The Response...from Israel Shahak
Israel Shahak, Tel. and Fax 02-5633-99
2 Bartenura St. Jerusalem 92184, Israel
Answer to the slanders of Stefan Bialoguski against "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky (Pluto Press, 1999).
Stefan Bialoguski thinks that intellectual and often public terror employed in the USA and other countries against Jews who speak the truth about Judaism, whether in form it took after the inception of Talmud or its continuation in Orthodox Judaism will succeed against an Israeli Jew like me.
Contrary to the great majority of American Jews, Israeli Jews enjoy three great advantages with regard to the freedom of expression on Jewish issues: they read Hebrew and can read Halacha and other Jewish documents in the original, and are not dependent on the falsehoods circulated about those by rabbis and Jewish organizations.
They see, with the help of their Hebrew press, whose behavior is much more honest when reporting Jewish issues than the American one, what Orthodox rabbis (almost all Israeli rabbis are Orthodox) do when they have political power, and many of them noted long ago the close resemblance the Orthodox rabbis bear to the Ayatollahs in their aims, and also the close resemblance between the Halacha and the religious law now established in Iran. I have no doubt that had the common Israeli slogans "Israel will not be an Iran" or "Israel will not be rules by Jewish Ayatollahs" - meaning the rabbis - been raised in the USA, American defenders of Jewish zealotry and discrimination if directed against non Jews, would have protested as strongly against such typical Israeli slogans as they do against "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel".
Let me add that increasing numbers of Israeli Jews are beginning to see that it would be a very good thing for Israel if something similar to the First Amendment to the USA Constitution would become the law in the State of Israel. Even the Israeli Jews who did not yet adapt this view usually despise the American Jews who want to carry the separation of the church from the state to its greatest extent in the USA (because they think it is in the Jewish interest) and vehemently oppose it in Israel (because they think that in this case it is against the Jewish interest).
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the secular part of the Israeli Jews has been educated, to large extent, on Prophetic books of Old Testament, and its other parts such as the Psalms, which contrary to the Talmudic literature, attack especially what the great majority of the Jews regarded as authoritative when this literature was composed. Therefore for us, the secular Israeli Jews, to attack Jewish institutions and laws, even when hallowed by time, and use the sharpest language while doing so, as the Prophets and other Jewish poets preserved in the Old Testament did when criticizing Jews (usually they used much sharper language than I am using), is the most normal thing; it is something which preserves our freedom and our sense of continuity as Jews.
Let me add that the best hope of better future in the Middle East lies in all its peoples criticizing their religions, customs and past. Continuing to be enslaved to past leads to perpetuation of all conflicts.
Therefore, before I begin my answer, let me quote three Biblical passages. I doubt whether the usual American Jewish audiences fed on the stuff approved by the ADL are aware of their existence, but those passages will help to explain to people with open minds not only what I am saying but also the way in which I express it. Prophet Ezekiel, speaking in the name of the Lord says: "Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life" (chapter 20, verse 25). I say about the Halacha what Ezekiel said about some Biblical laws. The poet of Psalm 50, says: "But to the wicked God says: 'what right have you to recite my statutes, or to take my covenant on your lips? For you hate morality and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are friend of his; and you keep company with adulterers'" (verses 16-18).The last words apply with particular force to the Orthodox rabbis in Israel and also the USA. A few months before the Israeli elections of 1996, it was found that Netanyahu was an adulterer, as he himself had to admit. This fact and the Halachic view of adultery as one of three most heinous sins did not diminish the support Netanyahu got from Orthodox rabbis.
It is known to the readers of the Hebrew press that majority of Orthodox rabbis have the greatest regard for Jewish thieves (and one can add drug smugglers and money-launderers) who donate a part of their ill gotten money to Jewish religious institutions, but eat kosher food. Prophet Micah says: "Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with injustice. Its heads judge for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say: 'Behold, the Lord is among us! No evil shall come upon us'" (chapter 3, verses 9-11).
The beginning of any struggle for justice in the Middle East must be recognition of the fact that for the last 52 years Zion, that is State of Israel, had been built with blood, mainly of the Arabs, and founded on the most horrifying forms of injustice which when applied to the Jews are rightly condemned as anti-Semitism. Let me give here give only a single example, before entering Halachic argument. During 18 years of Israeli occupation of Lebanon about 25,000 Lebanese and Palestinians lost their lives as compared with about 800 Israeli soldiers. It is a significant fact of Israeli politics that numbers of non Jews killed in Lebanon had little or no influence on Israeli decision to leave it, even when they were members of South Lebanese Army, allied with Israel. On the other hand, the relatively small numbers of killed Jewish soldiers were the chief factor, even in the eyes of Israeli organizations calling for withdrawal, to mobilize the Jewish public opinion and force the government to withdraw.
The great majority of the Orthodox and traditional Jews (in the USA even more than in Israel) is quite indifferent to numbers of non Jews killed by the Jews, while it is very sensitive to a single Jew killed by non Jews. The same happens with discrimination: there is very little, if any protest from great majority of the Orthodox and traditional Jews when Jews discriminate against non Jews, in our case the Arabs, together with screams of fury against any hint of discrimination (or abuse) against the Jews themselves.
Surely, such an attitude by a public so devoted to the worship of the Jewish past must be influenced by that past. As I have shown (especially in my book "Jewish history, Jewish religion"; chapter 5 "The Laws Against Non Jews"), this attitude derives from the many Halachic laws against non Jews.
After this necessary preface, let me answer in some detail the accusations made by Stefan Bialoguski. I hope that when I have dealt with them, the malicious ignorance on which they are based will became apparent. As to his quoting rabbi Laufer of Jerusalem as his authority, this only reminds me of the faithful communists during Stalin who used to quote a "an authority" from Moscow to confirm the usual falsehoods of another totalitarian system. Such "authorities" may have known all works of "Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin" as the phrase was then, but they used them only in order to be approve Stalin's crimes.
Similarly, Orthodox rabbis, whether in Israel or the USA were silent, for example, when quite recently one of their colleagues, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh proposed in major Hebrew paper that the State of Israel should slaughter "women, children and old folks" in Palestinian towns and villages and, in generally do to them what was done in Sodom and Gomorrah (the case will be discussed in detail below).
Not rabbinical competence is needed here but a protest against Orthodox rabbis proposing, supporting and defending atrocities when committed by Jews in name of Halacha.
In any case, Bialoguski forgot, or perhaps never learned, the basic halachic rule in case of a dispute: "let us bring the book and see". My answer is full of references to books; let him check those references by himself and not be enslaved to any rabbis.
Let me begin with the lesser issue of stealing and robbing which will illustrate the systematic falsification of Halacha used by Bialoguski. What he quotes is the halachic prohibition of stealing from anyone. But on this issue there is a crucial difference in Halacha between Jews stealing from non Jews and Jews robbing non Jews. The difference between theft (in Hebrew "gne'iva") and robbery (in Hebrew "gezel") is the same as in most systems of laws. Theft is defined as taking one's property by stealth while robbery is defined as taking one's property openly, using violence.
It is clear that the stealing of Palestinian land in the Territories (and before this inside Israel in the early 1950s) was done by employing state power, indeed often by employing army units, and is to be defined - as what was done to the land of the Indians by the USA - as robbery.
As I will show below, the Halacha makes a distinction (known to anyone who has even a minimal knowledge of the subject) between theft committed by a Jew, which is totally forbidden no matter from whom, and robbery committed by a Jew. While it is forbidden to Jews to rob a fellow Jew under any circumstances, the situation is quite different in Halacha in the case of a Jew robbing a non Jew, where under well defined circumstances Jews are indeed permitted to rob non Jews.
Accordingly, there is in Halacha a special issue known by the name of "robbing the non Jew" (in Hebrew "gezel hagoy"), which appears under this name in the authoritative Talmudic Encyclopedia, and the circumstances in which such robbery is either permitted or forbidden are discussed in great detail, as I will show below. Here I will only remark that Bialoguski omits this.
But before discussing robbery, let me return to the issue of stealing and show that behind the prohibition of stealing from anyone, there is in Halacha the most glaring discrimination between Jews and non Jews, omitted by Bialoguski and most "authorities" who write about Judaism. This is the issue of punishment to be inflicted according to Halacha on a Jew who steals. If he steals from a Jew he has to pay twice the value of what he had stolen, or return what he had stolen, if possible, and pay its value in addition. The first part is regarded as the restitution and the other as the punishment. But in case of Jew stealing from a non Jew he is only to pay the value of what he had stolen, only because he had stolen from a non Jew.
The reason given by Maimonides, following the Talmud, is that in Biblical verse specifying the punishment for theft it is written "he will pay twice to his fellow" and according to Halacha the word "fellow" means only Jews, and excludes the non Jews (Maimonides, Laws of Theft, chapter 2, rule 1).
The important commentary on Maimonides' Code, "Magid Mishneh", written by rabbi Yoseph Karo, the author of Shulchan Aruch, and other commentators fully agree with this shameful discrimination.
Let me add two observations you will not hear from "experts" on Judaism in the USA. If, for example, somebody would have proposed that Jews in the USA would be discriminated in exactly the same way as the Halacha discriminates against non Jew; that is he would propose that any non Jew stealing from a Jew would be exempt from punishment and will have only to pay the value of what he had stolen, but not be punished in addition, he would be justly regarded as anti-Semite. It would not help him if he would sanctimoniously exclaim, as Bialoguski does, "but I am against stealing from anybody, including the Jews!"
This example shows that what Bialoguski is doing with his selective quotations from Halacha is similar to what the worst anti-Semites do when their tenets are attacked.
Second, this example shows that most Americans, including the educated ones, know nothing about the real Judaism because they were brainwashed by apologists and propagandists and are in now in the same situation as were the faithful communists before the famous Krushchev's speech of 1956, who also were sure that they know about "the true situation inside the USSR", but in realty knew nothing about the reality of Stalin's regime, because they were brainwashed by authorities they had blindly followed.
Let me now deal with the views of the Halacha in the case when a Jew robs a non Jew. As is told in great detail in both Babylonian (the usually used one) Talmud and the Jerusalemite Talmud, the earlier talmudic Sages had disputed whether it is permitted or forbidden for a Jew to rob a non Jew and in what circumstances. Those disputes are studied by present day talmudic students as boys (I too studied this subject at the age of fourteen), since an important part of them is contained in a popular Talmudic Tractate, Baba Kama (p. 113b) in addition to other places. Although the more offensive passages have been censored out in most of printed texts, they are preserved in booklets, used on such occasions, called "The omissions from the Talmud", so that the entire dispute, of great length and many complications, is explained and its effect can be imagined.
Briefly, the Sages who permit Jews to rob the non Jews (recorded especially in another popular Tractate of Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzi'a, p. 111b) and in the Jerusalemite Talmud, Tractate Baba Kama, chapter 4, halacha 3) opine, for example, that since it is written (Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 13): "You shall not oppress your friend or rob him", the words "your friend" mean that those prohibitions apply only to the Jews.
Their opponents, especially Rabbi Shimon speaking in the name of Rabbi Akiva, admit the force of this reasoning and have recourse to a specious kind of argument. They argue as follows (I am slightly paraphrasing): "How do we know that robbing a non Jew is forbidden? We learn in the case of a Jewish slave sold to a non Jew that he must be redeemed and not taken by force, since it is written: 'after he is sold he may be redeemed' (Leviticus, chapter 25, verse 48) and this means that another Jew is forbidden to liberate such slave by force. Therefore we learn from this case that other forms of robbery from a non Jew are also forbidden". Other rabbis argued that if a Jew robs a non Jew he causes a "desecration of the Lord's Name", since the robbed non Jew will curse the God of the Jews when he knows who had robbed him. This in their view - and not the fact that robbery took place - is the reason why Jews should not rob non Jews.
However, this reason for prohibiting Jews to rob non Jews will operate only when the identity of the Jewish robber is discovered. It follows that according to those Sages a Jew can rob non Jews on condition that he is sure that he, or his identity will not be discovered. A very nice lesson in ethics, indeed! Some Sages who prohibited Jews from robbing non Jews introduced an important distinction, much favored now by Gush Emunim rabbis and others of their ilk. They reasoned that robbing or not the non Jews is determined by the verse: "You shall eat all the nations that the Lord your God will give you". This is supposed by those holy
Sages to mean that the Jews can rob non Jews only when the latter "are given to them," meaning when they rule them (Baba Kam, ibid.).
Other Sages have said (more honestly in my view) that when "the Jews are powerful" (in Hebrew "yad Israel takifa") they are permitted to rob the non Jews but they are not permitted to do so when they are not powerful. Some of the Sages who permit Jews to rob non Jews under all circumstances have added an argument worthy of our consideration. They argue that robbing non Jews is permitted since it is written: "He stood and measured the earth; He looked and shook the nations" (Book of Habakkuk, chapter 3, verse 6). This verse is alleged to mean that the Lord had seen non Jews not keeping the Seven Noachide Commandments and because of this allowed the Jews to take their property (in Hebrew "amad ve'hitir mamonam le'Israel", Baba Kama, p. 38a).
Finally, let me note the fact about which most American (with the exception of Orthodox or, possibly, Conservative Jews too) are ignorant: this halachic dispute is possible because the prohibition "You shall not steal" in the Decalogue is considered in Halacha to mean not what it says, but to prohibit "selling (that is kidnapping) Jews into slavery". Halachic prohibitions of stealing and robbery derive from other biblical verses; in case of stealing from the verse "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to your friends", and in case of robbery from the verse "You shall not oppress your friend or rob him" (Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 11 and 13).
Both verses contain a qualification of the prohibition: the acts are forbidden only if done "to your friends" or "your friend" (Hebrew terms used in those verses which mean without any ambiguity "friend", are mistakenly translated as "neighbor" or by other neutral term in standard English translations). Because of this qualification, Halacha needs special reasons for prohibiting Jews from stealing or robbing non Jews, or, the case of robbery, halachic authorities can permit it, either in general or on some occasions. This is also the reason why the punishment for stealing is absent in the cases where a Jew steals from a non Jew. It should be clear that this discussion still goes on and is all the time modified by new circumstances, of which the most important is the fact that the Jews in the State of Israel have power over non Jews, even more in the Territories than in Israel itself, contrary to Jewish situation which existed and still exists in diaspora. Halacha is a dynamic system both for good and evil, and the Jewish power, coupled with almost total absence of any criticism of Judaism by Jews themselves has caused - as usual - a great change for worse in the area of Halacha in the last
50 years, especially on the issue of how Jews should behave to non Jews according to their religion when they are the powerful group. It is a fact that the views I have quoted above are regarded as sacred texts whose study is the surest way to bring a Jew to Paradise, and that no rabbi (not only among the Orthodox and the Conservative rabbis but even among the Reform ones) will say what should be said, namely: those are wicked and immoral views who have a highly corrupting influence both on those who regard them as sacred and on those who do not condemn them as wicked.
