A prominent Israeli rabbi with a government-funded salary has urged that Palestinian citizens of Israel be banned from driving cars outside their towns.
“Every car is a terror institution and every gas station that provides fuel to Arab cars that travel the roads is a station that supplies weapons and ammunition,” said Elyakim Levanon, the “Regional Rabbi of Samaria” – the name Israel gives to the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
Levanon made his comments to the Ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Hai and they were reported by the Israeli news website NRG.
“Arab cars may not leave Arab cities,” Levanon said. “Arabs who want to do so can travel by bus. Those who use a private vehicle to attack and kill people will not travel in a car … it will take a week, two weeks, or a month until the Arab street [public] will calm down and understand that there is order in the state.”
Levanon’s call came after several recent instances of Palestinians in eastern occupied Jerusalem driving cars into pedestrians, incidents Israel calls “terrorism.”
Palestinians say that the incidents are either accidents, or acts of desperation by individuals responding to Israel’s escalating violence and colonization in the occupied city.
As The Electronic Intifada’s Rania Khalek notes, Israeli settlers have a long history of running down Palestinians with their cars. Last month, for instance, a settler rammed Palestinian schoolchildren as they made their way towards their mothers after exiting a school bus in the West Bank town of Sinjil. Five-year-old Inas Khalil was fatally injured, and another girl, Toleen Asfour, six, was left in critical condition.
But Levanon does not see Jews driving cars as a threat. And, according to NRG, his call extends to “preventing cars belonging to Arabs from leaving Arab towns in Israel” – even though the recent incidents have occurred in areas of occupied Jerusalem where Palestinians are being displaced for Jewish-only settlements.
Levanon is the official rabbi of the so-called “Samaria Region” and is based in the Jewish-only settlement of Elon Moreh near Nablus. As such, he would receive a government salary.
He previously made headlines when he said that religiously observant Israeli soldiers would rather face a firing squad than listen to women sing. Last summer, he also called for the death penalty for the murderers of the Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khudair “even if they turn out to be Jewish.”
Levanon’s call to ban Palestinians from driving recalls a previous demand by dozens of state-funded rabbis that Jews should refuse to rent homes to Arabs.
Indeed, in much the same spirit, the Ultra-Orthodox website Yeshiva World News has interpreted Levanon’s statement as a binding religious edict that “one may not sell gasoline to Arab motorists.”
With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation.