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Barghouti’s Extremist Lawyer Goes Too Far

06 October 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Shammai Leibowitz, the grandson of extreme left wing philosopher Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz has been asked by the members of his synagogue not to show up for services any more.  They simply do not want to know from him.  Although orthodox, the family is known for its pro-Palestinian attitudes and condemnations of Israeli occupation of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip since 1967.  Professor Leibowitz made the academic rounds and was often interviewed both in the written and electronic media from the time of the Six Day War until his death in the early 1990’s.  Maybe 1% of the Jewish population of Israel agreed with him as he demanded full withdrawal from all territories, including Jerusalem.

Attacking Orthodoxy of which he was a member, he called praying at the Western Wall “disco Judaism”.   He likewise blasted the secular Left, accusing them of hypocrisy (especially the far Zionist left party Meretz) for having any security demands or ‘forcing’ negotiations with the Palestinians when the professor was convinced that only unilateral Israeli withdrawal was necessary.  For him the settlers were ‘fascists’ as was the behavior of the Israeli army.  He detested Menachem Begin and the Likud and unleashed his wrath on Labor as not much better than the Likud.  It was not beyond him to call Israeli policies ‘Nazi’.   Yet he was never asked to leave his synagogue.

His grandson Shammai is the lawyer for Al-Aksa Brigades leader Marwan Barghouti, accused of murdering tens of Israelis and injuring hundreds in numerous terrorist attacks.  There were no problems between the younger Leibowitz and his Givat Shmuel congregation until the second hearing of the Barghouti case.  Shammai decided to equate Barghouti with Moses leading the Children of Israel to freedom through Sinai.  Shammai in other statements has justified Barghouti’s behavior in the indiscriminate killing of Israeli civilians, seeing his client as a ‘freedom fighter’.

The comparison with Moses led to the request that he leave his congregation, and not any other remark or political stance.  This past Friday night there were worshippers who prayed outside not wanting to be with him.  According to Knesset Member Langenthal (a moderate member of the right wing National Religious Party) who attended the services, those who remained inside asked him not to return, many of whom are to the left in their political perspectives.  Shammai Leibowitz did not return on Shabbat morning.  And he probably will not be welcome in any synagogue.

What Leibowitz did was reprehensible, freedom of speech is one thing, cutting and biting insult to the Jewish people is something else.  Say what you want about today’s leaders and policies (Israeli or Palestinian), but leave Biblical figures out, especially in a comparison of Barghouti and Moses.  Beyond this the implication is that the Jewish people are Amalak, the most vicious immoral enemy we faced when crossing Sinai.  In essence Leibowitz is saying the Jews are Nazis and the Palestinians are the persecuted Jews with the mission of spreading a moral code.  He has placed himself squarely on the side of the antisemites who detest the Jews as a people and nation.  His congregation was justified in asking him to leave, forever.

It would be interesting to know what the response of Palestinian mosque congregation would be should one of their members make a similar comparison between any Israeli leader and the prophet Mohammed.