Indeed, the verses from Psalm 50 I quoted above, "But to the wicked God says: 'what right have you to recite my statutes, or to take my covenant on your lips? For you hate morality and you cast my words behind you.", apply, first of all, to all rabbis who do not condemn such opinions. Thus, quoting isolated halachic pronouncements made some hundreds years ago, without the reasoning that stands behind them, as Jewish apologists are usually doing, is highly misleading.
I will not attempt to multiply quotations on the subject of stealing and robbing, although because of conditions of intellectual terror and threats of worse employed habitually by such Jewish organizations as ADL, and the falsification of Jewish history and halacha carried out by most of Jewish scholars, all what I have quoted or paraphrased must be unknown in the USA. Let me add that until not many years ago, and for similar reasons, most of what had been done to Indians in the USA was likewise unknown. I have quoted enough to show that the assertions of Bialoguski about halachic attitude to Jews taking the property of non Jews is a false generalization, either based on gullible ignorance or on a wish to hide injustice when committed in the name of Jewish religion.
It is known in Israel that most of religious, that is Orthodox Jews, whether in Israel or the USA did not protest against massive take over (in my view robbery) of Palestinian property solely for the benefit of Jews, taking place now for 52 years. (The few exceptions merely confirm the rule.) The Jewish opposition to this robbery mostly comes from Jews who are opposed - often violently opposed - to the Orthodox form of Jewish religion. One of the reasons for this politically very important difference is the halachic attitude to non Jews and their property.
Let me now pass to the more important issue of prohibition of killing in the cases where a Jew kills a non Jew. (There is no dispute that Halacha prohibits both Jews and non Jews to kill a Jew, except under special circumstances, and also prohibits non Jews to kill each other.) As in the case of stealing, Bialoguski quotes at me the general prohibition out of Shulchan Aruch that Jews are prohibited to kill non Jews, even idol worshippers. Jews should be the first to beware of using such general prohibitions as their only defense, since during all the times when they were killed or exterminated the general prohibition against killing was present in the codes of law of the states or religions responsible for their killing. Let me add that when the Indians were massacred in all parts of American continent, often by forces of the state, a law prohibiting killing of anybody was always in the code of the state guilty of murdering or condoning the murder. Legally, and in practice condoning a killing of a person because he belongs to a certain group is done by keeping a general prohibition against killing followed by laws permitting or even enjoining the prohibited act in certain circumstances, or making the killing of human beings of a certain category or under certain circumstances into an act which is not punished or even enjoined.
Let me give some examples of such attitudes out of Halacha itself in case of killing of non Jews by Jews. Since Bialoguski is quoting Shulchan Aruch, composed by rabbi Yoseph Karo, I will quote Karo's opinion about what should be done to non Jews with whom Jews are at war. When Karo comments on Maimonides' rule about Jews "with whom we are not at war" which states that they should neither killed nor saved when in danger - contrary to the treatment meted to Jewish heretics who should be killed by any possible way (Maimonides, of Murderer and Preservation of Life, chapter 4, rule 11; quoted in full in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel", p. 120), in his commentary "Kesef Mishneh", he adds what should the Jews do with the non Jews with whom they are at war. Writes Karo: "Our rabbi (i.e. Maimonides) used a precise language when he wrote 'non Jews with whom we are not at war', since it is written at the end of Tractate Kidushin, and also in Tractate Sofrim 'You should kill the best of the non Jews'; that means [you should do so] during a war". This horrible law did not remain buried in abstract rabbinic discussion but has been frequently quoted by important rabbis as a guidance to what the State of Israel, and also individual pious Jewish soldiers should actually do.
Out of many such instances which sometimes - but not always, I am sorry to say - caused a scandal among secular Israeli Jews and the media, but never among the rabbis in the USA, let me quote just three cases. Quite recently, rabbi Ginsburgh (about whom more below) was interviewed by the Hebrew paper "Maariv", one of the three major Israeli papers. When asked how Israel should behave in the current war, Ginsburgh first proposed destroying of Arab property and then: "Secondly, I propose to liquidate all saboteurs. Any who has blood on his hands should be liquidated at once, and let us not to wait for him to sit in prison and be freed afterwards. Nests of saboteurs can be liquidated within one hour. Yamit (a settlement in Sinai, evacuated by orders of Begin in 1982. I. Shahak) which was a worthy Jewish town, was evacuated in one hour. It is possible to do the same to Beit Jallah. Places where are shootings or confrontations should be blown up immediately" Question: "Even if innocent people live in such places?" Answer: "According to Halacha, during the war one makes no distinction. One gives an opportunity to those who want to escape to do so; afterwards one fights against everyone, including children, women and old folks. The entire village should be destroyed. We are speaking about what was done to Sodom and Gomorrah. But under Arafat we speak about murderous leadership hating us, and doing everything until it gets the entire State of Israel. Thus, just as it happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, had there been there a few innocents we, perhaps, could consider further. . But under Arafat most people are totally wicked. Therefore we should say to the few righteous ones: 'go out' and then blow up the entire city" Maariv Friday Supplement, 12 January, 2001).
