Rabbi Lior Says It’s OK to Kill Civilians ...and other rabbis are silent

By Stanley Heller

The day before the Israeli army shot tank shells to disperse a crowd of demonstrators in Rafah, Rabbi Dov Lior issued a ruling that killing civilians during warfare is permitted if it will save [Jewish] lives. It wasn’t just a remark. Lior’s made it an official Halachic (Jewish law) ruling. He said "The law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them. This is the real moral behind Israel's Torah and we must not feel guilty due to foreign morals.” Lior called civilians “so-called civilians”.

This was reported by Uri Glickman in Maariv International on May 19, 2004. Glickman wrote, “Sources close to the Rabbi explained that Lior made the remarks Tuesday night and they had nothing to do with Wednesday’s events in Gaza.” Of course the violent contempt for Arabs held by rabbis of Lior’s stripe has everything to do with the massacres of Palestinians.

Lior is the chairman of the Yesha rabbinical council, the settler’s chief religious body. The Ma’ariv article pointedly mentioned that other non-settler rabbis would not condemn his statement. A Google search turns up no statement of criticism by any rabbi anywhere.

Rabbi Lior has been a consistent defender of the most violent acts against Palestinians. He was the chief speaker at the memorial service honoring Baruch Goldstein in 1996 on the one year anniversary of his death. Goldstein was killed after shooting dead 29 Palestinians in the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron.

Unfortunately in the orthodox stream of Judaism there are many examples of terrifying statements against non-Jews that men like Lior cite as justification for violence against non-Jews. Israel Shahak quotes an Israeli rabbi writing to a soldier and quoting approvingly of another rabbi who said, “The best of Gentiles- kill him. The best of snakes - dash out its brains”.*

In 1973 a booklet published by the Central Region Command (which includes the West Bank) included a piece by the Command’s Chief Chaplin that state, “When our forces come across civilians during a war or in hot pursuit or in a raid, so long as there is no certaintly that those civilians are incapable of harming our forces according to Halkah they may and even should be killed.”

I should also note that Lior’s resoning is very similar to the logic that Madeleine Albright used when asked to respond to the charge [in 1995] that a half million Iraqi children has been killed by U.S. sanctions. It was “worth it” because it was her responsibility to make sure US soldiers would not have to“refight the Gulf War”.

* Jewish History, Jewish Religion, The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Israel Shahak. 1994. p78.