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Jerusalem Post’s Self-Censorship Protects Leading Religious Leader, Cleanses Israeli Racism

rabbi yosef jerusalem post article

The lady–and the article–vanishes Mysterious censored Jerusalem Post article

This post began the way a good number of them do: an enterprising Israeli noticed a newspaper article had been available online for an hour or a day or a year and then, all of a sudden, it disappeared. What happened? Who ya gonna call (to paraphrase Ghostbusters)? Who else? So thanks to David Sheen, the enterprising videographer, and documentarian of Israel’s anti-African race hate, for noting the following mysterious disappearance.

A Jerusalem Post report from 2010 featured some especially noxious remarks by Shas founder, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, likening non-Jews to donkeys whose job was to serve Jews in the days of the messiah. This Nana-Channel 10 report features video of the former chief rabbi’s original statements. Here are a few passages translated:

The Goyim were only created to serve us. If that wasn’t the case they [Goyim] would have no place in the world.

…Jews earn eternal life in the days of the messiah. Goyim don’t. Like all people, they must die. But they earn long life. Why? Think about someone’s donkey. If it dies, he loses it, the money. The same with a servant [ or “the one who serves you”]. You also lose money [when he dies]. That’s why Goyim are given long life so they may work well for the Jews.

…Why do Goyim exist? So that they work [for Jews]. They thresh, they plant, they harvest, while we [Jews] sit like effendi and eat [our fill]. That’s why Goyim were created.

The remarks are especially important in the context of the Israeli work force which is filled with poor migrant labor from around the world, but especially from Asia and Africa. Without this cheap, victimized workd force, Israel’s economy (especially the agricultural sector) couldn’t function.

It’s no accident that some of the most virulently racist language attacking African refugees in Israel has come from the Shas interior minister and disciple of Rabbi Yosef, Eli Yishai. In this sense, Yishai is giving license to his followers to incite such hate through sermons like this one.

The remarks also impact (or should) the close relationship between the evangelical Christian Zionist movement and the Likud-settler political agenda. Though it’s doubtful anything can break the hold of this ideological kinship, at least true believers like Hagee and his flock should know that they’re held in deep disdain by Rabbi Yosef and tens of thousands of his true believers.

In the past few weeks the Post article, which had been publicly-accessible since publication, vanished. When clicked, the old link brought a reader back to the Post’s main page. There wasn’t even a Page Not Found message. Just gone. Why?

I called the Post and spoke briefly to the editor of the online edition, who asked me to send an e mail. After I did, I received a response from Steve Linde, the editor, who wrote that he ordered the article expunged after receiving a condemnation of the Rabbi’s remarks from a reader who was affronted by them and believed they would encourage anti-Semitism. Because of the supposed danger that this posed to Jews and the Post’s own responsibility for fomenting such violence, the central European reader, in stilted Germanic-phrased English, insisted that it be removed:

The speech [by Rabbi Yosef] is frightening and should be removed from access. The content is (1) not true Judaism and (2) harmful to the Jews all over the world.

1. His sayings violate the European Convention on Human Rights – which Israel is committed to.

2. Such speech is doubtless to be categorized as definite hate-speech, it would be prosecuted due to Criminal Law in European States.

We, the Jews in the Galut, seek protection by law enforcement against hate speech nowadays from Muslims and Nazis. We, Jews, should therefore not be excepted from those standards, we claim for.

3. We, the Jews in the Galut, are sensitive against Hate Speech specialy in Europe, after experiences of Nazism and Antisemitism.

4. That Rabbi is irresopnsible about the Jews in the Galut, but also for the Jews living in Israel. Any withdrawal or correction of his words is missing. Your distribution extends the broadcasting.

5. The source and proof of his sayings is not retraceable as based on thora. It is contradicting to core principles of humanity and equal diginity of men…

7. The resonsibility of Broadcasters is to be claimed, for distributing Hate Speech uncontrolled. We criticise muslim media for broad-casting hate against jews. How are ours ?

8. It is the responsibility of competing media, as JP, to claim, that such “nonsense thora” which is merely “succed out of the fingers;” deserves to be daemonized.

