42 thoughts on “Jerusalem Post’s Self-Censorship Protects Leading Religious Leader, Cleanses Israeli Racism – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. @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.

          1. 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.

  2. 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).

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=198353 – 40 rabbis – Jews shouldn’t rent, sell homes to gentiles
          http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=249353 – West Bank rabbis – Allow live fire at stone throwers
          http://www.jpost.com/Home/Article.aspx?id=167475 – Shapira’s distinction between Jewish and Gentile blood

          1. 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.

    1. 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.”

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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…

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


    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.

  5. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

        1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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

    2. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.”

      1. 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.).

      2. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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..

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

  10. Elisabeth:

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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”?

  14. 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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