Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ovadia Yosef's Anti-Gentilism, Racism in Israel, and the Failing Zionist Experiment

Ovadia Yosef's Anti-Gentilism, Racism in Israel, and the Failing Zionist Experiment

by Sean Jobst

April 15, 2015

[The following is a parallel study, along with the previous article "Netanyahu's Disturbing Chabad Connections", on Netanyahu's connections to Jewish fundamentalists who hate Gentiles and who wield influence over Israel's policies]:

Ovadia Yosef on Netanyahu: "I respect him."

While the Chabad movement is rooted in Ashkenazim, the Sephardic branch of Jewry is not without its own fundamentalist equivalents. This was symbolized by Shas, the political party founded by Iraqi-born Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. He was generally well-regarded within general Haredi circles, which included the Chabad movement. When he died in 2013, Netanyahu remembered him as one of the "great halachic authorities of our generation." To invoke his "halachic authority" clearly means that Netanyahu agreed with his rulings on Jewish law.

"Moderate" Shimon Peres getting Yosef's blessing

Rabbi Yosef's influence within Israeli political circles was demonstrated by the fact that those eulogizing him also included President Shimon Peres (an alleged "moderate"), Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky. Such praises abounded among Israeli leaders, with only former Meretz leader Yossi Sarid not joining the chorus; on March 3, 2000, Yosef said in a sermon: "God will uproot him just as he uproots Amalek; that is how he will uproot him. Haman is cursed? Yossi Sarid is cursed." (Ma'ariv, March 19, 2000). So much for the much-vaunted Israeli "democracy"!

"Gentiles were born only to serve the people of Israel"

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said in his sermon on October 18, 2010: "The sole purpose of non-Jews is to serve Jews. Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap; and we will sit like an effendi [overseer] and eat. That is why gentiles were created. In Israel, death has no dominion over them....With gentiles, it will be like any person - they need to die, but [God] will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one's donkey would die, they'd lose their money. This is his servant.... That's why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew. Gentiles were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world - only to serve the People of Israel." (Quoted in Jonah Mandel, "Yosef: Gentiles exist only to serve Jews," The Jerusalem Post, October 18, 2010)

"It is forbidden to be merciful to the Arabs. You must annihilate them with missiles"

In 2001, Ovadia Yosef said in a sermon about the Arabs: "It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable. The Lord shall return the Arabs' deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world." (Quoted in "Rabbi calls for annihilation of Arabs," BBC News, 10 April 2001; and Greg Myre, "On the Air, Palestinians Soften Tone on Israelis," The New York Times, December 15, 2004).

One wonders what the reaction would be if a nationalist leader in a European country, an extreme Christian fundamentalist in the United States, or an Islamic leader in a Muslim country uttered such genocidal statements against the "others". Yet, when it relates to Jewish fundamentalism the ties of such leaders as Peres and Netanyahu to such purveyors of hate gets a free pass. One has to wonder what could go through the minds of those who describe such hate-mongers as "moderate," such as what The Jewish Chronicle said in its obituary which memorialized Yosef as "The most significant halachic authority of the last 100 years, whose positions helped fashion a balanced and moderate Judaism."  (Joe Wolfson, "The enduring legacy of Rav Ovadia Yosef," The Jewish Chronicle, London, 11 October 2013, p. 33)

Hurricane Katrina "divine punishment of the blacks of New Orleans"

In 2005, Yosef said about Hurricane Katrina: "There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn't enough Torah study....Black people reside there [New Orleans]. Blacks will study the Torah? [God said,] 'Let's bring a tsunami and drown them'....Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of these because they have no God." (Quoted in Zvi Alush, "Rabbi: Hurricane punishment for pullout," YNet News, 7 September 2005; and "Shas rabbi: Hurricane is Bush's punishment for pullout support," Associated Press, 7 September 2005)

American evangelical "Christian" Zionist leader Pat Robertson publicly blamed Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans on "voodoo," much like he had previously did the same for the Haitian earthquake - both instances exhibiting his latent racism toward blacks. He was justifiably condemned for his remarks by the same U.S. media which seemed silent about Rabbi Yosef's comments (as with other Zionist hate-speech). When some Islamic leaders often idiotically ascribe blame to natural disasters as some kind of punishment, such pro-Zionist outfits as MEMRI are quick to seize upon such ridiculous, reactionary statements for their own political benefit - meanwhile, not a peep from these same "activists" when it comes to statements from the likes of Rabbi Yosef!

Racism in Israeli Society

In his last re-election campaign, Netanyahu's outreach to Sephardic fundamentalism paid off as they represented a major bloc behind his success, according to an Associated Press report. The irony is there have been questions of Netanyahu's own feelings about the Sephardic Jews, such that the former Moroccan Jewish caretaker of Netanyahu's household, Meni Naftali, sued his former employer in March 2014 over abusive and racist treatment, including Netanyahu's wife, Sara's statement: "We are Europeans. We are refined, we don't eat as much as you Moroccans. You are fattening us and then when we are photographed abroad, we look fat." (That Zionism started and grew as a rejection of Europe belies the claim of being "European", but this is another topic).

There is discrimination within Israel based on skin color and complexion even among Jews, a fact ironically highlighted recently by Jewish-American Donald Sterling, the racist ex-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team: "You go to Israel, the black Jews are treated like dogs. Black Jews are less than white Jews. I give them cars, houses, food." This extends to the Ethiopian Falasha Jews, whose sect predates the Talmud (although many have since been adopting Rabbinical Judaism); the Black Hebrews living in Dimona; Bene Israel Jews originally from India; and even generally toward many Sephardic Jews.

The Failing Zionist Experiment

In my opinion, Netanyahu represents a vision of Zionism which has nostalgia for the Ashkenazic culture that specifically arose out of the shetls and ghettoes of Eastern European Jewry. Due to his desire to maintain this character of Israel, Netanyahu has been capitalizing on the alleged rise of  "anti-Semitic" incidents across Europe to stampede European Jews to flee to Israel, in a desperate effort both to stem the tide of (mostly Ashkenazi) Jews fleeing from Israel and provide more settlers to pursue the Zionist expansionist agenda. Demographically, Netanyahu and his ilk are desperate to attract more Jews to Israel in order to grab yet more land from the Palestinians.

Such reasons for the emigration from Israel are high prices and taxes, compulsory military service, and, as pointed out by Ha'aretz columnist Ravit Hecht, the rise of ultra-nationalist fundamentalism. Yet, even a "moderate" such as the late Yitzhak Rabin called those who left Israel a "cascade of wimps" and "fallout of cowards." The reality of Israel is that it has a poverty rate higher than Mexico and Turkey, and is a welfare state propped up by aid from other countries, most notably the United States, and "reparations" from Germany.

Little wonder that increasing numbers of Israeli youth have given up on the Zionist experiment. For example, in 2005 alone the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics announced 650,000 Israelis away for over a year hadn't returned. Some estimates show 40% of Israelis want to leave the country! As British journalist Yvonne Ridley states in a recent article, "This intellectual exodus of Jewish talent is troubling Netanyahu and the rest of the Knesset because it means that the Zionist dream is faltering. Perhaps the Israeli leadership is also worried that, in stark contrast, global calls for the Palestinians to be availed of their right of return to their homeland are growing with each new generation."

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