9. It is in the responsibility of the Official Israel, the Cabinet, to mark clearly and expressively her distance from such speech, which its intentions are not and against the standards of a “Jewish State of Israel” they claim for. Because : R. Yossef is not just a irrelevant “stibl darschan”.

10. It is the obligation of Israeli Prosecutors to investigate and check the criminal charge of the speech, as they would have to act in case of a muslim hate speech of that category.

11. It is the responsibility of the Chief Rabbanut to correct and to eliminate such pseudology as being not part of the Jewish Religion and Jewish Self-understandig.

Further they have to provide to the public in the future responsible content, which is correcting that wrong attituded ideology.

12. That Rabbi destroys any credibility of believers in Judaism. Belivers and Chilonim have the duty and obligation to ban explicite and clearly such poisoning snaky bits.

13. I cannot understand, why that Rabbi is harming the identity of Jews all over the world, which do have to stand their belive in the eyes of toleant goim and against the critic friends of jews. If due to his curled logic, we deserve to be humiliated – in retorsion.

14. I cannot understand, why I have to defend my suchwise discredited jeopardized Jewishness against goim, who will refer to his authoratiative Speech.

15. Expecting some consequences, pls delete your report from J.P. accessibility

Though I sympathize with some of the arguments offered by the reader, especially the ones critical of Yosef’s tenuous connection to actual Jewish sources, the stance of the reader and the Post’s subsequent actions should be seen in a far different context. What is the purpose of a newspaper? Or to be more explicit, a Jewish newspaper? Are those purposes different? If so, why?

Is it the responsibility of a Jewish newspaper to protect the sensibilities of its readers? To censor from its pages news that is either disturbing or troubling or even possibly dangerous in some ill-defined way (I’m not talking about an article that reveals personal information that might put a specific person in danger)? Is the Jewish periodical’s primary duty as a journalistic enterprise to Judaism or journalism? What if there is a conflict between the two?

Clearly, the Post editor chose the easy way out on this one. He could’ve engaged with the reader’s suggestions and asked for an editorial denouncing Yosef’s comments. He could’ve even asked for another news article in which the reporter queried the police as to whether the rabbi’s drasha violated Israeli law. He couldn’t asked for comment from Israeli religious authorities on the statements to put them into a more critical context.

Instead, he opted to take the article down. Among the many reasons that this was a terrible idea: a newspaper is the media forum of record for a community. It tells us what we did and said on any given day in time. It is a reflection of who we were at that moment. If we decide to fudge and shape that record by removing the nasty bits then we will leave a distorted record of who we were. Instead of showing the real people of our time, we show a prettied up version. One that doesn’t rock the boat. That doesn’t overly upset anyone. It’s history gussified, a photo retouched in order to remove wrinkles and other blemishes.

If Jewish leaders espouse racist views should we expunge them from the record and pretend they didn’t happen? Or should we address them head on and rebut them vigorously? Do we take the easy way or the hard? Does it serve the nation for Israel’s leading English-language paper to refinish and retouch contemporary Israeli reality?

I don’t mean only to single out the Post here since all Jewish media, almost without exception, is guilty of this practice in one form or another. The allegiance isn’t to journalistic principle, accuracy or even truth, but rather to some polite, unthreatening consensus of who we are as Jews. Jewish newspapers don’t rock the boat. They generally tilt pretty far to the right in terms of pro-Israel views, but they try to avoid the extremes (at least as they see them). Don’t offend the sensibilities of the readers, seems to be the rallying cry.

This isn’t journalism. It’s boosterism. It’s looking at our existence as Jews through blue and white colored glasses. It does no one any favors.

Sarah Benton of Jews for Justice for Palestinians pointed out that Haaretz covered this same story in 2010 and thankfully has different journalistic standards, as its story remains available here.

When Jewish historians looks back in 100 years over these times, the publications that will be least useful to them will be the ones that pulled their punches, that censored or tailored their coverage to what they thought people wanted to read instead of what really happened.

In the particular case of this story, Linde’s decision was especially unfortunate. Yosef is a former chief rabbi and the founder of the most powerful religious party serving in the Knesset. He is a political king maker. Even Bibi Netanyahu consults with the rabbi and solicits his blessing for an attack on Iran. What this man says has vital bearing on Israeli society. If he’s a stark-raving racist lunatic, then expunging his remarks from the online record does a terrible disservice to the Israeli public who ought to have a record of his remarks to consult.

When pro-Israel advocates point to the perceived outrages of the nation’s Arab enemies they love to talk about anti-Semitism, racism, genocide. All the normal tricks of the trade of the political spinmaster. But the Post has done political debate a great disservice by making it less possible for researchers to know that there is as much racism and ignorance on the Israeli side as there is in the Arab world. The only way we can come to an accommodation in the long run is by recognizing that each side is wrong and each side is right. None is all wrong, none all right. To know this, to understand that we are each flawed, allows us to come to terms with each other eventually. What the Post has done has made it harder for Jews to recognize their own flaws in order to combat and rectify them.

Further, Israel is in the middle of election season. Shas, Yosef’s political party, promises to play a key role in determining the next government. Again, voters deserve the right to know everything the candidates and their mentors say on issues of import to the nation.

One may argue that at his advanced age, Yosef may be barely in control of his mental or verbal faculties (his speech is barely intelligible and required Hebrew subtitles for TV viewers). Like Pat Robertson, he’s prone to frequent embarrassing gaffes of this type. These incidents invariably hold the Rabbi and his movement up to scorn. But they do nothing to distance his followers from him. Their adoration has no bearing on logic or reason. Which is part of the danger of the movement he leads.

Despite his infirmities, what Yosef says matters. It has impact on the nation. It should not be cleansed. It should be seen and read and debated.

Finally, lest any bona fide anti-Semites be reading this, know that Ovadia Yosef is about as authentic a representative of any authentically Jewish tradition as any radical Islamist cleric is of Islam or John Hagee is of Christianity. In other words, before you make the claim that what Yosef says represents what most Jews believe you better be ready to make the same claim of Muslims and Christians. We know that these individuals, no matter how noxious their views and how many followers they have, do not represent more than a small minority of the adherents of their particular faith.

I do concede that Yosef is especially dangerous because he is well-connected both religiously and politically. His views do reflect those of many Israelis, (but not of most Jews, not nearly). It’s one of the special themes in fact of this blog: warning readers of Israel’s decline into a vortex of racism and hate. But let’s be careful not to overgeneralize.

I’ve captured a screenshot of the Google cache version of the page and featured it here so you can read the original story.

{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Bob Mann December 20, 2012, 5:10 AM

    Palestinian media ought to do the same. Amazingly, no Palestinian source produced a full English translation of Meshal’s recent speech. Nor did any media outlet in other Arabic-speaking countries, or sources that cover Palestinian issues in the US (such as Electronic Intifada). Sanitizing the truth serves no one. When powerful people, be they Israeli or Palestinian, make major public statements, the public has a right to know what they are saying.

    • mary December 20, 2012, 7:34 AM

      It’s not remarkable at all, Bob, but very common in this part of the world that many things are never translated into English. Hardly anything from Palestinian sources is translated unless an individual newspaper or blog has its own translator. It is the same situation here in Egypt. If you want Meshaal’s speech translated, you may have to obtain a copy in Arabic and pay a translator. This is usually what journalists do. It is not “sanitizing” anything – if they wanted to do that, they wouldn’t publish in Arabic, either.

      • Bob Mann December 20, 2012, 3:56 PM

        Where can one obtain a copy of the speech in Arabic? Can you point to a source that has published it?

    • Richard Silverstein December 20, 2012, 11:12 PM

      Bob, if you mention this issue one more time I’m going to wring you out to dry. You’ve gone on & on here for weeks about Meshal’s speech. Give it a rest now, finally. And that’s not a request. It’s an order.

      I RESENT your imputed claim that Arab media were “sanitizing” anything regarding Meshal’s speech. You’ve gone way over the line on this one & I’ve simply lost patience. No Palestinian source has any obligation to you or anyone else to translate Meshal’s speech or do anything you believe they should for that matter. The way things work in the world is that if you think the issue is important YOU do it or find someone who will. If you don’t or can’t, STFU for God’s sake.

      Another word on this & you’re toast.

      • Bob Mann December 21, 2012, 5:30 PM

        I must say that I am really taken aback by the tenor of your remarks. I’ve been a follower of your blog since the earliest days and an active commenter for the past several years. During that time, I have always treated you with courtesy and respect, and I really thought we had established something of an online friendship. I am avid supporter of this site and try to spread the word about it however I can. I feel you are an important voice who has encouraged me to think about many issues in new ways, and I have devoted an inordinate amount of time to reading the blog and contemplating its contents. This goes back to the days when you were discussing world music, pastries in Seattle, and issues/concerns with various schools (and playgrounds!) in your area, in addition to the ins and outs of the many Israeli-Palestinian issues that have always been near and dear to your heart. You’ve credited me in the past for correcting small errors, and, in fact, I believed I helped to spur the change in the subheading for your site (which used to include references to topics that are no longer featured). That you can so flippantly write “Another word on this & you’re toast” is startling to me in light of this experience. I am not sure that you can fully understand the emotional investment expended by some of the followers of your blog, but, in some cases, for those who are (for one reason or another) forced to get most of their social interaction online, a site like this one is more than just a blog, and a host like you is really more like a friend.

        With respect to the matter at hand, you wrote: “You’ve gone on & on here for weeks about Meshal’s speech.”

        However, the reality is that, with the exception of that single post above, I’ve not mentioned Meshal’s speech once in any context other than in response to the article you published about his speech on December 10th.

        That is all I will say on the subject, as per your wishes.

        • Richard Silverstein December 21, 2012, 6:44 PM

          @Bob: I thank you for your long history of interest and support of this blog. Your memory of the history of my interests here is impressive. Rivalling perhaps only my wife’s, since she too was there from the beginning.

          If you perceived my response as overstrong, you have to understand that I deal with many commenters and have found at times its best to be pretty disciplined in responding. I stand by my criticism of your approach and criticism of Palestinian media for supposedly shirking their duty or trying to hide from something, in not translating the Meshal speech. I’ve found that when you need something done you often have to do it yourself. YOu simply can’t expect others to do so, even when you think they should. It doesn’t do any good to blame others.

          • mary December 21, 2012, 11:53 PM

            One last word on this – that it is also quite likely that there is no English translation of Meshaal’s speech for the usual reason – that the news media does not consider what any Palestinian has to say to be of any importance beyond what they wish to share with their readers. English translations of Hebrew speaking Israeli politicians abound, but not so for Palestinian leaders who speak Arabic. As always, the Israeli-western narrative of the occupation dominates.

  • pabelmont December 20, 2012, 5:50 AM

    Richard, Thanks for this essay.

    ” believed they would encourage anti-Semitism”. Well, yes, indeed. The yanking of this article suggests that Jews in Israel are capable — on occasion if not always, e.g., w.r.t. settlements, war-crimes, and occupation — of respecting the old Jewish Galut rule of making nice with the neighbors among whom you must live, and whom you do well to fear.

    This whole thing admits of these possibilities:

    [1] the good rabbi truly describes a non-orthodox (but not widespread) view which is (from many perspectives) just awful.
    [2] the good rabbi truly describes a non-orthodox (but widespread) view which is (from many perspectives) just awful.
    [3] the good rabbi truly describes classic and (but no longer current) orthodox belief, which is (from many perspectives) just awful.
    [4] the good rabbi truly describes classic and still current orthodox belief, which is (from many perspectives) just awful.
    [5] the good rabbi truly describes one classic and still current (but not universal today) orthodox belief, which is (from many perspectives) just awful.

    If [1], the rabbi should be and should have been denounced widely and publicly. I assume he was not. So it’s not [1].
    If [2], well, this is pretty bad, and explains why the thing was not denounced, but not why it was published in English
    If [3], what was the purpose of the article? So, it’s not [3].
    If [4], and this became known, Jews should truly be scourged from the earth. Hence surprise the thing was ever published in English. (OTOH, Hebrew — especially with esoteric readings — is a sort of secret language well suited to the purpose of keeping such secrets, as, presumably, it has long done.)
    If [5], This is a replay of [2]. But maybe there are different flavors of orthodoxy, each widespread, each well-defended, and not the same (e.g., in regard to non-Jews).

