Riots as Israel police quiz rabbi on `racist` book

Last Updated: Monday, July 4, 2011 - 09:20

Jerusalem: Supporters of an Israeli rabbi questioned by detectives on Sunday over his endorsement of an allegedly racist book rioted in Jerusalem, burning tyres and injuring a policeman, police said.

Police spokeswoman Lubra Samri said that a total of seven people were arrested for various public disorder offences, including a pepper spray attack on a Palestinian passer-by and attempts to block roads.

"One police officer was lightly injured in the protests," she said. Local media said he was hit in the stomach by a stone thrown by the rioters.

Earlier, police briefly detained for questioning rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of one of Israel`s top religious leaders, over his endorsement of a religious book that justifies the killing of non-Jews in certain circumstances, police said.

News of the police action brought around 1,000 of Yosef`s supporters onto the streets of Jerusalem, where they torched rubbish bins and blocked a main road until they were dispersed by mounted police and water cannon, a photographer said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police moved against the demonstrators after they started throwing stones at officers.

Yosef was detained for around an hour after he ignored repeated summonses for questioning over his endorsement of a book called "The King`s Torah”.

Yosef is the son of rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a highly influential religious leader who is also the spiritual head of the Shas party, part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s ruling coalition.

Yosef is the second high-profile rabbi to be questioned over the book, after police last week briefly detained rabbi Dov Lior, a key member of the settler movement. His detention also prompted protests by his students and supporters.

Rosenfeld said Yosef was "questioned on suspicion of inciting violence and racism" over his support for the book.

"He was released after approximately an hour. After he was held, his supporters burnt tyres," Rosenfeld added. He said protesters also blocked trials of the city`s light railway system, expected to enter service later in the year.

Rabbi Lior`s detention last week prompted rare criticism from Israel`s two chief rabbis, who described it as a "grave offence against the honour of one of the most important rabbis and leaders of religious opinion”.

But speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said there would be no special treatment for rabbis.

"Israel is a nation of laws, as I said a few days ago. Nobody is above the law -- and I demand that every Israeli citizen respect the law," he said.

"The King`s Torah" has stirred up controversy since its publication. Last August, its co-author settler rabbi Yosef Elitzur was arrested on suspicion of incitement to violence.

But he was freed without charge days later after a court found police had not followed proper procedure.

The book, which has been banned from sale in Israel, reportedly says babies and children of Israel`s enemies may be killed in certain circumstances since "it is clear that they will grow to harm us”.

It also says non-Jews are "uncompassionate by nature" and that attacks on them "curb their evil inclination”.

"Anywhere where the influence of gentiles constitutes a threat to the life of Israel, it is permissible to kill them," the rabbis wrote.

The book, published earlier this year, has drawn sharp criticism from many rabbis who say it contradicts the teachings of Judaism.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, July 4, 2011 - 09:20

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