North American Rabbis Condemn Violent Incitement by Netanyahu, Far-Right Groups

RELEASE DATE: June 9, 2021

NEW YORK — Today, T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization that represents over 2,000 rabbis and cantors and their communities in North America, released the following statement in reaction to the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric being used by Netanyahu and far-right figures in Israel.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, released the following statement: 

“We condemn the level of incitement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right figures in advance of the seating of the new government. This year, we saw firsthand how former President Trump’s embrace of similar rhetoric and incitement led to violence and damage to American democracy. Today, Netanyahu and his allies are working to inflict the same damage on Israel’s democratic institutions. In the past week, Netanyahu has compared his political opponents to Korach — the sectarian leader in this week’s Torah portion whose followers are swallowed by the earth as punishment for challenging Moses; has warned of Israel becoming a dictatorship if the change government comes into power; and has used such inflammatory rhetoric that some members of Knesset have required security protection after direct threats from his supporters. We call on Netanyahu to stop the incitement, and for leaders of all parties to condemn it.

“Following the assassination of Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion and a major figure in the Orthodox movement, spoke of the need to take responsibility for the social and political conditions that led to this murder, rather than casting the assassin as a ‘wild weed:

Today, we hide behind the phrases, ‘a wild weed,’ ‘from the outskirts of our society.’ But if a day before the murder we would have said proudly, ‘See what we have produced,’ we must say it now as well – ‘See what we have produced!’ It is indefensible that one who is willing to take credit when the sun is shining should shrug off responsibility when it begins to rain…. to the extent that we feel any sense of unity within Am Yisrael, to the extent that we feel like a single body, then the entire body should feel shamed and pained no matter which limb is responsible for this tragedy. 

“We have seen over and over that violent speech — in particular speech framed in the eschatological language of religious fanaticism — and tacit endorsement of such speech, especially from the highest levels of power, leads tragically to violent action. The rhetoric and visuals deployed against Netanyahu’s political opponents are frighteningly reminiscent of those used to demonize Prime Minister Rabin. Famously, Netanyahu spoke and marched at protests in which the crowd chanted ‘Death to Rabin’ and carried a coffin, just weeks before Rabin’s assassination. Over the years, Netanyahu’s incitement against Palestinians — including citizens of Israel — and human rights leaders have helped foment a dangerous atmosphere.

“The book of Proverbs teaches that ‘death and life are in the hands of the tongue’ (18:21). T’ruah rabbis and cantors will continue to speak up against violent speech that can lead to violent action, and to be a moral voice committed to defending human rights both inside of Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories.” 

 

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.