    I have concluded from the publication without a loud denunciation that his view is widespread, but possibly not [admitted to non-initiates as] current orthodox belief. Not reassuring. The fact of the publication in English must be the result of a really triumphalist view that Israeli Jews are kings, are unassailable, can do no wrong, cannot be unseated, can mistreat any and all non-Jews, cares not a wink for the opinions even of USA Jews, or USA anyone else (one can think of unkinder ways to say that).

    • Castellio December 20, 2012, 9:22 AM

      Pabelmont, that’s an interesting list of possibilities. My intuitive feeling is that it is number 5. The line of thought is both historical and current, and is sufficiently widespread that the comments are received as unsurprising. What is surprising is that the article was published in English, where it might cause harm, and it is for this reason the article has been expunged. Richard gets the dynamic right: but what to do about this kind of on-going and very deep racism which has immediate and long-lived consequence? Richard, also, I think, gets the answer right: expose it to sunlight; let it be seen for what it is.

      The difficulty is in the reporting of the major media in western Europe and North America, where the truth of this kind of more-prevalent-than-we-want-to-admit racism is studiously blocked, while Islamophobia is nurtured and supported.

      • Davey December 20, 2012, 7:49 PM

        A very interesting post.

        Perhaps the story was expunged because it violated the sanitized image of Israel and Jews promulgated in the West in the English language. It was published in the first place because it was perhaps not seen as disturbing to an Israeli readership, an inadvertent editorial lapse revealing the burgeoning local Israeli ideology of exceptionalism. Just a hunch. A complaint from abroad awaken the editors to their own lapse and they sought to remove the evidence of their failure to dilute or simply not print these frank exceptionalist statements. We do see evidence of exceptionalism in many reports and interviews particularly of course in right wing chatter, but rarely something this frank and obnoxious.

        I am suggesting that JP did not get it inadvertently “right” at the time (by publishing the interview) and then tried to cover it up but perhaps failed to expunge it in the first place and then sought to hide the editorial failure.

        • Rain December 20, 2012, 10:57 PM

          The idea that Ovadia Yosef’s opinions are published by the JP in the knowledge that they are acceptable in a positive sense to a broad Israeli readership driven by “exceptionalism” shows little understanding of Israeli society.

          I don’t believe there was anything systematic in the article removal, nor any deliberate attempt to cleanse evidence. It was simply the easiest choice, if not the wisest. The JP report news here in Israel, and outrageous statements by religious leaders are news. Unfortunately Israel has a fair number of these, as evidenced numerous times by JP articles. They aren’t cleansed, are easy to find, and available for all to see.

          link to jpost.com – 40 rabbis – Jews shouldn’t rent, sell homes to gentiles
          link to jpost.com – West Bank rabbis – Allow live fire at stone throwers
          link to jpost.com – Shapira’s distinction between Jewish and Gentile blood

          • Davey December 21, 2012, 11:00 AM

            I see your point — there’s nothing hidden in any of this. In view of your references, it is interesting that I thought my hypothesis plausible in the first place as though I expect something devious and disingenuous.

  • Diane V. McLoughlin December 20, 2012, 8:46 AM

    Solid argument. Well-written. Shared.
    [*vortex, etc. – would benefit from proof-reader polish.]

    • Richard Silverstein December 20, 2012, 11:25 PM

      My staff proof-reader was out sick that day and the “polisher” was looking for diamonds at Lev Leviev. It was just me all by my lonesome. Any reader who’d like to donate to support the work of this blog is welcome to do so. If enough did we could add more “proof reader polish.”

  • Pete December 20, 2012, 9:47 AM

    When I read yosef’s words I thought I must be reading something from the protocols of the elders of zion. If this is for real, and is how he and his shas followers actually speak, they belong in the same category as the westboro baptists and all the klan; purveyors of hate-speach.

