hands.”
Jewish settler violence has been a fact of life in the occupied West Bank since the 1970s. Since 2007, however, settler violence has spiked dramatically. A 2008 article in Ha’aretz attributed the rise in attacks to the 2005 withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip, after which West Bank settlers vowed to answer each state action against them by with a “price tag” assault on Palestinians, thus establishing a deterrent “balance of terror.”
But a detailed analysis of documented settler attacks that occurred during the past decade by the Washington-based research institute, the Palestine Center revealed the violence as structural, not reactive. Staged without pretext and most frequently in West Bank areas under Israeli security control, the settlers acted without restraint. The report identified northern settlements such as Yitzhar as hotbeds of violent activity, with shooting attacks and arson on the rise. According to Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli police closed 91 percent of investigations into settler attacks without indicting anyone, and usually failed to locate the suspects.
According to a March 2011 Ynet-Gesher poll of 504 Israeli adults, 48 percent of Israelis supported settler violence in retaliation to Palestinian or Israeli government actions, with only 33 percent stating their belief that settler violence was “never justified.” While a vast majority of Orthodox and religious nationalist respondents expressed strong support for settler attacks, 36 percent of secular Israelis did as well—a remarkably high number for a population that lives primarily inside the Green Line.
While Ginsburgh and Shapira provided the halakhic seal of approval for settler rampages in the north of the West Bank, in the south, their comrade, Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Hebron, has cheered on the murder of anyone, Jew or non-Jew, who appeared to interfere with the redemptive cause of Greater Israel. At the funeral for Baruch Goldstein, Lior extolled the mass killer as “a righteous man” who was “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.” Thanks in part to Lior’s efforts, a shrine to Goldstein stands inside the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where Lior presides over the yeshiva. At the same time, Lior pronounced Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a moser (a Jew who snitches to the goyim) and a rodef (a traitor worthy of elimination), helping establish the religious justification for Yigal Amir, one of Lior’s admirers, to assassinate him.
Lior’s penchant for overheated, fascistic tirades has not diminished with age. He has warned Jewish women not to allow in vitro fertilization with the sperm of non-Jews, claiming that “gentile sperm leads to barbaric offspring,” described Arabs as “evil camel riders” and said captive Palestinian militants could be used as subjects for live human experiments. The short, gray-bearded rabbi has even held forth on the evils of “boogie woogie,” declaring that rock and roll “expresses people’s animalistic and lower urges.” He added, “Something that belongs to the rhythms of kushim [Negroes] does not belong in our world.”
Thanks to the growing corps of religious nationalist youth signing up for army service after studying in hesder yeshivas, or institutions of religious learning that train young men for the military, Lior has secured considerable influence inside the military. In 2008, when the chief rabbi of the Israeli army, Brigadier General Avichai Ronski, brought a group of military intelligence officers to Hebron for a special tour, he concluded the day with a private meeting with Lior, who was allowed to regale the officers with his views on modern warfare, which includes vehement support for the collective punishment of Palestinians. Ronski, for his part, has overseen the distribution of extremist tracts to soldiers during Operation Cast Lead, including “Baruch, Hagever,” and a pamphlet stating, “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers.”
In October 2009, a group of soldiers from the army’s notoriously abusive Shimshon Battalion upheld a protest banner vowing to refuse orders to evacuate settlements during a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall—“Shimshon does not expel.” When the army punished the two soldiers who organized the display of disloyalty by ejecting them from the unit, rabbis Ginsburgh and Lior promptly planned a religious revival in Jerusalem in their honor. A source told the Jerusalem Post that the ceremony would include the mass distribution of the newly published Torat Ha’Melech. Weeks after the incident, two more major Israeli army brigades, Nahson and Kfir, decorated their training bases with banners announcing their refusal to evacuate settlements.
