Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ayatollah Abdallah Yussef

Imagine a senior Iranian or Palestinian cleric wishing for the death of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all Israelis or all Jews. There would be an uproar.

On Saturday night, Ovadia Yossef, the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Shas party and a former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, wished for the deaths of Abu-Mazen and the Palestinian people. Instead of denouncing Yossef forcefully and saying he's a despicable racist, Prime Minister Netanyahu only said that the rabbi's views don't reflect the government's views. The US administration forcefully condemned the Shas leader's statement. Even the Anti-Defamation League, which recently shamefully joined the opposition to an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero, did the right thing this time and condemned the rabbi.

Ovadia Yossef has said some outrageous stuff over the years. For someone supposed to be a man of God, he sure does has a filthy and hateful mouth. In the past he has attacked secular Jews, Arabs, gays and other political rivals in unacceptable ways that go beyond criticism of political views or ways of life. However, it seems to me as if he has gone farther than ever before.

I can understand that Netanyahu needs Shas in order for his government not to fall apart, but he needs to find a way to condemn Yossef's words (and not just lamely distancing himself from them) without creating a crisis in the coalition. The Labor Party, if it had any backbone, would have forced him to condemn this call for genocide, albeit a genocide at the hands of God and not man.

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