No Orthodox or Conservative rabbi said a word against this view about what Halacha says Jews should do to Arabs, presumably because they all know that it is the correct view. I also presume that whatever Bialoguski, the ADL and similar Jewish organizations say against me for having translated the learned ruling of rabbi Ginsburgh, none of them will dare to say in public that he misrepresents the Halacha and enter into learned discussion with him about the question whether the Jewish religion in its Orthodox form really enjoins the killing of "children, women and old folks" during war, or whether Palestinians should be compared to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Israeli army to angels of the Lord who had destroyed them.
The second example was already quoted in my "Jewish History, Jewish Religion (pp. 77-79). It concerns a case of pious Jewish soldoer in the Israeli army who studied in the prestigious religious college "Midrashiyat Noam", who asked his teacher, rabbi Shimon Weiser, "whether it is permitted to kill unarmed men - or women and children? Or perhaps we should take revenge on the Arabs?" noting that standing regulations of the Israeli army prohibit such acts. His questions, the learned answer of rabbi Weiser, who condemns the regulations of the Israeli army for being derived from non Jewish sources, and the answer of the soldier in which he specifies what he has learned, were published in the 1974 yearbook of that college. Rabbi Weiser quotes in full the dictum shortened by rabbi Karo. "Rabbi Shimon used to say: 'kill the best of the non Jews, dash the brain of the best of the snakes" as being applicable to what the Jewish soldiers should do during a war. After learned halachic discussion his instructions to pious soldiers are to kill all non Jews except if "it is quite clear that he has no evil intent". The soldier responds: "As for the letter itself, I have understood it as follows: In wartime I am not merely permitted, but enjoined to kill every Arab man and woman whom I chance upon, if there is reason to fear that they help in the war against us, directly or indirectly. And as far as I am concerned I have to kill them even if that might result in an involvement with the military law". I heard about no rabbi who questioned that ruling. My last example is chosen in honor of our newly elected Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. His first major exploit was the massacre of Kibyeh, in which many Palestinian civilians, including women and children were killed. Since some Israeli Jews (not too many) protested against this, many rabbis rushed to Sharon's defense, proving that the massacre was conducted according to the strictest standards of the Halacha. The most eminent of those rabbis was Rabbi Shaul Israeli, for many years one of the highest rabbinic authorities of the National Religious Party and of the religious Zionism in general, who published an article entitld "Kibyeh Incident According to the Halacha" in the yearly rabbinic journal "The Religion and the State" (in Hebrew "Hadat Ve'Hamdinah") for the year 5713 (1953). The article, a dazzling display of halachic scholarship quoting and discussing every possible source from Talmud till the modern times, comes to following conclusion: "We have established that there exists a special term of 'war of revenge' and this is a war against those who hate the Jews and [there are] special laws applying to such war Accordingly, if the enemies of the Jews had attacked them once but retreated, and they intend to attack them again they are to be defined as the haters of the Jews and a war of revenge should be waged against them. In such a war there is absolutely no obligation to take precautions during warlike acts in order that non-combatants would not be hurt, because during a war both the righteous and wicked are killed. But the war of revenge is based on the example of the war against the Midianites (see Numbers, chapter 31) in which small children were also executed (verse 17, ibid. "Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones") and we might wonder about this, for how they had sinned? But we have already found in the sayings of our Sages, of blessed memory, that little children have to die because of the sin of their parents And our final conclusion is that we should continue with acts of retaliation and revenge against the haters of the Jews and such acts are considered to be a war of religious obligation (in Hebrew "milhemet mitzvah"). Every calamity and hurt that happens to the enemies, their allies and their children from such actions is caused by them and is [merely] the reward of their sins. There is absolutely no obligation to refrain from acts of retaliation out of an apprehension that innocents would be hit by them, because it is not we who are causing all this but them, and we are innocent".
Indeed, the learned opinion of Rabbi Israeli has been followed, so far as I know, by all Orthodox rabbis of any standing in the case of wars waged by the Jewish State. It is only in wars waged by non Jewish state such as the USA, which does not enjoy the benefit of Biblical and Talmudic precedents, that some of such rabbis have permitted themselves (hypocritically, in my view) to raise humanitarian objections and castigate non Jewish authorities.
