TEL AVIV (AP) Israel's much-criticised practice of assassinating
Palestinian activists has the full backing of Jewish religious law, according to a
statement Thursday from Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau.
The policy has been
condemned by the US State Department and human rights groups. The most recent case was
Wednesday, when Israeli occupation forces assassinated Hamas activist Salah Darwazeh by
firing five anti-tank missiles at his car near Nablus in the West Bank.
Lau has been lecturing around the country in recent days, explaining the religious
justification for defensive actions taken by Israel's government, according to
the statement. It uses the terms foiling and interception in
reference to Israeli military measures.
Lau's spokesman, Yitzhak Rath, said those are just synonyms for targeted
In 10 months of clashes, 132 people have been killed on the Israeli side. During the
same period, 533 people have been killed on the Palestinian side, many of them children.
Quoting ancient sages and Biblical passages, Lau explained that Israel is now fighting
a war of commandment, mandated by God. He said that those engaged in the war
are exempt from other commandments, a highly unusual ruling.
Lau referred to an often-quoted Jewish precept, He who comes to kill you, rise up
and kill him first. He added, this applies only to murderers and those who
send them, not to innocent civilians. While justifying whatever action the
government adopts in its struggle against the Palestinians living under the yoke of
Israeli occupation, Lau stated that private citizens must not take up arms. Last week
three Palestinians, including a baby, were shot and killed in the West Bank, apparently by
Israelis. Some suspect that it was retaliation by Jewish settlers for Palestinian
Since May, Israel has been following a policy it calls restraint, avoiding
large-scale military operations and air strikes against Palestinian targets, but carrying
out smaller operations, like targeted killing of activists.
Palestinians say more than 40 people have been assassinated in such Israeli operations.
Ran Cohen, an ex-army colonel and a leader of the secular Meretz Party, said Lau went
too far in his ruling.
Cohen said stopping terror attacks and intercepting activists is
legitimate, but targeted killing is a crime.
Cohen praised Lau for telling civilians not to attack Palestinians, but added, I
regret the fact that he did not have enough courage to decide what the limits of
government policy are.
Lau said that according to a passage in the Talmud, a sacred collection of ancient
commentaries on the Bible, if enemies approach a border village even just to steal, an
army must be mobilised against them, even on the Jewish Sabbath. All the more so
when it is a matter of life and death, Lau concluded.