By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
It is quite possible that by the time this article is published you will know a lot more about the "affair of Jewish terrorism" than I know now, as I write. At the moment the matter is blurred in terms of the facts, for example about the "torture" to which the arrested people were subjected, about the contents of their confessions (if they will confess at all), and about the main question: Has the Jewish section of the Security Forces actually succeeded in suppressing the revolutionary, antagonistic, anarchist section of the "hilltop youth" or not? From my side of the blurry fog, I want to make two comments about this affair, from two somewhat opposite angles.
No Apologies are Necessary
Let me start with an important declaration: The murderous gangs of ISIS are not the fruits of religious Zionism! Everybody knows very well how to put the blame on us, as a combined and well-defined sector. As in response, possibly as a foundational echo,"They beat me in the house of my lovers" (see: Zecharia 13:6), referring to rabbis and prominent people from the religious Zionist sector who fire from the Bayit Yehudi (the party, the "Jewish Home") straight into our own "armored car." "Ashamnu, bagadnu..." We are guilty, we have sinned, we are wicked. We are skilled at doing this, from the days of the Rabin assassination. I do not accept any responsibility for the actions of the "hilltop youth" (who are suspected of having perpetrated the recent hate crimes), or for the "Shlissels" who are filled with hate (such as the man who murdered a girl in a parade). And we were not responsible for the crucifixion of the "Messiah" either...
Whether we are the collective of "kippa wearers" or the collective of the "politically right ," we have no greater responsibility than the collective of irreligious people who bred other horrible criminals, like Daniel Maoz, who killed his parents in order to inherit their money, or Marie Pizam and Olga Borisov, who drowned their own children in the Yarkon River and in the sea, or other horrifying events which are too gory to be listed in detail here. Does the collective of the "Ethiopian Sector" bear the responsibility for the murders of members of their own community in order to take a cigarette or because of drug-related anger? And what about the "Russian speaking" collective? Or "children of the kibbutzim" who committed gang rape – among other possible groups?
The "sector" which is not clearly defined, at which the barbs of criticism are directed, is called the "hilltop youth" in the media. It is not known who their leaders and rabbis are, or which "guru" they pray to, and in fact there is no way to tell if such figures even exist. This is an anarchist gang, but it has nothing at all to do with religious Zionist or Torah-Zionist education which these people received in any of the institutions of religious Zionism. On the contrary – their entire ideology is anti-Zionist and anti-religion. And, here is a clear sign that the hate criminals are not part of the religious Zionist camp. One of the "main tenets of faith" of religious Zionism is the "sanctity" of the country and its institutions, including an obligation to serve in the IDF. However, these criminals, the "Givonim," deny the state and its authority, and this removes from them any basis for their alleged "Zionism."
I therefore suggest to the important figures of religious Zionism, such as the rabbis and the educators, not to get caught up in a panic of "self-reckoning." (And if quoting my previous articles is a fault, I apologize for repeating in the above three paragraphs what you already read, word for word, in my column of four months ago, for the Torah portion of Re'eih, issue 1587.)
No Symmetry Here
And now let us go on to the issue of the "torture," and the application of draconian emergency laws against the "Givonim," in a supreme effort to overcome their right to silence by using severe investigation procedures the likes of which "have never been applied within Israel." I want to ask myself and you too: What makes these crimes any different than other organized crimes and evil gangs which operate in our country? As far as I know, in the duel between such groups and police investigators, the draconian methods that are being used against the hilltop criminals have not been implemented.
The standard answer to this question is the following: The deviation from standard procedures and the tough style of interrogation, which even borders on illegal methods, is needed because "Jewish terrorism" causes great harm to our foreign relations and to our national security. "The hilltop youth put the country in danger by their incitement of the Palestinians, and they distort our moral and democratic image among other nations whose support we are trying to obtain." I cannot accept such claims of "foreign policy and security," any more than claims against settlement activity or the acts of Jews who want to pray on the Temple Mount. All such attempts bring out antibodies in many countries which attack us and awaken waves of Palestinian incitement. However, we usually do not bow down to such demands but rather we argue that they are unjust. We can also explain and convince our detractors that this tiny and very extreme faction does not represent any community within Israel.
In reality, whoever views the crimes of the hilltops out of all proportion can be accused of creating a false picture of the responsibility of the entire religious Zionist movement, or at least the sector of the settlers. I would ask such a person to look again at the beginning of what I wrote... In brief, we cannot escape the feeling that this affair has been blown up beyond any reasonable proportion. Treating the hilltop youths as "an existential or a security risk" for the country is a false representation, or at the very least a great exaggeration. Do I get the feeling of a hint of a "hate crime" against legitimate rightist groups?
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Here is a completely different subject: "The officers of Bnei Yisrael were struck" [Shemot 5:14]. "The officers were Israelites, and they had pity on their fellow Israelites and didn't want to put pressure on them... And [the Egyptian overseers] would strike them... Those officers therefore were privileged to be appointed to the Sanhedrin." [Rashi].