Our next consideration will be the issue of punishment prescribed by the Halacha for a Jew who killed a non Jew, compared with punishment for killing a Jew. After all, spitting on the street and murder are both forbidden by law but are, nevertheless, very different acts. The punishment legally inflicted for a given offence shows us the view of the authors of the code about its gravity, and to a great extent also the opinion of the society about it. In case of a religious code, such differences also show us the view about the gravity of the sin committed when a believer does something prohibited by the code of his religion. Just as in Christianity there is a great difference between a mortal and venial sin, so in Orthodox Judaism there is a graduation of sins according to punishment to be inflicted, if possible, for committing them.
The greatest sins are those meriting the punishment of death and the smallest those where no human punishment is to be inflicted, but are left to God's judgment. Killing a Jew is regarded as one of the three worst sins of the first category. However, Maimonides, who like Shulhan Aruch begins his "Laws of Murderer and Preservation of Life" with a general prohibition of killing anybody (chapter 1, rule 1), states a few rules afterwards: "One who kills a resident alien is not to be put to death by a rabbinic court because it is written 'If a man willfully attacks his friend to kill him' (Exodus, chapter 21, verse 14), and it is unnecessary to add he is not put to death for killing a non Jew" (ibid. chapter 2, rule 11). "Mechiltah", an important and ancient collection pf laws from the Talmudic period, states explicitly that the punishment of a Jew who kills a non Jew is "reserved to Heaven" (chapter "mishpatim", section 4).
In the next rule Maimonides states that a Jew who kills a non Jewish slave of any Jew is put to death because "the slave had accepted the commandments of the Jewish religion (in Hebrew "mitzvoth") and became a part of God's inheritance". The same distinction is repeated in the case of accidental killing. In case of Jew who had accidentally killed another Jew the penalty is exile to a special refuge town. A Jew who killed incidentally a non Jew is not punished. In case of a non Jew, even a residential alien, who had accidentally killed a Jew, death penalty is inflicted. (See Maimonides, ibid. chapter 5, rule 3). The Halacha has no system of alternative penalties. One who, for whatever reason, is absolved from a punishment due to him, is free from any further human punishment, except in the case of killing a Jew which will be described below (Maimonides, Laws of Murderer and Preservation of Life, chapter 4, rule 9).
Therefore when Halacha states that a Jew who killed a non Jew is not put to death, this means that he will not receive any human punishment, exactly as stated in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel". Bialoguski who object to this statement, cleverly refrains to state that according to Halacha a Jew who killed a non Jew should not be punished; instead he prates about the prohibition of such killing. Yes, killing of non Jews by Jews is prohibited by Halacha in the same way that spitting on street is prohibited in a city; such killings are treated by Orthodox Jews as being venial sins. This is the real reason why Gush Emunim rabbis and let me add, other rabbis as well, who anyhow object to the Israeli code of laws as being "un-Jewish" because it is based on English and latterly also on American law which, contrary to the very Jewish Halacha punishes killers without a distinction of the religion of their victims, try to obtain amnesties or reductions of punishments for every Jew who killed an Arab, but make no such effort in the case of a Jew who killed a Jew. The Hebrew press discusses such cases, which occur frequently, in great detail. I forbear to discuss the purely hypothetical case of an extreme anti-Semite daring to propose in the USA that there should be difference in legal punishment inflicted on one who killed a Christian and one who killed a Jew and try to excuse his offence by claiming that he is, nevertheless, against killing of Jews, just as Bialoguski does.
Even though it is very difficult to inflict a death penalty on a Jew according to the Halacha (it is much easier to inflict it on a non Jew, but this is another issue), murderer of a Jew is put to death in a most barbarous way, described by Maimonides. "One who kills a Jew (literally "who kills souls", in Hebrew "horeg nefashot"), without presence of two witnesses who saw him at the same time but was seen by one after the other; or if he killed before witnesses who did not warn him; or if witnesses were found invalid during a check but not in interrogation (those are necessary conditions to inflict death penalty on a Jew according to the Halacha); then those murderers are imprisoned in a small cell and fed with small amount of bread and a little water until their guts become narrow, and afterwards they are fed with barley until their belly bursts and they die from seriousness of their illness" (Maimonides, Laws of Murderer and Preservation of Life, chapter 4, rule 8). The difference between this treatment, amounting to torturing a person to death, in case of one who killed a Jew and the absence of any human punishment in the case of a Jew who killed a non Jew, shows us the difference between the value of life of a Jew and non Jew in the Halacha, and also explains many things in Israeli politics. It also affords us a glimpse about the kind of state Israel will become, if it becomes a state according to the Halacha, fully attuned to ancestral Jewish morality and tradition, as so many Orthodox Jews desire. It can be presumed that Bialoguski is a part of this tendency.
Let me add that the wish to establish Halacha as law of Israel is particularly strong among those whom "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" calls "Messianists" because they believe that they prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah - who will, of course, rule according to the Halacha. Gush Emunim movement can be regarded as the most active part of the Messianists.
One of most important aims of "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" was to warn people outside Israel, but especially the American Jews (who because of their ignorance of Judaism tend to be especially gullible about the aims and the principles of Orthodox Jews in general and those in Israel in particular) about what Israel influenced by Jewish Orthodoxy might do when Halacha will fully determine its policies. In my view, proved by the examples I quoted above, influence of Halacha will bring about atrocities worse than any committed by Israel so far, but also dangers. Many American Jews may not be very concerned by dangers to Arabs or to world peace, but it is obvious that policies based on Halachic ruling of what the Jews can do to non Jews when they are powerful enough will turn to be also dangerous to the Jews themselves. In the first place, they will corrupt them.
The trivial value of life of non Jew in Halacha is shown also by its manner of reasoning why Jews are prohibited to kill non Jews and by Halachic laws about life of non Jews both ancient and modern. According to great majority of Halachic authorities the prohibition to kill non Jews is not derived by the Halacha from the commandment "You shall not kill" (in Hebrew it is "You shall not murder") in the Decalogue, just as we have seen above that the prohibition not to steal from not Jews is not derived from the commandment "You shall not steal" in it (see the detailed survey in Talmudic Encyclopedia, the original Hebrew, volume 5, article "goy", pp. 355-356.
The survey adds that the prohibition of killing non Jews is valid only in the absence of war, since "during war the saying 'kill the best of non Jews' applies.) In fact, Halacha is based on complete separation between Jews and non Jews. I will illustrate this attitude by one law not affecting the lives of non Jews, showing both the extent of the separation and the extent of tolerance granted by Halacha to non Jews when Jews have the power. Writes Maimonides: "A non Jew who studies Torah (Old Testament and Talmud are included in this term) is guilty of offense meriting death. He should study nothing except their Seven Commandments (the sa called Noahide Commandments given to Noah). In the same manner a non Jew who did not work on Sabbath, even [if he did not work] on another day of the week, if he made it into a Sabbath, is guilty of offense meriting death. Needless to say he is guilty [of offence meriting death] if he had established a holiday.
The general rule is that one should not allow them to innovate about religion from their own reasoning. A non Jew should either convert to Judaism and accept all commandments, or stay in his religion without either adding or subtracting anything from it. [However], if he (a non Jew) did study the Torah or refrained from working on the Sabbath, or innovated anything, he should be beaten up and punished and be told that he is guilty of offence meriting death for what he had done, but he is not executed" (Laws of Kings, chapter 10, rule 9).
Let me add a few other laws or modern rabbinic pronouncements where disregard for a life of a non Jew or even putting him to death is especially glaring. Let us begin with the case of sexual intercourse between Jewish male and non Jewish female, regarded as much worse by the Halacha than the equally forbidden sexual intercourse between Jewish female and non Jewish male, one presumes because of the attitude to the female as a temptress prevalent in Judaism no less than in other religions. Maimonides pronounces: "If a Jew has coitus with a non Jewish woman, whether she is be a child of three or an adult, whether married or unmarried, and even if he is a minor aged only nine years and one day - because he had a willful coitus with her, she must be killed as is the case with a beast, because through her a Jew got into trouble (Laws of Prohibited Intercourse, chapter 12, rule 10; the law is also enunciated in the article "goy" of the Talmudic Encyclopedia). The words "as is the case with a beast" refer to the halachic law stating that a beast with which a Jew had sexual relations is to be killed, for a similar reason to the killing of non Jewish female. Even more important is the prohibition on the Jews to save the life of a non Jew in normal times, and especially the prohibition to violate Sabbath for the sake of saving a non Jewish life as the Jews are enjoined to do for sake of saving a Jewish life. The subject is treated in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" (p. 120), and I have treated it more extensively in my "Jewish History, Jewish Religion" (pp. 80-87), so I will quote here only one law. If Jews see on the Sabbath a ship in danger of sinking they are forbidden to violate the Sabbath in order to save it "if nothing at all is known about the identity of those on board", because the probability is that passengers are non Jews. This pronouncement occurs in one of the major commentaries on Shulchan Aruch written by renowned Rabbi Akiva Eiger who died only in 1837, and the commentary is printed regularly with the text (ibid. Orach Hayim, paragraph 329). I assume that Bialoguski can ask rabbi Lauffer of Jerusalem about his behavior when he sees on the Sabbath a ship in danger in the case he was not previously informed whether there are Jews among the passengers. Rabbi Lauffer must be thoroughly familiar with this law. I have not yet heard about one Orthodox rabbi opposing rabbi Eiger or any Reform rabbi referring to this law, although I should add that opposing him is not enough: he should be condemned as an immoral person, in the same way as the worst anti-Semites are.
