Last updated: 11 April, 2013

Israel cuts funding to extremist seminary over violence

Israel’s attorney general has backed plans to cut funding to a Jewish seminary in an extremist settlement over violence by its students towards Palestinians and Israeli troops, court documents showed.

The decision by Yehuda Weinstein to back education ministry plans to halt the cash flow to the seminary in the hardline Yitzhar settlement was spelled out in a statement to the High Court on Wednesday.

In response to a petition by the settlement’s yeshiva or Talmudic seminary against the funding cut, Weinstein wrote that evidence from the security forces showed the “widespread involvement” by Yitzhar students in “very serious and wide-ranging violence against the local Palestinian population and the security forces.”

In a 19-page statement, he said the violence mostly took place at a time when the students were supposed to studying, and that the rabbis either “turned a blind eye to it or supported it, and were sometimes involved themselves.”

“Students are involved in many violent activities, carried out in a systematic way over a long period of time, against Palestinian residents and the security forces,” he wrote, citing stone throwing, rolling burning tyres towards troops, vandalising army vehicles, the suspected torching of a mosque as well as other so-called “price tag” hate crimes against Palestinians.

“Public funding cannot be given to a body where a significant percentage of its students carries out criminal activities that endanger public safety, most of them during learning time,” he said.

Such conduct by both students and rabbis was “not consistent with the educational principles and values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” he concluded.

Yitzhar, which is near the northern city of Nablus, is considered one of the most extreme settlements in the West Bank, with its ultra-Orthodox and nationalist residents regularly clashing with local Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

In August 2011, the army handed 12 Yitzhar settlers restraining orders after they were implicated in torching Palestinian mosques, property and vehicles in the area.