The light unto the nations dimmed a bit more this week.
Shas mentor Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef called for a plague to strike the Palestinian people dead. Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the rabbi doesn’t speak for him or his
government, but stopped short of condemning the hateful message. Only two
American Jewish organizations rebuked Yosef over the following couple of days
without being asked by reporters.
Imagine the Jewish outrage if a
Palestinian leader had said, “May our enemies and those who hate us be put to an
end” and may God “smite them with plague.”
Those were Yosef’s words.
Shas’s votes are critical to keeping Netanyahu in power. That may
tepid, albeit quick, reaction to Yosef’s apparent effort to undermine
him on the
eve of his departure for peace talks in Washington.
Netanyahu, who faces
Palestinian demands to continue the settlement freeze that is due to
September 26, had been expected to respond that he kept his commitment
construction, but the Palestinians have failed to curb anti-Israel
as they’ve been promising for the past 17 years.
Now Yosef has undercut
him. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has accused Yosef of
genocide; this time he’s not exaggerating.
How does Yosef’s call for
wiping out the Palestinians differ from Iranian President Mahmoud
desire to wipe Israel off the map? It would be easy to shrug off this
the rantings of a senile old man nearing 90. But Yosef is no newcomer to
incitement. His attitude toward women has been likened to that of the
He regularly vilifies fellow Jews who don’t share his extreme views; he
Holocaust victims were a reincarnation of sinners from prior
Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon were suffering God’s retribution for
lack of Torah observance, Hurricane Katrina victims were punishment for
support of the Gaza withdrawal, and he has called Palestinians
that should be annihilated.
AND HE is not alone. Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman has told the president of Egypt to “go to hell,” called for
the Aswan Dam and advocated the transfer of Palestinians out of Israel.
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has accused Reform Jews of trying to “remove
Israel” and “impose the lifestyle of others, including violence,
assimilation” on a hapless Israel. During the Gaza withdrawal,
told their followers in the IDF to disobey their officers.
Shapiro recently published a book declaring “there is nothing wrong with
murder” of gentiles, including women, children and righteous gentiles
they are not responsible for the threatening situation” but might be a
some day in the future. How does that differ from the justification Arab
terrorists use for killing Israeli children – they could grow up to be
soldiers? Yosef’s call for a plague on Palestinians only days before the
Washington conference looked very much like an attempt to sabotage the
talks even before they began. An unnamed Shas aide, apparently
control, told one Israeli paper that Yosef privately supports continuing
settlement freeze, but another denied it.
When Netanyahu demands an end
to Palestinian incitement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
tell him to “get your own house in order.”
Make no mistake, Palestinian
incitement is far worse and more pervasive than Israeli incitement, but
no excuse for tolerating and even venerating hate-mongers like Ovadia
erode Israel’s moral authority and diminish prospects for a real
Incitement is a more serious threat to peace than settlements,
because it undermines the public support and goodwill both leaders will
when they try to sell their constituents the tough compromises they
are prepared to make.
There’s no shortage of Israeli politicians and
Jewish organizations quick to condemn Muslim leaders for failing to
Islamic extremists, but when the incitement comes from a prominent
they’re suddenly struck dumb. Two rare exceptions were the Reform
which called Yosef’s comments “morally reprehensible,” and the
League, which declared that “incendiary expressions contribute to a
dangerous environment of intolerance and hatred.”
organizations were silent or had to be prodded for a comment.
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley rightly condemned Yosef’s
“inflammatory” words as “deeply offensive” and damaging to “the cause of
But where is he when Muslim leaders (except for Ahmadinejad) hurl
similar invective at Israel and Jews? It is no excuse to shrug off
invective by saying the Arabs are worse. Since when does Israel measure
moral stature by that yardstick? firstname.lastname@example.org