Founder of Israeli settler movement dies at 80

Rabbi Moshe Levinger

Rabbi Moshe Levinger

Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who founded the militant Gush Emunim movement which pushed Jewish settlements in the West Bank, died aged 80 on Saturday, relatives said.

Born in 1935 in Jerusalem to a family of German origin, Levinger studied in his youth under Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, the spiritual father of religious nationalism.

Shortly after the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank, Levinger and a group of like-minded people decided to settle in the occupied territory.

Their goal was to create a Jewish presence in Palestinian cities which are important sites from Jewish history, such as Hebron and Bethlehem.

In September 1967, the Labour government authorised the creation of the first settlement at Kfar Etzion, on the ruins of a kibbutz destroyed by the Arab Legion on the eve of the 1948 declaration of the state of Israel.

Levinger founded Gush Emunim, an ideological movement which has championed the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank since 1974.

He was implicated in but never convicted after the arrest of an extremist Jewish network in the 1980s that carried out several anti-Palestinian attacks.

But in 1990, he was convicted of manslaughter for shooting into a crowd in Hebron, killing a Palestinian.

Levinger, who had 11 children, was sentenced to five months in prison but released after three months for good behaviour.


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