Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has decided not to file criminal charges against Safed's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu over his religious ruling against the leasing of apartments to Arabs in the city. A source at the Justice Department said that Eliyahu's controversial comments could not be verified, despite their reporting by the Israel media.
Last year, Weinstein instructed the State Prosecutor's Office to open an investigation into comments that had been attributed to Eliyahu, in which he elaborated on the rationale behind his controversial ruling, to see whether they amounted to "a publication that incites racism," punishable by up to five years in prison. Shortly after Eliyahu issued his religious ruling, chief rabbis in other cities reiterated his prohibition, in what has become known as the "Rabbis’ Letter."
Eliyahu's inflammatory public statements reportedly include: "Arabs behave towards their women according to social norms backed up by the Quran [the Muslim holy book], according to which a man may hit his wife; and not just delicate blows. A Jew does not need to run from the Arabs. A Jew needs to make the Arabs run. Expelling Arabs from Jewish neighborhoods is an essential part of the strategy."
Eliyahu was also quoted as saying: "Their [Arabs’] behavior is not pleasant. They let an elderly Arab woman live in our neighborhood, Amidar [in Safed]. She has just arrived and has already become a nuisance. Every Saturday, 10 cars full of Arabs come to visit her. The entire population of their village descends on the city. They dare to behave in Jewish neighborhoods in ways they would never dare to behave in their village."
A police investigation produced no conclusive evidence to suggest Eliyahu uttered those exact words. Investigators also said that Eliyahu may have been misquoted.
A statement released by the Israel Religious Action Center (which is associated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism) said the decision served as a "shot in the arm to rabbis and other public figures who incite racial hatred, and could result in a new level of racism against minorities in Israel. The decision leaves no other option but to petition the High Court of Justice."