Campus rabbis in sedition probe

December 1, 1995

Bar-Ilan University, one of whose law students murdered Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, has set up a committee headed by a retired judge to investigate claims of extremism on campus.

The university has come under fierce attack from Israel's political leadership and the public because the student, Yigal Amir, was apparently a member of a much larger extremist religious right-wing group in the law faculty.

The committee, established partly to defend its position as a bridge between traditional religious Judaism and modern Israel, will study the "non-academic" programmes at the university.

The underground terrorist group, of which four additional members were arrested for questioning by the police and security service and two are still under interrogation, appears to have formed under the influence not only of national extremist groups, but also of the politically extreme rabbis and teachers at the university's kollel or religious seminary.

The kollel teachers, as well as other campus rabbis over the past 15 years or more have tended to adopt an ideological message that stresses the Jewish people's God-given right to the entire land of Israel, and totally rejects any political compromise with the Palestinians over the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr Rabin's assassination, at the end of a mass rally in support of the peace process, was apparently motivated both by Amir's desire to punish him for giving up parts of Israel and to paralyse any future peace negotiations.

According to university spokesman David Weinberg, the committee's mandate will allow it to take "strong, and if necessary, painful action" against any university staff including the campus rabbi, implicated in preaching sedition to the students. University teaching staff have asserted their commitment to democracy.

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