Although messianic fundamentalists constitute a relatively small portion of the Israeli population, their political influence has been growing. If they have contempt for non-Jews, their hatred for Jews who oppose their views is even greater.|
The murder of Yitzhak Rabin, the authors show, is one in a long line of murders of Jews who followed a path different from that ordained by rabbinic authorities. They cite case after case, from the Middle Ages until the 19th century.
One typical example was the assassination by poison of Rabbi Avraham Cohen in Lemberg, Austria on Sept. 6, 1848.
Assuming his rabbinical position in 1844, Cohen initiated changes in Jewish life. His most important initiative was his attempt to abolish taxes on kosher meat and sabbath candles which Lemberg’s Jews paid to Austrian authorities. These taxes were burdensome for poor Jews but were a source of income for many Orthodox Jewish notables.
The Austrian authorities accepted Cohen’s request and abolished the taxes in March 1848. The five Jewish notables of the town began a total struggle against Rabbi Cohen. Critics argued that the “law of the pursuer” applied to the rabbi. One placard said: “He is one of those Jewish sinners for which the Talmud says their blood is permitted” (that is, every Jew can and should kill them). On Sept. 6, a Jewish assassin successfully entered the rabbi’s home unseen, went to the kitchen and put arsenic poison in a pot of soup that was cooking. Both Rabbi Cohen and his small daughter died. The Hassids and their leaders did not attend the funeral, but celebrated.
It was precisely the same Talmudic laws that caused Rabbi Cohen’s death which were used to murder Yitzhak Rabin. Yigal Amir, Rabin’s assassin, cited the “law of the pursuer” (din rodef) and the “Law of the informer” (din moser). The first law commands every Jew to kill or to wound severely any Jew who is perceived as intending to kill another Jew. According to halachic commentaries, it is not necessary to see such a person pursuing a Jewish victim. It is enough if rabbinic authorities, or even competent scholars, announce that the law of the pursuer applies. The second law commands every Jew to kill or wound severely any Jew who, without a decision of a competent rabbinic authority, has informed non-Jews about Jewish affairs or has given them information about Jewish property or who has delivered Jewish persons or property to their rule or authority.
The authors write: “The land of Israel has been and still is considered by all religious Jews as being the exclusive property of the Jews. Granting Palestinians authority over any part of this land could be interpreted as informing. Some religious Jews interpreted the relations that developed between Rabin and the Palestinian Authority as causing harm to the Jewish settlers. In this sense, Rabin had informed.”
For the future, the authors fear the growth of such fundamentalism just as the prospects for peace have dramatically improved. They note that, “It should not be forgotten that democracy and the rule of law were brought into Judaism from the outside. Before the advent of the modern state, Jewish communities were mostly ruled by rabbis who employed arbitrary and cruel methods as bad as those employed by totalitarian regimes. The dearest wish of the current Jewish fundamentalists is to restore this state of affairs.”
Excerpt from Allan C. Brownfeld's review of Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London, 1999. Brownfeld's complete review is available online on the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs web site.