Monday, November 14, 2005

Is Rabin a Rodef?

Since Yitzchak Rabin initiated the Oslo process with the Palestinians in 1993, there had much resistance to his formula of LAND FOR PEACE where Israel would give the Palestinians a State in Gaza and the West Bank in exchange for an end to incitement and terrorism against Israel.

Jewish extremists were against this policy because they claimed that the land of Israel is holy and can never be traded. Their method of dealing with Palestinian attacks against Israel was to use more force.

Palestinian extremists (Hamas) were against the Oslo process because it’s ultimate aim was a two state solution. These Islamic extremists believe that the entire land belongs to Muslims only, and all Jews should leave or be killed. Therefore, Hamas would send suicide bombers onto buses whenever Rabin and Arafat were to have a meeting, in the hope that this would derail the peace process.

Before you continue reading, please say:
Hareini lomed/lomedet Mishnah le'ilu'i nishmato shel Yitzĥak ben Rosa u-Neĥemya RabinI am studying Mishnah in the memory of Yitzĥak Rabin, son of Rosa and Neĥemya

וְאֵלּוּ הֵן שֶׁמַּצִּילִין אוֹתָן בְּנַפְשָׁן: הָרוֹדֵף אַחַר חֲבֵרוֹ לְהָרְגוֹ, אַחַר הַזְּכוּר וְאַחַר הַנַּעֲרָה הַמְאֹרָסָה. אֲבָל הָרוֹדֵף אַחַר הַבְּהֵמָה, וְהַמְחַלֵּל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת, וְהָעוֹבֵד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה, אֵין מַצִּילִין אוֹתָן בְּנַפְשָׁן:

In the following cases a human life is saved at the cost of a human life: when one person threatens the life of another, when a male is sexually threatening another male, or married woman. But when someone is intending a sexual union with an animal, or to desecrate Shabbat or to practice idolatry - no human life is forfeit in order to prevent this.

“Lies, Bad Law, and Human Life"
by Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein – November 1995

Jewish law has an enviable past, particularly in promoting the sanctity of human life. It was Jewish law, after all, that first crowned each human life with absolute value. While their neighbors drenched their altars with the blood of small children to propitiate their gods, the prophets of ancient Israel thundered their formula for pleasing the Almighty. "Let the oppressed go free...Divide your bread with the hungry...When you see the naked, cover him." For Isaiah and his colleagues, G-d was best served by enhancing the quality of the lives of others.

The earliest rabbinic writings continued the tradition. "Whoever saves the life of a single person is considered as saving the entire world," claimed the Mishna. Jewish law regarded life as so sacred, that all precepts of the Torah could be suspended to save it, excepting three cardinal transgressions. And one of those three was murder.
Jewish law was so loath to take a human life, that criminal procedure was hopelessly stacked in favor of the defendant. If the twenty-three judges managed to reach a guilty verdict in a capital case, they were required to fast the entire day. And if they found for guilt unanimously, charges were dismissed. A court which could not produce someone to back the defendant obviously was not doing its job well.

The Talmud sums up its internal audit of procedure in capital cases appropriately enough. "A court that takes a life once in seventy years is a killer court." This is the lenient view. Others suggest an even longer interval.

The Devil, however, can cite Scripture; his disciples turn to case law and statute. Somehow, Yigal Amir thought that he found justification from the law itself. Amir decided that Mr. Rabin's negotiations with the Palestinians posed an immediate threat to the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis. Jewish law (as well as many other codes!) allows (actually demands) anyone to take the life of a murderous pursuer - or rodef - of his innocent victim. Amir thus claimed that Mr. Rabin was a rodef, and that it was a mitzvah to kill him.

The argument is inaccurate, and was denounced as such by virtually every major and minor Jewish legal thinker. To be a rodef, the pursuer must perform some act that is objectively life-threatening. The models in the literature make it clear that one cannot be a rodef to some, and a savior to others. Arguably, there are as many Israelis who believe that the peace process will save lives, as those who believe that the consequences will be insufferable. Besides, one argument alone justifies taking the life of the rodef: the certainty that the pursued will be saved. No sane person could have guaranteed that killing Rabin would stop the peace process in its tracks. If anything, killing Rabin has had the opposite effect, dramatically increasing popular support for the Labor position.

Despite his posturing, Amir's actions had nothing to do with Halacha. And before people criticize Jewish law, they should stop and remember that much of their distaste for his cowardly and despicable act owes historically to that very same tradition.


NG said...

Is it possible to believe in the sanctity of the land of Israel, and oppose giving it away, without being an extremist? Can someone hold this view moderately? Are there any leftist extremists? What about the people who believe that Israel is always wrong and we must do everything we can to dismantle our country as quickly as possible?

By the way, nice use of parallel structure ("Jewish extremists were against ... Palestinian extremists ... were against") to imply moral equivalence between Jewish Oslo opponents and Hamas terrorists.

Ittay said...

Ng, one can believe the sanctity of the land of Israel, and oppose giving it away, without being an extremist. If way of expressing the opposition to giving away land is street demonstrations, writing letters to MKs and voting National Union, that’s fine. When expressing that opposition involves dressing the PM in an SS uniform or invoking a pulse d’nura, that’s not Ok.

Ng, I apologize if you understood me to be making a moral equivalent between the Jewish and Arab opponents of Oslo. The Arab opponents (Hamas) have been much more destructive and reckless to the sanctity of human life in their methods of expressing their opposition to the peace negotiations.

Biotorah said...

For a precendent of a Zionist organization assassinating a peace activist look here:

or just google for - de Haan Haganah

I would say the the Religious Zionist Amir gets a large part of his assasination yichus from his Zionism. A fact which is de-emphisised in the anti-religious poltical environment in Israel.