After many quotations from Hebrew let me finish my vindication with an English language quotation, taken from an important Jewish publication appearing in New York, and so easily available to all, about the real attitude of Orthodox Jews to non Jews. On April 26, 1996 "Jewish Weekly" important American Jewish magazine published a long and very respectful interview of its staff writer, Lawrence Cohler, with rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, under the title: "Hero Or Racist? Are Jewish lives really more valuable than non-Jewish ones? Radical rabbi just freed from an Israeli prison thinks so".
Let me explain that Ginsburgh was imprisoned without trial some time after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, because as one who had publicly approved from the halachic point of view the massacre of Baruch Goldstein, and lauded that murderer to the skies, was suspected of some involvement in encouraging the murder of Rabin. Let me quote from that interview (worthy of being studied by everyone who wants to know what Orthodox Judaism is. Ginsburgh is correctly described in that interview as an important leader of the Lubavitch Hassidic sect. Let me quote some of Ginsburgh views from that interview. "Citing explicit instructions he says he received from the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Ginsburgh has also strongly defended Jewish revenge attacks on Arabs, at least after-the-fact.
Whether he would tell a Jew to engage in in such a random attacks beforehand 'is a different story', Rabbi Ginsburgh said. But after such an attack took place in response to an Arab provocation, 'You can't even hint it was a bad thing'. Among other things, he explained, the jurisdiction of an Israeli court in such a case is illegitimate because 'Legally, if a Jew does kill a non-Jew, he's not called a murderer. He didn't transgress the Sixth Commandment: Thou Shall not murder. This applies only to Jews killing Jews. Therefore [in a Jewish state] his punishment is given over to heaven' rather than to a secular court". Let me emphasize the key word in this morally repulsive passage is "random", and that Halacha as correctly enunciated by Ginsburgh permits Jews to kill not only Arabs but non Jews in general at random, if other non Jews "made a provocation". In other words, Halacha allows Jews to lynch non Jews.
In terms of the Halacha Ginsburgh is simply accurate and no rabbi had tried to prove him wrong. What I had stated above and what was written in "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel" is only a milder version of what Ginsburgh said, but the real offence was to say it to everybody and not to a Jewish audience. The interview says that "in 1989, Rabbi Ginsburgh was personally involved in the events that led to such a killing when he led a large group of his yeshiva students on an armed West Bank 'walking tour' that slipped around Israeli Army restrictions and assertively through a Palestinian village. The tour ended in a melee that saw the rabbi stoned by angry villagers, the yeshiva boys rampaging through the village setting fires and vandalizing, and a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who was sitting in her house shot by one of the yeshiva tourists". In other words, the event described by The Jewish Week as "tour" was just a pogrom, one of the many organized in the West Bank by Halacha-keeping Jews in the last decades. The most interesting thing about those Jewish pogroms was that no rabbi of importance condemned any of them. In this case, no Orthodox rabbi found a word to say about that "13-year-old Palestinian girl", who was murdered by Halacha-keeping Jews. "At the trial of the yeshiva boy charged with the killing, Rabbi Ginsburgh said bluntly, "The people of Israel must rise and declare in public that a Jew and a goy are not, God forbid, the same. Any trial that assumes that Jews and goyim are equivalent is a travesty of justice".
In accord with this principle of total difference between Jews and non Jews and absolute inferiority of the latter, Rabbi Ginsburgh asserted that "If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA. Later, Rabbi Ginsburgh asked rhetorically, 'If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. 'Jewish life has infinite value' he explained. 'There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life'".
On the day of the publication of this article, the item about halachic permission to stop "innocent non-Jewish passing by" tt his liver, this part of interview was translated into Hebrew and published in Haaretz, the most prestigious Israeli paper, by its correspondent Yair Shaleg. (The story did not appear in the New York Times.) A few days afterwrds, Sheleg called on Orthodox rabbis to oppose this view and declare that it contradicts the Halacha. No one did so till the present day.
Let me add that the few New York rabbis asked by The Jewish Week to comment on Ginsburgh did not say that his views are wrong or that they should be condemned. One said they are based on "statements out of context". Another admitted that "The sad thing is, these statements are in our books," but they are "purely theoretical." (Apparently, the murder of that 13-old-girl was "purely theoretical" because she was not Jewish.)
No one said even a fraction of what I presume he would say had similar statement been made with the word "Jew" and "non-Jew" reversed. In addition to what I had quoted in this Vindication, I conclude from the refusal of any Orthodox rabbi (including "Rabbi Lauffer of Jerusalem" so trusted by Bialoguski) that Ginsburgh's views represent correctly the views of Halacha and of Jewish Orthodoxy about non Jews, and about how Jews should treat them if only they have the power to behave according to Halacha.
Let me add to those who kept silent because, presumably, they agree with Ginsburgh about the non Jews, not only in the Middle East, the Anti Defamation League and similar Jewish organization who follow the media to protest against what they consider a defamation of Judaism. It can be presumed that Ginsburgh's views are for the ADL not a defamation but a part of Judaism. It is against this situation that I wrote this Vindication.
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