Amid Signs of Conspiracy, A Crackdown on ‘Inciters’
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ With a second Jew accused of murder and evidence hinting at a wider conspiracy to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin, debate is brewing in Israel over whether extremists should be muzzled.
On Thursday, leading religious figures said rabbis who encouraged Rabin’s killing should lose their jobs. The Shin Bet security service was reportedly investigating whether rabbinical edicts calling for the prime minister’s death may have inspired the assassin.
Meanwhile, journalists, opposition lawmakers and civil rights activists criticized a warning by Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair that members of the media could be prosecuted for publishing statements seen as inciting violence.
In a letter to news media that appeared to be the first move in a promised crackdown on extremists, Ben-Yair also wrote that those using the media for incitement will be prosecuted. He did not outline possible punishments.
Michael Eitan of the opposition Likud Party said the call violated freedom of speech, and the National Association of Israeli Journalists called the letter ``an attempt to cover up the legal system’s failure to deal adequately with inciters.″
Hanoch Marmari, editor of the Haaretz daily, said his journalists would be permitted to continue reporting ``whatever they feel the public has a right to know.″
Ben-Yair’s warnings could be enforced under existing anti-terrorist legislation that bans publication and distribution of materials that incite murder and violence, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Etty Eshed said.
Police spokesman Eric Bar-Chen said one man was arrested Thursday for condoning Rabin’s assassination on television. The man, identified as David Balahsan, 44, was ordered held for seven days.
At least five suspects, including confessed gunman Yigal Amir, are being held in connection with Rabin’s assassination at a peace rally Saturday night.
Two of them, Dror Adani, 26, and Ohad Skornick, 23, were brought before a Tel Aviv magistrate in handcuffs and shackles Thursday. Both, like Amir, are observant Jews.
Police told Judge Haya Hefetz they planned to charge Adani, a West Bank settler, with murder and conspiracy _ making him the second man after Amir to be accused of murder.
Police investigator Nissim Daoudi said Adani and Amir were members of the group that hoarded weapons and tried to kill Rabin on several occasions. Skornick, Amir’s close friend and classmate, is accused of conspiracy and not preventing a crime.
Daoudi said police searched Amir’s home and found ``weaponry that befits a terror organization, including timers for bombs and grenades.″ The 25-year-old law student insists he acted alone.
None of the suspects has been formally charged.
Police are investigating links between the suspects and groups that follow the teachings of the late Meir Kahane, a virulently anti-Arab rabbi. Avishai Raviv, leader of the militant pro-Kahane group Eyal, was also arrested this week.
Shin Bet also is investigating whether the killing is connected to rabbis who issued religious edicts calling for Rabin’s death because he planned to return some of the biblical land of Israel to the Palestinians, an unidentified Shin Bet official told Haaretz.
Amir has told his interrogators that his deed was in line with Jewish law and that he acted on God’s orders.
Israel Lau, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, said he would do his best to rout any rabbis guilty of such incitement.
``These people must be thrown out″ of their jobs, said Yehuda Amital, a rabbi at a West Bank religious seminary who counsels dialogue with Palestinians.
Another West Bank rabbi, Yoel Bin-Nin, said he would ``fight to the death″ rabbis who were behind recent religious rulings that named Rabin as a traitor and called for his death.
One ruling posted in some synagogues last month was the ``Pulsa Denora,″ an extremely rare curse in Jewish tradition naming someone as deserving of death. Government officials said they were tracking down the rabbis behind the Pulsa Denora and investigating rabbis who allowed it to be posted in their synagogues.
Published religious rulings are customarily signed only with initials. But Bin-Nun said he would name the rabbis responsible by the end of the seven-day mourning period for Rabin on Sunday.