Tuesday, October 8, 2013

There was nothing "spiritual" about Ovadia Yosef's bigotry

[Originally posted at NOW]

Of the innumerable euphemisms adopted in polite journalism to make the nasty business of theocracy sound respectable, few are as irritating as the “spiritual leader” designation. What the writer plainly means (and what the reader ought to see from a mile away), when he debases himself with that sickly platitude, is “authoritarian religious extremist.” Try it out; it works in every instance. The Dalai Lama? A Buddhist fundamentalist who suppresses rival sects and tolerates no democracy within his Indian fiefdom. The Pope? An absolute monarch who professes divine “infallibility” and uses the privilege to sustain a multi-billion dollar enterprise of reactionary propaganda (the very word derives from Catholic doctrine). Gandhi may have led an unimpeachably courageous national liberation struggle, but that doesn’t undo his notorious outbursts of crackpottery, such as his suggestion that the best course of action for Jews in Nazi concentration camps would be to commit mass suicide.

And so it is too with the now-deceased Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel who was universally described in yesterday’s obituaries as the “spiritual leader” of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. Just in case anyone out there is picturing a meek and humble champion of humanity and peace, here (in no particular order) are five of Yosef’s most memorable insights:
  • “Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel.” (Source)
  • “It is forbidden to be merciful to [Arabs]. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.” (Source)
  • “It is no wonder that [Israeli] soldiers are killed in war; they don’t observe Shabbat, don’t observe the Torah, don’t pray every day, don’t lay phylacteries on a daily basis – so is it any wonder that they are killed? No, it’s not.” (Source)
  • “Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] and all these evil people should perish from this world. God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians.” (Source)
  • “[Holocaust victims] were reincarnations of the souls of sinners, people who transgressed and did all sorts of things which should not be done. They had been reincarnated in order to atone.” (Source)

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