Reaction to Israeli Rabbi's "Abhorrent" Comments on Palestinians, the Holocaust August 7, 2000 By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Yoffie: By calling the Palestinians "snakes," and cursed "evil-doers" whom God regrets creating, Rabbi Yosef engaged in the very type of dehumanizing language that has proven so dangerous in the past. Such language inevitably, even if inadvertently, will be heard by some as legitimizing violence?.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, today issued the following statement in response to comments made over the weekend by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the "spiritual leader" of Israel's Shas party:
Comments by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel's Shas political party, this past Shabbat can not pass unanswered. Although his comments on the Holocaust drew most of the public attention, his outrageous remarks about the Palestinians also demand a firm condemnation.
By calling the Palestinians "snakes," and cursed "evil-doers" whom God regrets creating, Rabbi Yosef engaged in the very type of dehumanizing language that has proven so dangerous in the past. Such language inevitably, even if inadvertently, will be heard by some as legitimizing violence against those who are seen as something less than human. The danger of such rhetoric can be clearly seen in the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, and in the countless attacks on Jews over the centuries by those who sought to dehumanize us.
And by admonishing Prime Minister Barak for "putting them [the Palestinians] beside us," Rabbi Yosef raises the specter of ethnic cleansing, an abhorrent idea we had hoped had passed from the Israeli political scene with the death of Mair Kahane. This language can not be repudiated strongly enough. It has no place in Israel's public life - and we call upon political leaders in Israel, including other leaders of Shas - to make clear that they do not share these abhorrent, and dangerous, views.
Rabbi Yosef's comments on the Holocaust, and his suggestion that the victims of the Nazis were the reincarnated souls of Jewish sinners, are nothing less than an unforgivably arrogant blasphemy. Any explanation of the Holocaust that hinges on the guilt of Jews - any Jews - is offensive to the Jewish people, and provides fuel for those who seek to blame the victims for their own deaths.