Yup, you heard that right. Israel’s former Sephardic chief rabbi claims that George Bush got his comeuppance in the forum of Hurricane Katrina because he supported the Gaza Disengagement.
There’s only one thing encouraging about this, now we know that America isn’t the only country in the world who manufactures idiot zealots. I’m thinking of course of Pat Robertson. But I wonder whether Pat could beat some of these lunatic statements which are quoted at Ynetnews.com:
“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,” said the rabbi, who already found himself in hot water in the past following controversial remarks of one kind or another.
“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled). It was God’s retribution ..God does not short-change anyone.”
“He (Bush) perpetrated the expulsion. Now everyone is mad at him…this is his punishment for what he did to Gush Katif, and everyone else who did as he told them, their time will come, too,” the rabbi said.
Ovadia concluded: “Where can evil escape to from God? Its time will come and it will be slapped on the head.”
Evil isn’t the only thing that should be slapped on the head. The good rabbi deserves to be whupped upside the head as well for being a racist and religious chauvinist and just plain lunkhead.
Since we’re on the subject of crackpot theology, might I ask a few questions in that regard?
1. In singling out Blacks for special punishment for not reading Torah (a bit odd since this region and its inhabitants are the most “churched” in the nation and one must assume that they study an awful lot of the Bible every Sunday), Yosef has neglected the many Jews who also live in the Gulf region. One of them is my wife’s childhood friend who has lost her home and job in Pass Christian, MS. (to which she will not return). Again, many of these Jews study Torah and attend shul. Are they merely collateral damage in realizing God’s plan to punish Bush and the Blacks of the region?
2. Yosef calls the disengagement and those who support it “evil.” This transforms a political decision into a theological one, which it should and must never be. Once you start calling it “evil” you escalate the rhetoric and hate so that governing becomes a futile exercise. In claiming that the hurricane is punishment for the disengagement, Yosef posits a dubious proposition that God is on his [Yosef’s] and the the settlers’ side.
But one has to ask: is this the kind of God we Jews worship who smites the innocent (including Jews) on behalf of his mortal political and religious allies? I say not.
Alas, Yosef’s inspiration for this nonsense comes from none other than our own liturgy in which we pray: Mi’pnei chataeynu galinu may artzeinu (“because of our sins we were exiled from our land”). This passage gives many non-Orthodox rabbis, theologians and liturgical scholars the heeby-jeebies. And Yosef’s foaming at the mouth clearly explains why since many Jews feel extreme discomfort with the notion that sin might cause God to punish human beings with a catastrophe.
And if we need more reasons to feel discomfort with Rabbi Yosef, keep in mind that he is the patron saint of the Shas party, one of Israel’s main (and more corrupt) religious parties and often a powerbroker in making and breaking Israeli governments. Is it any wonder with Israeli leaders like this (religious or otherwise) that the country seems to be perpetually on the outs with most of the rest of the world?
Oh and one other difference between Pat Robertson and Ovadia Yosef is that when Pat sticks his foot in it and really goes off the deep end some of his evangelical colleagues will take him to task (witness his forced apology after the Chavez assassination comment). Will anyone from Shas do the same to the good rabbi? How much would you like to bet? Jewish Week recounts the pathetic near-silence from the Orthodox movement on this subject.
Thanks to Jewschool for turning me onto to this tantalizing piece of lunacy.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.