Friday 26 September 2008


Rabbi calls for annihilation of Arabs

The spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-orthodox Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has provoked outrage with a sermon calling for the annihilation of Arabs.

"It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable," he was quoted as saying in a sermon delivered on Monday to mark the Jewish festival of Passover.

Rabbi Yosef is one of the most powerful religious figures in Israel, He is known for his outspoken comments and has in the past referred to the Arabs as "vipers".

Through his influence over Shas, Israel's third largest political party, he is also a significant political figure.

As founder and spiritual leader of the political party Shas, Rabbi Yosef is held in almost saintly regard by hundreds of thousands of Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin.

The Palestinian Authority has condemned the sermon as racist and is calling on international organisations to treat the rabbi as a war criminal.

'Arab terrorists'

Rabbi Yosef said in his sermon that enemies have tried to hurt the Jewish people from the time of the exodus from Egypt to this day.

"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," he said.

Shas spokesman, Yitzhaq Suderi defended the rabbi, saying his remarks referred only to "Arab murderers and terrorists" and not the rab people as a whole.

'Stirring up hatred'

Palestinian cabinet minister Hassan Asfur urged international civil institutions and human rights organisations to consider Rabbi Yosef a war criminal in future.

The utterances were "a clear call for murder and a political and intellectual terrorism that will lead to military terrorism", he said in remarks reported on Palestinian radio.

He added that no punishment (for the rabbi) would come from Israel "because its political culture and action are in line with [the rabbi's] racist statements".

Israeli Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit also condemned the sermon, saying: "A person of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's stature must refrain from acrid remarks such as these."

And he added: "I suggest that we not learn from the ways of the Palestinians and speak in verbal blows like these."

Salah Tarif, the only Arab cabinet minister in the Israeli government, also criticized Rabbi Yosef, saying "his remarks add nothing but hatred".

Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK

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