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The King’s Torah: Preemptive Murder of Non-Jews

Lawrence Bush
July 25, 2017

West Bank settlement leader Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira was arrested by Israeli police on this date in 2010 on suspicion of incitement to violence, several months after the publication of his book, The King’s Torah (Torat Ha’Melech), which defended the killing of non-Jews, who are “uncompassionate by nature,” in order to “curb their evil inclination.” “If we kill a gentile who has violated one of the seven commandments [the Noahide laws], there is nothing wrong with the murder,” Shapira wrote, noting that even babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed, since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us. . . . Anywhere where the presence of a gentile poses a threat to Israel, it is permissible to kill him, even if it is a righteous gentile who is not responsible for the threatening situation.” Endorsers of the book included Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba. “The disturbing philosophy expressed in Torat Ha’Melech emerged from the fevered atmosphere of a settlement called Yitzhar located in the northern West Bank near the Palestinian city of Nablus,” wrote Max Blumenthal at AlterNet. “Shapira leads the settlement’s Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, holding sway over a small army of fanatics who are eager to lash out at the Palestinians tending to their crops and livestock in the valleys below them. One of Shapira’s followers . . . has confessed to murdering two innocent Palestinians and attempting to kill the liberal Israeli historian Ze’ev Sternhell with a mail bomb [and] is suspected of many more murders, including an attack on a Tel Aviv gay community center.” The arrest of Shapira led to no prosecution, however, and was widely condemned in the haredi community as a violation of free speech.

“[S]ince the publication of Torat Ha’Melech, Netanyahu has strenuously avoided criticizing its contents or the author’s leading supporters.... His weakness stems from the fact that the religious nationalist right figures prominently in his governing coalition and comprises a substantial portion of his political base. For Netanyahu, a confrontation with the rabid rabbis could amount to political suicide, or could force him into an alliance with centrist forces who do not share his commitment to the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.” --Max Blumenthal

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.