    • Yonatan December 20, 2012, 10:12 AM

      The Westboros do not necessarily believe the messages they display, for example, at the burial ceremonies of US troops. They are purely out for money.Their scam is to try to incite a violent physical reaction so the Westboros (all lawyers) can launch legal suits against anyone and everyone involved or associated – the person who falls into the trap, the police for not defending Westboros’ rights, the event organizers, etc etc.The Wesboro crowd take great pains to avoid accusing anyone directly, it’s always generalizations – God hates gays etc. This allows them to claim that they did not make explicit claims against the fall guy.

      Yosef and the rest appear to actually believe what they say.

      • Pete December 20, 2012, 10:59 AM

        unless of course yosef, like the westboros, is also playing a double-bluff: set up anti-semitic opposition so he can play to it to his supporters…he’s now probably incapable of such gymnastics but i’m sure there are those in shas who are…

  • Fred Plester December 20, 2012, 12:45 PM

    Interestingly, this very week, a Mr William Connors appeared in Gloucester Crown Court, charged with putting the Rabbi’s philosophy very much into practice.

    link to dailymail.co.uk

    For which he has now been sentenced to an absurdly lenient six years jail. However, the senior investigating officer proposes to apply the Proceeds of Crime Act with some vigour, which may see some justice done as Mr Connors has assets worth millions of pounds.*

    The attitude behind the crime is very much the same as the Rabbi, too: everyone not of the Connors clan exists only to be exploited. Strange thing: of the four groups of people prosecuted under the servitude act so far, three have had the same Connors surname -and the group of Asians who were first to be prosecuted were acquitted, so everyone convicted of this offence, so far, has the same surname. I would welcome the Rabbi’s opinion on whether or not the Connors are one of the lost tribes of Israel.

    * had this offence been committed prior to 1979, Mr Connors would have been risking an early morning appointment with the hangman. Margaret Thatcher and Kenneth Baker, under the guise of abolishing capital punishment for slavery, actually decriminalized it soon after coming to power, something that was only put right in 2010. Within ten years of Baker suspending the old anti-slavery legislation, Mr Connors had his own version of the Rabbi’s utopia up and running. This is not an abstract theological fancy: there are people who really will do this kind of thing.

  • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 20, 2012, 12:56 PM

    Is there a way to know, with reasonable level of accuracy, what percentage of Jews are fans of this Rabbi? Percenatge of Israeli Jews and Jews in total. By fans I mean followers AND non-followers but still like what he stands for.

    • Bob Mann December 20, 2012, 2:29 PM

      38 and 14 respectively.

      • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 20, 2012, 2:38 PM

        Refrences, please.

        • Bob Mann December 21, 2012, 5:35 PM

          I believe those are the correct percentages of practicing Sephardic Jews in Israel (first number) and the world (second number). I have textual reference (possibly outdated) but no online links.

          • Richard Silverstein December 21, 2012, 6:47 PM

            I see. But keep in mind that not every Mizrahi Jew is a Shas follower (though many are). That’s why I would say that the number of his followers & those who accept his general set of views of non-Jews would be less than that 38% number. Probably more like 20%+. And far less than the total number of Mizrahi Jews in the world would accept Yosef’s views. His influence outside Israel, while still great, is not as strong as inside.

      • Richard Silverstein December 20, 2012, 11:29 PM

        How could you possibly know this & produce such specific figures? Unless you’re guessing.

        • Bob Mann December 21, 2012, 5:37 PM

          From a reference volume that has percentages of Sephardic Jews in Israel and worldwide, as well as practicing vs. non-practicing. Numbers may no longer be valid as the book is over 20 years old. If there is a more current edition you know about, please do share.

    • Richard Silverstein December 20, 2012, 11:29 PM

      My guess is around 20-25% of Israelis (he’s the leader of the Mizrahi Orthodox community). In terms of world Jewry, much less. Hard to quantify. Maybe 10% possibly, probably less. This is all seat of the pants educated guess work though.

      • shmuel December 21, 2012, 6:03 AM

        Your term “mizrahi orthodox community” is not a sufficient definition.

