The Od Yosef Chai yeshiva religious school in the settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, faces a possible closure, after the Israeli military commander found it to harbor a number of ‘Jewish terrorists’ and promote ideas that are not ‘consistent with democracy’.The head of the military’s Central Command, Avi Mizrahi, made the statement on Israel’s Channel Two television, while at the same time carefully differentiating between the extreme right-wing of the settler movement, which Mizrahi said were a small minority, and the rest of the Israeli settlers, which now number over 500,000 people living in violation of international law in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, both residents of Yitzhar settlement, published the controversial book ‘Torat Hamelech’ in November of 2009, which advocates the killing of non-Jews, including babies, whose presence is deemed to be a threat to the state of Israel.
Rabbi Shapira heads the Dorshei Yichudcha Yeshiva high school in Yitzhar settlement, and is responsible for the education of most of the settlement’s youth.
The book states that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacking them will “curb their evil inclination.” Right-wing Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef was briefly detained by Israeli authorities in late June for his public endorsement of the book, but was released after right-wing Israelis protested and demanded his release.
Yitzhar settlement is known as one of the most extreme right-wing ideological settlements in the West Bank. Dozens of incidents of violence have been documented by Israeli settlers from Yitzhar against Palestinians in nearby villages, including a 2008 rampage through the village of Assira al-Kabaliya in which dozens of Palestinian homes were torched and ten Palestinians were injured. The settlement was established in 1984 as a military base, on lands stolen from Palestinians, and turned into a civilian colony the following year, in violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of civilian populations onto land seized by military force.
In the last several weeks, settler violence in the area has increased, particularly after the brief detention of Rabbi Ya’akov Yosef by Israeli authorities in late June. On July 10th, settlers from Yitzhar invaded the Palestinian village of Assira al-Kabaliya and threw stones at residents while Israeli soldiers stood by and watched. Israeli settlers also burned down 400 olive trees which were the main source of livelihood for Palestinian families from the village.
A spokesman for the settlement told Israeli reporters that the statement by the Israeli military official is meant to ‘persecute’ the settlers, and that the military should not act as the judge in their affairs.