Less than two years later, Matanya Ofan, the cofounder of a Jewish extremist media outlet based in Yitzhar, appeared in a viral online video in full army uniform, cradling an army-issued M-16 in one hand and a copy of Torat Ha’Melech in the other. The book had come to represent the unofficial code of the religious nationalist soldier. Staring into the camera, Ofan declared, “When I come at the border, with God’s grace, I will not listen to the nonsense that the commanders will tell me, and if I see an enemy coming towards the border I will do anything to stop him from passing and I will try and harm him—because this is how we can save the lives of the Jews. Only this way no Sudani or Syrian will get to Tel Aviv.” A caption at the end of the video read, “Jews, let’s win.”
By this time, the ranks of the army were overrun by religious nationalists, with more than a third of infantry officers expressing a right-wing religious point of view—a 30 percent jump since 1990. A 2010 study showed that 13 percent of company commanders lived in West Bank settlements. The army’s second-in-command, Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh, was the first religious officer appointed to a position on the General Staff. He was also the officer implicated in the Anat Kamm scandal for ordering the assassination of Palestinian militants in flagrant violation of a Supreme Court ruling.
Another prominent religious Zionist was Yaakov Amidror, the former director of the analysis wing of the army’s military intelligence and commander of its officer academies. A settler with a puffy white beard, Amidror was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as the director of his National Security Council. Besides advocating the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, Amidror stirred controversy by calling for summary executions of Israeli soldiers who refused to advance in battle, and for using disproportionate force against the enemy’s civilian population.
“What should be said is, kill more of the bastards on the other side, so that we’ll win. Period,” he bellowed during a panel discussion on “National Values in the Israel Defense Forces.”
While Amidror’s views appeared to dovetail with some of those of the authors of Torat Ha’Melech, he did not dare defend them. This was a job for rabbis Lior and Yaakov Yosef, who became the most prominent apologists, if not the most enthusiastic boosters, of Torat Ha’Melech. In early 2011, with the controversy over the book still raging across Israel, Yosef and Lior provided the supreme rabbinical stamp of approval: a haskama, the kind of endorsement provided at the preface of Judaic works by scholars testifying to their halakhic value and the veracity of their contents.
“I was gladdened, seeing this wonderful creation,” Lior said of the book. That February, the minister of Internal Security issued an arrest warrant for Lior after he refused to come in for questioning on suspicion of incitement to racism, a crime in Israel that is seldom punished, but which carries a penalty of as much as five years in prison. Lior rejected the state’s order on the grounds that he had no obligation to abide by its rules; the Torah itself was being put on trial, he claimed.
Thus the self-proclaimed voice of Judaism in its purest form placed himself above the law.
Meanwhile, the arrest order provoked calls for total resistance from right-wing members of Knesset like Yaakov Katz, who said the government was behaving like the “dark regimes” that persecuted Jews throughout history, casting the attorney general in the role of Nazis and Pharoahs. Twenty-four members of Netanyahu’s coalition, including David Rotem, the chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, joined Katz in denouncing Lior’s arrest. Both chief rabbis of Israel, Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, issued a joint statement denouncing the arrest of a man they called “one of Israel’s greatest rabbis.”
The religious right’s ire exploded at a boisterous protest outside the Supreme Court in July 2011, with hundreds of young settlers breaching a wall outside the courthouse and attempting to storm the building. That same month, when two right-wing activists were caught breaking into his home, Shai Nitzan, the deputy state prosecutor, was forced to travel with a special security detail.
In May 2012, the government buckled under unrelenting pressure—the right-wing caved to the far-right—with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruling that he had insufficient evidence to conclude that Torat Ha’Melech incited racism, mainly because the book was written in a “general manner.” Lior walked free along with the book’s authors, Shapira and Elitzur, consolidating their political dominance while ensuring that the tract they produced would continue circulating freely within the ranks of the army. Astonished by the state’s decision, Sefi Rachlevsky, a liberal columnist for Ha’aretz, pronounced Lior “the ruler of Israel.”
Having successfully exerted its influence on the military and the justice system, the religious right set out into mixed cities across Israel to promote segregation and punish miscegenation in a campaign that spread block by block, street by street.