        Mizrahi has a double meaning in Israeli terms – associated with eidot hamizrah (= sfaradi), or, belonging to the national religious voters (the former name of the mafdal or the now so-called “bayit yehudi”)

        Yosef’s support group is solely amongst sfardi jews of hareidi persuasion, which is at most 10% of the population.
        Ashkenazi jews, hareidi or otherwise, will either ignore or laugh at him as a buffoning fool who always puts his foot in it and then leaves his followers to clean up the mess.

        Outside of Israel I suspect his support is next to zero, as there are very few hareidi sefaradi communities outside of Israel.

        The only time he gets any support outside of this group is regarding the peace process – he is the only rabbi of any standing that permits withdrawal from the OT to save lives, and thus gets temporary support from relgious lefties

    • Fred Plester December 21, 2012, 12:14 AM

      As the cousin of a gentile who married a Jewish boy from Highgate, I’d say it’s the mother-in-law demographic who follow the Rabbi and the others maintain a nervous silence from behind the Jewish Chronicle rather than stick their heads above the parapet.

      At least, it’s going to be the ones who don’t have to engage with the non-Jewish world very often.

  • yankel December 21, 2012, 5:09 AM

    It’d be just fair to mention that “RavOvadya” (Yosef) is a famed proponent and a highly successful practitioner of all-encompassing parasitism in general, leaching on to any defenceless leachable flesh, non-orthodox Jews’ gladly included.

  • Arie Brand December 22, 2012, 4:22 PM

    The distinction between “insiders” and “outsiders” – and the negative or positive emotions engendered by it was probably necessary for survival in earlier stages of history. The distinction has not yet disappeared but, quite in general, one can say that the boundaries of the “in” group have become vaguer and vaguer. We are now able to empathise with people “who are far from our bed”. Unfortunately religion is still one of the main barriers to greater inclusiveness. Wherever one looks around the world we see strife fomented by religion. To refer to the most recent example (this morning in the -Dutch- news): the total destruction of Moslem villages in Buddhist Burma. I must often think of the title of Hitchens’ “atheist” manifesto: “God is not Great – How Religion poisons everything.”

    • mary December 23, 2012, 12:42 AM

      Hitchens was wrong. Religion does not spoil everything, but ignorance does. Intolerance. And perhaps politics.

      • Elisabeth December 23, 2012, 2:51 AM

        I agree. I said this before, but people are just as capable of killing in the name of “the people”, or “the party” or whatever as in the name of religion. Singling out religion as the cause for ethnic strife and intolerance just means you are wilfully looking away from all the other factors at play (economics, nationalism, secular ideologies etc. etc.).

      • Fred Plester December 23, 2012, 8:20 AM

        I wondered why, when Hitchens was deemed by his supporters to have won his valedictory “debate” shortly before he died, whether it was a put-up job, in that religion was represented by Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Like getting Kenneth Noye to represent Bullion-van drivers.

  • Arie Brand December 23, 2012, 2:45 AM

    Religion and ignorance (sometimes wilful and “learned”ignorance) have a symbiotic relationship. About the “learned” ignorance: Lecky, in his history of rationalism, stresses that it was the most learned and acute 16th and 17th century theologians who supported most heartily the persecution, torture and burning at the stake
    of witches and believed that the abolition of this practice would be a death blow to christianity. This is only one example. The historical record is very grim.

  • Arie Brand December 23, 2012, 3:35 AM

    I “singled out” religion because it was an example of religious bigotry that was the subject of Richard’s post. But there is another reason for looking specifically at religion just now. Look around. The “people” and the “party” as providing a reason for killing are (temporarily?) in abeyance. Right now it is religion that sets people at each other’s throat or at least helps to intensify economic and social differences that lead to the same result..

    • Elisabeth December 23, 2012, 6:23 AM

      Usually if you dig deeper into the local circumstances you find other more important or equally important factors. For instance: In Ireland protestants en catholics were at each other’s throats but don’t you think the crucial factor behind things getting violent was the colonial history of Britain in Ireland? Also, making generalizing statements on religion based on the fact that at the moment communism or fascism play no real role of importance anymore (except in North Korea with its gulag) is not entirely fair. If you generalize, you should include as many aspects as possible, and look at violence and intolerance in the past as well. Finally, why do you think “the people” play no role anymore? Nationalism is still important (China vs. Tibet for instance, or Turkey vs. the Kurds) and in Ruanda the whole propaganda that led to the massacre was based on “our people” against “their people”.

