Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Senior Israeli officials including National Security Advisor Ya’akov Amidror and Interior Minister Eli Yishai held what the Algemeiner calls a “secret meeting” with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, on Friday. Yosef, in his state-funded role as head of Shas’s Council of Torah Sages, is the governing coalition party’s spiritual leader, while Yishai is its political chief.
Senior defense officials have recently been visiting the ultra-Orthodox Shas party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to discuss a possible Israeli attack on Iran.
Some want the 91-year-old rabbi to support it, others to oppose it. At least one visit, in which the rabbi was briefed on Iran’s nuclear program, came at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is battling for support in the cabinet to strike Iran.
One of the visitors to Yosef’s Jerusalem home was National Security Council head Ya’akov Amidror, accompanied by Interior Minister and Shas political leader Eli Yishai, the Kikar Hashabat website reported.
Yishai reportedly objects to an Israeli attack on Iran in the current circumstances, although he has not made his position clear in public.
It is not known whether Amidror or any of the others succeeded in persuading Yosef. However, on Saturday evening, a day after his meeting with Amidror, Yosef said in his weekly sermon: ‘You know what situation we’re in, there are evil people, Iran, about to destroy us. … We must pray before [the almighty] with all our heart.’
Yosef is one of Israel’s most incendiary public figures. In 2000, he claimed that the Holocaust was not “all for nothing,” because its Jewish victims were “the reincarnation of earlier souls who sinned [and who] returned … to atone for their sins,” before “call[ing] the Palestinians ‘snakes’ and ‘accursed, wicked ones,’ and cit[ing] Talmudic commentaries to claim that God was ‘sorry he created’ all Arabs.”
The following year, Yosef said of Arabs, ”It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.”
In 2005, Ynet quoted Yosef on the United States’ Hurricane Katrina:
“There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there (in 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 this because they have no God.”
And in 2010, Yosef provoked a firestorm of outrage and criticism, even from pillars of the American Zionist establishment like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, by comparing non-Jews to farm animals and saying they were only fit to serve Jews.
According to the Jerusalem Post,
‘Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel,’ he said in his weekly Saturday night sermon on the laws regarding the actions non-Jews are permitted to perform on Shabbat.
According to Yosef, the lives of non-Jews in Israel are safeguarded by divinity, to prevent losses to Jews.
‘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,’ Yosef said.
‘Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat.
That is why gentiles were created,’ he added.
Yosef may hold the unenviable but impressive title of Israel’s most prominent and outspoken racist, perhaps in close competition with fellow Shas leader Yishai, who famously said in May, “Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.” Now he has also emerged as a pivotal decision-maker on the launch of a regional war with unknown, but certainly lethal and wide-ranging consequences.
As the Algemeiner explains,
The current position of Shas, as stated by its chairman Eli Yishai who is also a member of the eight-minister security forum, opposes a military strike against Iran. However, if Rav Ovadia is convinced and announces his support for a strike his declaration would bring about a shift in his party’s views.