A prominent rabbi has supported the killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation troops in the Gaza Strip, saying killing non-Jewish civilians is compatible with religious laws.
Rabbi Dov Lior, Chairman of the Jewish Rabbinical Council, was quoted as saying "during warfare, killing non-Jewish civilians is permitted if it saves Jewish lives".
According to Lior's ruling, which was made public on Wednesday, Israeli occupation troops in Gaza are allowed to kill and harm "so-called innocent civilians" during warfare.
"The law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them. This is the real moral behind Israel's Torah and we must not feel guilty due to foreign morals," the Ma'ariv Israeli newspaper quoted him as saying.
He added that Jewish lives were more important than non-Jewish lives.
Rabbi Lior is considered among the most learned sages of the Torah.
"Without any doubt, he is among the most learned scholars of the Torah, but he is viewed as an extremist among some liberal sectors," said Rabbi Menachem Froman from the Tku' settlement near Bethlehem.
"...a thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail"
Rabbi Dov Lior,
Chairman of the Jewish Rabbinical Council
Froman said he did not agree with Lior's views, calling them controversial.
"I believe that Judaism is against killing innocent people. One of the main commandments of the Torah is 'thou shall not murder.'"
However, after speaking to many rabbis, it is clear that Lior's views and interpretation of Jewish Law enjoy far more popularity and acceptance than Froman’s relatively dovish interpretations.
The basic point of disagreement concerns whether Biblical injunctions apply equally to Jews and non-Jews.
Lior, like most of the rabbis of the Gush Emunim settler movement, believes that Biblical commandments such as "thou shall not murder" refer only to "Jews" since the Torah was given to Jews, not Gentiles.
This view, however, is rejected to varying degrees by the two main unorthodox Jewish sects - the Conservatives and the Reformists - who constitute a numerical majority of Jews outside Israel, especially in North America.
Dov Lior is considered a champion rabbi among settlers. In 1994, he strongly supported the murder by an American immigrant settler, Baruch Goldstein, of 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque.
Many children have been killed
or injured in the Rafah onslaught
Lior then issued a religious edict, saying, "a thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail".
Lior praised Goldstein, calling him a "great saint and rabbi … may his memory be blessed".
Several months after the massacre, Lior told disciples in Kiryat Araba near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron "Jewish blood was redder than non-Jewish blood … and that a Jewish life is preferred by the Lord than a non-Jewish life".
So far, the majority of Israeli religious leaders, including the two Grand Rabbis (one representing Western Jews 'Ashkenazim' and the other representing eastern Jews 'Tsfaradim') have refused to condemn or repudiate Lior's views.
Rabbi Froman suggested that because of Lior's deep knowledge of Jewish law, most rabbis refrain from challenging his understanding of the Torah and Talmud.
In fact, the official religious establishment, let alone Gush Eumunim rabbis, consistently supported whatever attacks carried out by the occupying army against Palestinian civilians.
Mirkaz Ha'rav officials in West Jerusalem (the main religious College where Dov Lior teaches) refused to comment on Lior's edict when contacted by Aljazeera.net.