(Bulldoze Their Homes) Halakhic Red Lines (Anti-Racism) (Israel)

price tag

I’ve seen people online ask with lots of snark if the government of Israel or Israeli-Jewish public figures will react to the wave of anti-Arab hatred and incitement, the budding Jewish terrorism, with the same severity as the government reacts to the threat of Palestinian terrorism.  Rabbi Daniel Landes has recently called for just that, including the bulldozing of parents’ homes, on principles that fuse democratic and halakhic principles. You can read the whole thing here, but here are what I think are the highlights:

“There is only one sane and truly halakhic way to tackle our current situation: Take the well-known members of the Orthodox Price Tag gang and lock ‘em up, for a long time and in an inaccessible prison. Don’t let them go home for chagim and deny them visitors. Do the best to break and separate them. Freeze monies that go to their families. And when and if we have proven guilty perpetrators, bulldoze their parents’ homes. The last will stop them.


The PTG [Price Tag Gang] is an imminent sakanat nefashot, a danger to life. They are a fire burning on the Sabbath that will destroy not only property, but the lives of soldiers, police and civilians. Indeed, the PTG seemingly wants to cause tension and havoc, leading possibly to war. In their apocalyptic vision, they are confident that Israel will finally “do what it has always needed to do” and act with outstanding force to destroy not only Hamas but the PA and probably all other Muslims.

This is a fiery threat that needs a cold water cannon to extinguish it. When we don’t counter the PTG we destroy a fundamental principle of Torah equality – “One Torah and one Justice should be for you and for the stranger that resides in your midst,” (Numbers 15:16.)


Harsh prison time, punishment to parents who have not exerted responsibility in reigning in their children and isolation from their peers should convince Jewish terrorists and wannabes from their disastrous road.

Finally, rabbis who have been inculcating and preaching the virus of racist revenge need to spend their Daf Yomi [daily Talmud study] time in jail. Ah, but do we not actually owe them our cherished respect? My teacher, the great moral leader Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, often quoted the Talmudic phrase, bimkom hillul HaShem ein mechalkin kavod lerav, “in the place of profanation of God’s name, we do not give honor to a Rav.”

There is no greater Hillul HaShem than a charred corpse of an innocent, murdered by Torah inspiration.”

On a personal note: I’ve been going to Israel, watching Israel, thinking about Israel and Israel and Palestine since the early 1980s. I’ve never seen this kind of clarion call.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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14 Responses to (Bulldoze Their Homes) Halakhic Red Lines (Anti-Racism) (Israel)

  1. Bob Row says:

    He brings to me memories of the great Ieshaiahu Leibowitz.

  2. Michael says:

    Looking at past examples, it should be perfectly clear that the Israeli government and the vast majority of the Israeli public condemn in the strongest terms revenge actions against innocents. Jewish terrorists are usually swiftly apprehended, trialed and convicted. They serve sentences of many years in prison, including life sentences. Their families in the absolute majority of the cases do not stand behind them. Most cases are of individuals operating on their own, not of vast terror organizations with unlimted funding. Therefore, I don’t see the need in such dramatic actions as levelling their homes and denying their families social security.

    The Israeli society and legal system already posess significant and credible deterrence against Jewish terror. Let the law enforcement agencies do their work, including on the murder of the Arab teenager. Speculating that his murder is “inspired by Torah” is the worse thing at the moment. It only encourages Arab riots that disrupt police work – work that will eventually lead to the murderers, regardless of who they are.

    • zjb says:

      Dear Michael: I’m actually not sure what I think of Landes’ actual proposal. But I think it’s point is as much a rhetorical one as to say that there is a lot of unchecked racism in Israeli society, a lot of incitement, and that anti-Arab Jewish violence has just passed a serious and potentially catastrophic tipping point, that the phenomenon needs to be ripped out at the root, and that the future of the country depends upon it. Respectfully yoiurs, –ZJB

      • Michael says:

        I think that rhetorical point is utter nonsense. The Israeli police has swiftly and efficiently upprehended (Jewish) suspects, despite violently anti-productive conduct of the Arab community. The reaction of the Israeli law enforcement agencies, the political system and the Israeli society as a whole proves for me the exact opposite – that Israel has the strength and determination to remain a country ruled by law and order, not succumb to emotion-driven thirst for revenge.

