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Top settler rabbi briefly arrested in racism row

June 28, 2011 12:37 P.M. (Updated: June 29, 2011 7:46 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli police briefly detained a leading settler rabbi on Monday in connection with an investigation into a book justifying the killing of non-Jews, police said.

Several months ago, police issued an arrest warrant for Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and other settlements around Hebron in the West Bank, after he failed to present himself for questioning in a probe against incitement.

"Rabbi Lior was detained and questioned for about one hour before being released," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying he had been quizzed over his endorsement of a book called "The King's Torah" which says it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

In a rare move sparked by the arrest, Israel's two grand rabbis issued a joint statement denouncing it.

"We deplore this grave offense against the honor of one of the most important rabbis and leaders of religious opinion," Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar said.

Lior, who also heads the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria, Israel's term for the West Bank, is one of the main spiritual ideologists of the settlement movement.

Right-wing activists immediately called on supporters to gather outside various police headquarters to protest, and Rosenfeld said several youths briefly blocked the main highway leading into Jerusalem from the west.

An AFP correspondent also saw more than 100 protesters blocking another major road nearby.

Last August, Yosef Elitzur, a settler rabbi who co-authored the book, was arrested on suspicion of incitement to violence but freed without charge days later after a court found police had not followed proper procedure.

Written by Elitzur and another rabbi, the book reportedly says babies and children of Israel's enemies may be killed in certain circumstances since "it is clear that they will grow to harm us."

It also said non-Jews were "uncompassionate by nature" and that attacks on them "curb their evil inclination."

"Anywhere where the influence of gentiles constitutes a threat to the life of Israel, it is permissible to kill them," the rabbis wrote.

The book, published earlier this year, has drawn sharp criticism from numerous rabbis who say it contradicts the teachings of Judaism.

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