Reform Movement Leader Condemns Calls for Sharon's Assassination

Yoffie: We refuse to remain silent, again, when rabbis pervert Jewish law to legitimize assassinations against Israel's democratically elected leader.

Monday, October 25, 2004, New York - In response to recent incitement against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

As the Knesset prepares to vote Tuesday on disengagement from Gaza, calls for violence against, and even the assassination of, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have been alarmingly sounded. Among numerous such statements, Rabbi Yosef Dayan declared on Israeli TV that he wishes Sharon would die and that he is prepared to perform a ceremony called pulsa denura, a curse calling for political murder, on Sharon if the disengagement plan is not called off; the rabbi of Jerusalem's old city, Avigdor Neventzal, said that anyone who gave up part of Israel was open to a din rodef, a religious license for a Jew to kill another Jew. Such statements, considered with intelligence information, led Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel's Public Security Minister, to say that he has no doubt that there are people who have already decided they are going to assassinate the Prime Minister.

The Reform Jewish Movement vehemently condemns such incitements. They undercut the rule of law and the democratic character of the state. We find abhorrent the use of Jewish tradition and halacha to instigate violence and a culture of intimidation. That these comments are made by religious leaders -- by rabbis -- make them even more repugnant, and makes it all the more imperative that we denounce them in the strongest possible terms. We must not allow Jewish tradition to be usurped by fanatics who seek to use Judaism to justify non-defensive violence and bloodshed.

Alas, nine years ago, the American Jewish community did not speak out forcefully enough against such incitement before murderous violence took the life of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, z"l. We refuse to remain silent again when rabbis pervert Jewish law to legitimize assassinations against Israel's democratically elected leader.

We call on all rabbis and leaders of the Jewish community, from all streams and across the political spectrum, to condemn strongly such incitement to violence and murder, for such incitement violates Judaism's most basic values and threatens Israel's future.