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Riskin, on U.S. Visit, Defends Civil Disobedience by Settlers

“Roads may be blocked and if people stop working, they stop working,” said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, outlining the acts of passive resistance he anticipates as West Bank settlers try to thwart the Israeli government’s plan to turn more land over to the Palestinians.

“This was not on the platform for election and is against the will of the majority in every poll taken,” said the rabbi at a news conference here last week. “There is a headlong rush into fundamental changes that could create far- reaching conditions.”

Riskin, spiritual leader of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, arrived here last Friday to begin a brief U.S. fund-raising and speaking tour at synagogues and Jewish federations.

At the news conference, held at a midtown Manhattan hotel, he defended the settlers’ right to work against the Israeli government.

Riskin, who until recently was known for having relatively moderate views about an Israeli-Palestinian accord, has lately been sounding a more aggressive tone.

He has been in the forefront of those who encourage Israelis to do whatever they must, short of violence, to stop their government from handing over West Bank settlements to a Palestinian entity.

“This is the time for passive resistance,” he said. “There are certain moments in time when acts of zealotry become necessary, especially when leadership chooses to become silent.

“We have to do what we have to do in Israel,” he said. “My red line is to never raise a hand against the Israel Defense Force, but I will never leave [Efrat] on my two feet,” he said.

Despite his plea for peaceful resistance, violent clashes between Efrat residents and the Israeli army broke out two days before Riskin arrived in New York, when the settlers attempted to expand their settlement.

The army arrested 42 settlers. Riskin, who in 1965 marched in Alabama for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr., was not among those arrested.

“I tried to get arrested, but they wouldn’t arrest me,” Riskin said at the news conference here.

When asked about how the settlers with guns would be stopped from using them against the army if it tried to evacuate settlements, Riskin said, “No one can raise a hand against the IDF. If someone uses a gun, he has to be punished.”

However, Riskin said he supports the religious ruling handed down last week by a group of Israeli Orthodox rabbis that soldiers who are connected with Zionist yeshivas should disobey any orders to evacuate West Bank settlements or army bases.

Noting that the number of soldiers affiliated with the hesder yeshivas, as they are known, “is not negligible,” he warned: “It would be very hard to put together a group of soldiers who would evacuate a settlement.”

Riskin also urged American Jews to protest the government’s policies “with ads and rallies.”

“I don’t believe in taxation without representation. Eretz Yisrael belongs to every Jew around the world,” he said.

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