Harming innocent people ‘is not our language,’ says prominent religious-Zionist rabbi

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Rabbi Yaakov Medan, a leading figure in the religious-Zionist community, has condemned the recent riots and attacks against Palestinian villages by Jewish extremists, describing such behavior as “illegitimate.”

Medan, a dean at the prestigious Har Etzion Yeshiva in the Alon Shvut settlement in the West Bank, said that such attacks were “not our language or values” and condemned in particular the destruction of books, said to be copies of the Quran, which took place in the Palestinian village of Urif several days ago.

The rabbi added that the Jewish riots also divert the attention and resources of the security services from dealing with Palestinian terrorism and should therefore come to an immediate end.

Jewish extremists have in the past week attacked several Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank, setting fire to homes, vehicles, and agricultural fields and in some instances shooting at residents with assault rifles, including in Turmus Ayya, Urif, and Umm Safa.

These incidents followed the terror attack outside the settlement of Eli in which four Israelis were killed when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on people eating at a restaurant next to a gas station.

The riots have been condemned by politicians, including some from the right-wing coalition, but there has been little clear-cut condemnation from settlement leaders or religious figures.

Damage caused to Palestinian homes and cars by Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, on June 21, 2023 (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Har Etzion Yeshiva has been seen as a relatively moderate institution, politically and religiously, owing to the outlook of its founders, although Medan himself has strong right-wing views, opposed the Oslo Accords, and has backed right-wing parties.

“We must do everything, but everything, in order to stop these riots,” Medan told The Times of Israel.

“We do not harm people who have a presumption of innocence. We attack only murderers and those who help them, and that is done by the State of Israel and the security forces, and not every person in a private manner,” he said. “Entering into Arab villages, burning homes, cars, fields must be totally denounced, because this is not our language to harm the property of people who have a presumption of innocence.”

Medan noted that Yesh Atid MK Michal Shir threatened on Sunday in a Knesset committee hearing that opponents to the government’s judicial overhaul agenda would “burn the streets” if legislation harming Israel’s democracy were passed.

“The language of Michal Shir and her supporters on the one hand, and of those who set fires in Arab villages on the other hand, is not the language of people of the Torah, and of those who love God, and those who love the land,” he said.

The rabbi also addressed an incident on Wednesday in which a masked rioter in Urif was seen ripping pages out of what was reported to be a Quran and scattering them about the street.

Israeli security forces argue with Israeli settlers at the entrance to the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya on the day that Jewish extremists set fire to homes and vehicles in the town, June 21, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We need to totally denounce those who denigrate and burn holy books, like we saw with someone destroying a Quran,” Medan said.

But he also said that halting the Jewish riots was important in order to not obstruct the work of the army and security services.

“We need to do everything to support the security services and be with them in their effort to eradicate terrorists and their supporters, and that is our only mission right now — to support them and not to do things that get in their way,” the rabbi said, noting that the IDF and other security services are having to devote significant resources to countering the threat of Jewish extremist violence.

Asked why such incidents have spiraled and increased in severity in recent months, Medan said he believed these actions stemmed from some in the settlements being shocked at recent terror attacks and what he said was their disappointment with how the security forces have “lagged behind” the security situation on the ground.

“You cannot disconnect these events from the distress people are suffering from, due to the fact that in the last six months 28 people were murdered in terror attacks and many others injured, some of them irreversible injuries,” he said.

“It is also impossible to separate it from the fact that left-wing demonstrators block roads and riot to their heart’s content under the cover of the police and no one dares to do anything to them,” he said in reference to protests against the government’s judicial overhaul program. “But this path is illegitimate and we need to stop at all costs.”

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