        I also think that the reaction of Benjamin Netaniyahu to this horrible murder is an example of how a prime minister should react – condemnation, commitment to solving the crime and zero reference to non-related topics, not a single shred of blaming the victim or linking the crime to other crimes.

      • zjb says:

        Yes, I agree. All the reactions are commendable indeed. But I think these strong words address only the symptoms, and leave much of the root causes unaddressed. Yes, condemn the murder, but then what? Unlike many of my friends further to my left, I think both sets of murder reflect an emergent one-state condition, a radicalization that is a result of a condition when national identities are under siege. The status quo is going to have to change, one way or the other, or perhaps it is already changing under our very eyes.

      • Michael says:

        Why does everything have to lead to a discussion of occupation and one-state solution? Give credit where credit is due, I would say.

  3. libraues says:

    Reblogged this on Lev Janashvili and commented:
    Exactly right. There should be no preferential treatment for terrorists, whether they perpetrate crimes in the name of Allah or Yahweh.

  4. Zvi says:

    I think this guy is preaching an Israeli theocracy that lines up with his theology. It might be a tad better than the theocracy preached by the zealots on the right (because it’s probably less racist than theirs). I prefer Israeli democracy, and think it’s handling things roughly right; assuming they catch the murderers of the young boy, those murderers will be dealt harshly based on Israel’s modern, liberal legal system. I imagine too that it’s not easy to be a sympathizer of “price tag” in Israel, as neither the society nor its legal establishment take kindly to those racist brutes, and they are probably often under some degree of surveillance and restriction. Given Israel’s inability to totally prevent terrorist murders of Jewish Israelis, it should be little surprise that this free country can’t prevent every “price tag” crime nor imprison every member/sympathizer. I believe that their treatment legally should be no different than that of Israeli Arabs who occasionally commit acts of terror against Jews, and I know there aren’t two different legal categories for those. Palestinian terrorists (who are not Israeli citizens and whose acts are therefore also acts of warfare against the state, esp. those acting on behalf of organizations/regimes external to Israel and sworn to her destruction) are a different case. This is also the distinction Obama’s admin has been (largely) making between homegrown, domestic terrorists and those who’ve left the US behind (or never were citizens), although Obama has occasionally gone one step further when ordering assassinations of US citizens abroad. Voting for Obama in 2012 is not entirely consistent with criticizing Israel for not applying the same law to its citizens as it does to “enemy combatants,” foreign-based terrorists or whatever you want to call them.
    The short of it is that Israeli authorities found the body of the Palestinian boy amazingly quickly (and much faster than they found the 3 Jewish boys) – nearly fast enough to have saved his life, and that Israel and her establishment are committed to bringing those killers to justice. We feel a communal guilt because of the crazy fanatics on the fringe of our community, but so far there seems little cause for allegations of institutional inaction or of turning a blind eye. The last point I’ll make is that we’re all speaking here on the presumption that the boy’s murderers were Jewish zealots (or terrorists), despite the common custom of saying “the alleged” so-and-so in most other cases (when Israel is not the alleged culprit, to be precise). It’s a reasonable assumption for people to make privately (esp. given those jerks cheering on the atrocity), but it’s amazing how quick all these normally-cautious governments, media (and others) were to condemn something as an act of Jewish revenge before any info, let alone evidence was in.

    • zjb says:

      Yes, yes.. But then the logic is put the West Bank under Israeli civil law, end the house demolitions, and give the Palestinians there the right to vote. Or end the occupation. I don’t think Israel can have it both ways for much longer, with sets of law, one civil within the Green Line and one military over the Green Line. Also, today’s morning news is that 2 Israeli Jewish suspects were apprehended for the murder of Muhammed Khedir, presumably for nationalist motives.

      • Michael says:

        They have the right to vote – to their own Palestinian Authority!

      • zjb says:

        An Authority is not a state, and certainly not a viable one. This interim status is recognized by the international community as well as by the State of Israel.

      • Michael says:

        So what? They can still elect a head of state in everything but the name. Instead of nation-building investing in paying convicted murderers ministerial salaries, that’s the main reason the PA has not turned into a state.

      • zjb says:

        I’m pretty sure that we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one. Even Israeli government ministers and security honchos are putting the blame squarely on the Prime Minister for the current collapse.

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