Two off-duty soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces, Cpl. Ahikam Amihai (20) and Sgt. David Ruben (21), both from Kiryat Arba, were killed two weeks ago as they and a friend were hiking in the rugged, scenic hills near their home. Four Palestinians burst upon them and opened fire.
Islamic Jihad immediately claimed credit for the attack. But when the attackers were apprehended, it became known that one of them was employed by the security services of Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA). This latter fact merely added to the anguish of the murder of the two young men. For, in an effort to help Abbas thwart Hamas’ designs in the West Bank, and at the considerable urging of the American administration, Israel has been attempting to bolster the fighting capability of the PA police.
So deep was the bitterness and the resentment that the Kiryat Arba Local Council effectively accused the Israeli government of being a party to the murders: “Whoever sets terrorists free and gives them arms does not have to pull the trigger to be an accomplice,” the council said in a release after the killings.
Some days later, at a conference in Tel Aviv comprised mainly of rabbis opposed to territorial compromise, the sentiments of the Kiryat Arba council were reiterated but in more ominous and more frightening terms. “The terrible traitor, [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, who gives these Nazis weapons, who gives money, who frees their murderous terrorists…collaborates with the Nazis,” Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe told the audience. He then added: “[Olmert’s punishment], and the punishment of [Vice Premier] Haim Ramon, and the punishment of [Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni, and all these people, like [Defence Minister] Ehud Barak, should be to hang from the gallows.”
Such language is outrageous. We abhor it. It must be rejected at every turn. However deep his differences with the decision-makers in the government of Israel, Rabbi Wolpe’s language has no place in the discourse that surrounds the difficult decisions that lie ahead.
We therefore commend with high praise the statement last week by President Stephen J. Savitsky and Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in response to Wolpe’s remarks.
“We unequivocally condemn Rabbi Wolpe’s statements. They are beyond the pale of legitimate democratic protest and have no basis in Jewish law or hashkafa (philosophy). While we – and many other supporters of the State of Israel – often find ourselves in disagreement with the Government of Israel on certain policy matters, it is unconscionable to cross the line into hate, violence and threats. Debate and dissent must be conducted civilly and respectfully in accordance with our Torah, whose ‘ways are the ways of pleasantness, and all of whose pathways are of peace.’ We call upon all God-fearing Jews to act in a manner that brings praise to God, his People, Land and Torah.”
We have all been to the dark, nation-rending, soul-destroying, harmful place where Rabbi Wolpe’s words inevitably lead. We must never, ever go there again. Woe to us if we do.