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Heil Druckman!

Rabbis Tell Israeli Army: Don't Spare Civilians

by Michael A. Hoffman II

Based on Talmudic halacha (law), several prominent Israeli rabbis, including Bnei Akiva's Rabbi Haim Druckman, declared on Sept. 7, 2004 that "killing enemy civilians during war is normal." So what problem do the rabbis have with Hitler? Simply stated, his sin was based on the fact that, mistakenly thinking he was head of the Master Race, Hitler killed human beings; whereas Israelis, who know for certain they are the Master Race, merely snuff-out sub-humans.

Rabbi Haim Druckman

A GROUP OF 14 PROMINENT RABBIS, led by Haim Druckman, who are considered authorities by the religious-Zionist public, have asked the Israeli army not to flinch from killing Palestinian civilians in the context of the ongoing military campaign against armed groups resisting the occupation. Druckman, 71, is one of the most prominent and veteran leaders of the religious Zionist movement, has been a public figure for over 50 years, since serving as a revered leader in the Bnei Avika youth movement in the early 1950s.

In a letter to the Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, published on Sept. 7, 2004, the rabbis said killing enemy civilians is "normal" during time of war and that the Israeli occupation army should never hesitate to kill non-Jewish civilians in order to save Jewish lives.

"There is no war in the world in which it is possible to delineate entirely between the population and the enemy army, neither in the US war in Iraq, the Russian war in Chechnya, nor in Israel's war with its enemies," the rabbis declared.

The rabbis quoted a Talmudic edict, from the ancient "sage," Rabbi Akiva, as stating: 'Our lives come first."' The Israeli newspaper Haaretz (Sept. 9) warns that Israeli "...soldiers, and even officers, will see this call as a kind of halakhic-ethical commandment that ought to be obeyed..."

One part of the letter scolded Western critics of Israeli policies against the Palestinians: "The Christian preaching of 'turning the other cheek' doesn't concern us, and we will not be impressed by those who prefer the lives of our enemies to our lives," Rabbi Druckman said.

This is a concise and well-explained manifesto, initiated by "ordinary" rabbis. The rabbis represent a dominant segment of Israeli Orthodox Judaics identified with settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, including Druckman, a former Israeli Knesset (parliament) member who heads the large Talmudic youth movement "Bnei Akiva" as well as the government's conversion administration; Rabbi Yuval Cherlow of the hesder yeshiva, one of the leaders of the liberal stream, which, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "is open to universal culture and discourse." Other signers include Eliezer Melamed, rosh yeshiva of an occupied West Bank Talmud college; Yehoshua Shapira of the "spiritual-Hasidic" faction; Rabbi Youval Sharlo, the director of another Talmud school in Petah Tikva, which combines Talmudic studies with service in the Israeli army, and Zefania Drori of Kiryat Shmona, one of the rabbis with the most profound influence on Israeli young people.

"The common denominator among most of the signers of the manifesto," notes Haaretz, "actually lies in their charisma and influence on broad sectors of national religious youth. Among the admirers of Cherlow and Shapira...are hardalim (ultra-Orthodox nationalists), habkukim (disciples of Rabbi Kook and fans of ...Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, including Shapira himself), newly repentant Bratslavers, datlashim (formerly religious), settlers and the urban bourgeoisie."

On May 19, 2004, Dov Lior, an influential rabbi in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arbaa near Hebron, issued an edict enthusiastically supporting the killing of Palestinian civilians in Rafah in southern Gaza, saying that "it is very clear in light of the Torah that Jewish lives are more important than non-Jewish lives."

Rabbi Lior argued that non-Jewish lives have no sanctity, especially during wartime. Lior has publicly eulogised Baruch Goldstein, an American settler from Brooklyn who in 1994 massacred 40 Palestinian civilians who were praying at Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque. Rabbi Lior called Goldstein a "great saint."

In formulating their theological positions, Lior, Druckman and other like-minded rabbis rely on the Talmudic maxim which states that in a war, it is a mitzvah (holy act) to kill gentile women and children.

When are Judaics going to contemplate the travesty of these religious rabbis allowing, even calling for, the murder of civilians? "How can we believe that Judaism is the religion of wisdom and justice while these rabbis clearly proclaim it to be a religion of blood and slaughter?

The New York Times took no notice of the rabbi's joint statement of Sept. 7 and by Sept. 10, Haaretz had quickly rehabilitated Druckman, respectfully reporting in a lengthy article on his views as head of the Israeli government's conversion administration, without once mentioning Druckman's call for the murder of Palestinian civilians (cf. article by Yair Sheleg, Sept. 10, 2004).

In the past four years, since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed over 3000 Palestinians, the bulk of them civilians, including more than 600 children and minors.

Hoffman is a former reporter for the New York bureau of the Associated Press and an authority on the religion of Judaism. He is the author of "Judaism's Strange Gods," and co-author, with Moshe Liberman, of "The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians."

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