      Someone once said that “religion makes good people better and bad people worse”. That – in my opinion – is far closer to the truth than the kind of thing Hitchens comes up with.

      Tenslotte: Vrolijke kerstdagen gewenst ;-) en een gelukkig nieuw jaar!

      • Davey December 23, 2012, 10:28 AM

        It seems to me that religion often forms the structure for conflict, the excuse or rationale, but that underlying historic, economic forces are more often better explanations regardless of what a group articulates or thinks it is doing. The history of English colonialism in Ireland is a classic example, you cite, and probably the Islamization of Arab political life is another, or Judification of Zionist politics. The latter may be more rooted in class conflict than faith and belief. Spain certainly found it convenient to clothe its exploitation of the “New World” in religious rhetoric. While sometimes inadequate, economic power is often a good start in explaining historical phenomenon. I think we see a re-emergence of religiosity because other modern referents are exhausted or discredited including both capitalism and communism, as examples.

  • Arie Brand December 23, 2012, 11:17 PM


    The subtitle of Hitchen’s book (How religion poisons everything) can be regarded as a proposition but not as one that can be reversed (everything poisoned is so by religion). What H. meant to say is that when religion is either the sole or a co-factor in a conflict this is usually envenomed to a high degree. The idea to be right “in the eyes of God” fosters a peculiar kind of fanaticism.

    I do not agree with the idea that a religious conflict can generally be reduced to “underlying” social economic factors. Both you and Davey seem to defend that idea. I think this has to do with the popularisation of the Marxist notion of substructure and superstructure – “the religious world is a reflection of the real world”.

    But religious ideas can be an independent variable. Weber treated them as such in his The Protestant Ethic. The “professional ethic” engendered by protestantism was not a cause of capitalism, nor a consequence of it, but happened to fit this up and coming capitalism as a good fitting glove. I am also not convinced Davey that the Spanish conquistadors saw their religious ideas as merely a “rhetoric” behind which they could hide their “real” intentions. They were convinced of those ideas which allowed them to treat the Indios not just as opponents to be vanquished but as heathen vermin. This idea was poison indeed.

    I think we have to accept that religious differences can be in themselves a cause for conflict and in recent history have been so in quite a few places. To think of an example with which you are presumably somewhat familiar Elisabeth: how can one explain the conflict between the newly independent Indonesian republic and the Darul Islam without mainly ( that is not exclusively) taking recourse to religious factors? Or the more recent conflict between Moslems and Christians in the Moluccas?

    Ja ook jij fijne Kerstdagen en een voorspoedig Nieuwjaar gewenst.

  • Fred Plester December 24, 2012, 2:35 AM

    The fact that religion is part of the structure of life and civilization, does mean that it’s always going to be on the scene when life and civilization break down. It does not mean that religion is inherently responsible for the breakdowns.

  • Arie Brand December 24, 2012, 3:21 PM

    Fred I would be happy to continue this conversation about religion but I doubt that Richard wants his blog to be used for that. In relation to your earlier remark: Hitchens was not at his best in his debates about this matter. His writing about it is more closely argued. Perhaps he gave his more sober moments to writing. My impression is, however, that a lot of people who dismiss his “God is not great” have never bothered to read it.

  • Piotr Berman December 26, 2012, 9:05 PM

    I was just checking news from Poland, and the story of Ovadia Josef stays as No. 2 of most commented articles in a popular weekly magazine Wprost. I bet that the story was noticed in many European countries. What JP may hope to “sanitize”?

  • Woody October 7, 2013, 6:01 AM

    I understand the paper removing the content after being accused of furthering hate speech under various laws. Did the paper keep the same article up in Hebrew? Did they publish other such quotes and keep them up? The editor’s concern can only be judged in references to other applications of the concerned writer’s claims.

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