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‘NPR’ whitewashes Israeli rabbi the ‘Forward’ calls a ‘provocative bigot’

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I can’t get enough of the Rabbi Ovadia Yosef story, of the press’s failure to talk about his racism. Here is a shocking obituary at NPR for the rabbi, by Bill Chappell. There’s no sense that he was a racist who rationalized genocide against Palestinians and who said Hurricane Katrina’s black victims brought it on themselves. Some NPR nuggets:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the Jewish people have lost one of the wisest men of this generation.”…

The New York Times gives us a sense of the man:

“Clad in his distinctive uniform of turban, gold-embroidered robe and dark glasses, etc.

There’s one little fragment of criticism, from NPR:

the outspoken rabbi also famously called several other leaders “evil” — including Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas.

Compare that to the obit in the Forward, the Jewish newspaper. It doesn’t foreground his racism, but it includes extensive quotations showing his intolerance. And here is a terrific remembrance at the Forward, by Aaron Magid, titled “Rav Ovadia Yosef was provocative bigot.”

At the same time, we should not be blinded by his political or religious importance to his shameful discriminatory language. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Yosef said black Americans brought the disaster on themselves.

“There are terrible natural disasters because there isn’t enough Torah study,” he said. “Black people reside there (in New Orleans) Blacks will study the Torah? (God said), ‘let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”

The rabbi’s offensive talk was not limited to the African American community. In 2007, Yosef explained that some Israeli soldiers are killed in battle because they are not observant enough.

More at the link. Oh, but here’s Magid’s last paragraph, doing the most vital work of the eulogist, explaining who someone was, in full:

There is no doubt that Yosef was a key politician, especially for Sephardic religious Jews with roots in the Arab world. However, the understandable impulse to placate an important political base should not prevent Israeli leaders — and opinion leaders — from acknowledging Yosef’s true self. For the sake of black Americans, slain IDF soldiers, and Holocaust survivors, we must not forget.

The problem: How can the general press justify whitewashing a foreign Jewish extremist when Jews aren’t doing so, and some of them are citing the concerns of other members of a diverse American community? I believe the whitewashing demonstrates sensitivity to the sensibilities of a minority community, which is legitimate, but also an unconscious deference to the Israel lobby. (Yosef was an Israeli, remember. The analogies to Jerry Falwell are therefore not fully apt.)

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How about sensitivity to the majority community around the world, and making up 98% of the American population? Yosef declared Gentiles were put on earth to serve the Jews, which POV mirrors precisely what the Nazis said was the Jewish agenda. As pointed out by csmonitor.com: In 2010 he said in a weekly Saturday night sermon that the sole purpose God put non-Jews on earth was to be servants to Jews. “Goyim (gentiles, non-Jews) were… Read more »

“The problem: How can the general press justify whitewashing a foreign Jewish extremist when Jews aren’t doing so, and some of them are citing the concerns of other members of a diverse American community?” I’m curious: which bothers you more, the comments about Israeli soldiers dying because they were not observant enough or the comment about Blacks in New Orleans? Because the press is whitewashing his comments about other Jews just as much as they… Read more »

Blacks will study the Torah? (God said), ‘let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”

The US media has no problem criticizing Pat Roberson, but they let this slide? go figure.

Yosef was straight out of the middle ages. All of this evil and people bringing disaster upon themselves. He probably said the same about everyone murdered at Auschwitz. Poor sephardim are kept ignorant so medieval bigots like Yosef call the shots. The votes are delivered to shas and pork barrel goodies are negotiated while secular jews pay the bills. The religious sephardim are very like northern ireland’s protestant working class. Shafted for so long by… Read more »

This is what my friends and I did when we heard that Ovadia had gone to the place where no one wears sunglasses:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvccyANdjnk