Sephardic Chief Rabbi Argues Ethnic Cleansing Justified by Jewish Law
In the Jewish State of Israel in the Levant (#JSIL), fanaticism and supremacy are used in the name of #Judaism.
Posted by Ronnie Barkan on Sunday, March 27, 2016
Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef delivered a sermon (video above with English translation by Ronnie Barkan) to the faithful two weeks ago in which he argued that Jewish law (halacha) directs the State to expel all non-Jews [ie. Palestinians] from Israel. Of course, he adds some qualifiers: if they accept the Noahide Laws, they may remain (because they will be useful as servants to Jews). But otherwise, they may be driven from the land.
He suggested that Saudi Arabia would be a perfect place to send them. This notion is a long-time Kahanist proposal, though another chief rabbi did suggest sending Palestinians to the Sinai where they would “make the desert bloom like Arizona.”
Here are his translated remarks:
According to halacha, it’s forbidden for goyim [Palestinians] to live in Israel. Unless he takes upon himself to observe the Noahide Laws. If he doesn’t, one of them [the Laws] is not to commit suicide [this is a veiled reference to the Intifada knife attacks in which he views Palestinians as “committing suicide” by attacking Israeli troops], send them to Saudi Arabia. This is according to the halacha. If we [Israel] were were sovereign [i.e. a halachically legitimate State] that would be what we must do [in effect arguing that the current Israeli state is illegitimate under halacha]. Goyim may not live in the land of Israel.
If we don’t have the power to do it now, we await the coming of the true Messiah. Then we will do it.
A foreigner residing here who accepts the seven Noahide Laws may live here. Who will make this happen? Who will be our servants? They will serve us. That’s why we permit them to remain here in the land.
We should note that some of these views are not new. One of the most virulent of settler rabbis, Dov Lior, has advanced precisely this plan. I called it the Palestinian “Right of Return”… to Saudi Arabia! The previous chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef (Yitzhak Yosef’s father), ruled that Palestinians were donkeys meant to serve Israeli Jews. But I don’t recall the father ever calling explicitly for ethnic cleansing.
There are many dangers in this sermon. Of course, there is the explicit moral outrage we feel toward an Israeli advocating ethnic cleansing. But there is an even deeper problem, at least as far as Jews are concerned. In this statement, Israel’s chief rabbi has implicated the entire Jewish tradition with an illegal, immoral concept. All those who argue that Judaism and Zionism must not be conflated are defeated by arguments like this one. Now, every Islamist terrorist, every anti-Semite, everyone may claim that Judaism itself is racist.
This claim is false. But when a chief rabbi, no matter how outrageous his words, makes such a claim it becomes that much harder to dispute it from within the Jewish tradition. Just to be clear, there is absolutely no credible halachic validation for expelling the indigenous inhabitants of Israel. There are of course verses and portions of the Torah which he may refer to as justifying his stance (just as one may find such racist interpretations in most religious traditions). But those sources will be a distortion of the mainstream halachic tradition.
In truth, this is a form of Judaism. A warped form of Judaism. But it is more akin to idolatory than the religion I know. It is the worship of hate and violence. My Jewish God, as I’ve said here many times, does not condone such hate. God is good. When humanity is not good God does not endorse its evil.
The problem is that Israeli Jews have at least tacitly endorsed these hateful views. Why else would he be the State’s official chief rabbi? Why else would he control one of the larger political parties in the Knesset? Why else would he and Shas control millions of shekels worth of government subsidies? In effect, the government endorses the hate he spews.
That being said, any anti-Semite or Islamist fundamentalist who misconstrues our tradition (whether from ignorance or willful prejudice) to reinforce their own preconceived idea about Judaism has done a grave disservice to truth and Jewish tradition.
20 thoughts on “Sephardic Chief Rabbi Argues Ethnic Cleansing Justified by Jewish Law – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Richard Silverstein misunderstands the nature of Halachah. It is an evolving tradition. In times past of course it wouldn’t have argued for transfer or expulson but that was when Jews lived in the diaspora though the Talmud is infested with chauvinism.
Today the religion is a state religion and the religion is first and foremost the legitimator of the most racist Zionist practices. What was chauvinist before, opposition to inter-marriage etc. is now virulent racism.
@ Tony Greenstein: With a degree in Talmud from Jewish Theological Seminary I think I have at least as much knowledge of halacha as you. ‘State religion’ is not the same as Judaism. It’s one version of Judaism, but not one I espouse as a Jew. It may be ‘Judaism’ for you if you are Israeli but it isn’t for me.
Richard, I completely agree with you. This is deeply shameful and embarrassing, as a Jew and an Israeli. This comment continues a long line of stupid and racist comments from members of the Yosef family and other former chief rabbis. Yosef does not represent me or anybody I know, I just consider him to be a stupid ass. The readers here should remember that the chief rabbi is “elected” by a self-selecting committee and does not represent anybody except the corrupt bureaucrats of the rabbinate. He carries no moral and practical power for policy making in Israel.
I can only resort to the same lame excuses that are used to explain away racist comments by Iranian or other leaders.
@ Yehuda: I’m glad we agree.
But do note that while Yosef doesn’t represent you, he does represent a few million Mizrahi Jews who worship him & his views. Along with Shas, of which he’s titular leader. So his reach is far stronger than you acknowledge.
Perhaps. A significant minority of the Israeli population expresses support for “halachic law” being the law of the land. It is unfortunate that specifically Mizrahi Jews, who themselves were the victims of discrimination by the Ashkenazi elite, would hold racist views such as Yosef’s. A perversion of “pay it forward..”
As you know there are many passages in the Talmud that would now be considered highly offensive, These have been used throughout history as “proofs” of Jewish depravity, but in the context of almost 2000 years ago were probably normative. Fortunately, most Jews (including many Orthodox) do not take them at face value and acknowledge that times have changed.
The original idea of Zionism, the concept of having a “Jewish State” meant having a homeland and refuge for the Jews, and not Judaism becoming a state religion. The line can be very fuzzy. The fact that Israeli Jews are at present forced to used the rabbinic court system for family matters is very problematic.
I would add that his comments are also deeply offensive to Jews of all denominations outside Israel who as a group espouse pluralism, tolerance, and democracy.
Yosef’s power within the power structure of the State of Israel is horrifying, but let’s remember that similar statements issue forth from the likes of John Hagee in the U.S. Of course, if Ted Cruz becomes president….
The ideas caught on, just one example:
Israeli Tourism Minister Blasts U.S. Reform Jews, Says Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding Shows Extent of Assimilation
During government hearing on non-Orthodox prayer space at the Western Wall, Yariv Levin slams the U.S. largest Jewish movement, saying prayer space unnecessary since Reform Jews will be all but gone in three generations.
Jan 31, 2016 – Barak Ravid
It seems then that the Palestinians have a justifiable suspicion of the demand that they consent to the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. It looks like an attempt to make them complicit in a later move to expel the non-Jewish population of Israel.
@Arie- You are exaggerating. Just because Trump and some of his supporters say they will keep Muslims out of the US, it doesn’t mean they will or can. In a democracy such a drastic move is extremely unlikely.
How much more so, it is preposterous to suggest that Israel is planning to expel 19% if its population. (I’m not talking about the various proposals floated around to redraw borders to include Arabs in the future Palestinian state)
Who would defend the rights of Arab citizens of Israel against the implementation of such nationalisic-chauvinistic schemes as the Lieberman plan (that can of course be expanded at will)? Arab lawmakers? But there is a corresponding move to enable parliament to expel certain members (read: Arabs). So much for your democracy.
“The bill by which lawmakers could be suspended from the Knesset by a majority vote of 90 members is another phase in the Knesset’s years-long efforts to eject Arab MKs who support the Palestinian struggle against the occupation.
If the Basic Law on the Knesset once included the possibility of eliminating a faction that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, since 2002, in the context of the second intifada, a number of broad amendments were passed to try to block representation of part of the Arab public.
The first pretext inserted in the law allowed for election slates to be disqualified due to their “support for an armed struggle by an enemy country or terror organization against the State of Israel.” At the same time, the possibility of disqualification was expanded to include not only entire slates but also individual candidates. In 2008, the latitude for disqualification was widened further with the proviso that a candidate who visited an enemy country for seven years before his party’s slate was presented would be considered to have supported armed struggle against Israel until proven otherwise.
Against this backdrop, the Knesset now wants to take upon itself the power to oust or at least suspend an elected MK.
All of this shows how unstable the concept of democracy is in Israel. The current bill, if it passes, would be another nail in democracy’s coffin. MKs are reportedly hoping that as opposed to the instance of disqualifying a Knesset slate, the Supreme Court will find it difficult to intervene in the suspension of a Knesset member by a vote of 90 of his or her peers.”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.702383
The Lieberman plan:
“The Foreign Ministry has prepared a legal opinion authorizing the transfer of the Triangle and the Wadi Ara regions from Israel to a Palestinian state, if and when one arises. In his opinion, which was reported yesterday by Barak Ravid in Haaretz, ministry legal advisor Ehud Keinan wrote that this would be legal according to international law, under certain conditions.
There’s no point getting into a discussion about whether the conditions laid down in the opinion are in fact sufficient to legalize such a move or not. The very fact that the Foreign Ministry is discussing transferring part of the population outside the borders of the State of Israel for ethnic and nationalist reasons is unacceptable in principle. The ministry’s legal advisor was drafted to create a legal basis for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s diplomatic plan, which he has touted repeatedly on numerous different occasions. But the plan itself is unacceptable in principle.
The fact that a government ministry is engaged in promoting a plan for population exchanges, which means transferring hundreds of thousands of citizens from sovereign Israeli territory to the sovereignty of another country because of their ethnic affiliation, sends an extremely grave message to Israel’s Arab population – about a fifth of the country’s total population. The foreign minister, and now his ministry as well, are effectively telling the state’s Arab citizens that they aren’t wanted in the State of Israel, and their citizenship is temporary and conditional.
At a time when Israeli Arabs are gradually turning into Israelis, integrating into Israel’s culture and economy despite all the difficulties and discrimination they are forced to cope with, along comes their country and shows them the door.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.581959 “
First of all, Lieberman’s proposal (which has never actually been seriously brought up in negotiations as far as known) is for an AGREED UPON exchange of land and populations, in the context of a peace treaty. I am not defending it, but nowhere has he suggested that this be done forcibly–it cannot be done forcibly— and just because Leiberman peddles the idea with a lot of noise, doesn’t mean anything. It’s a proposal for a negotiation, that’s all, and not by somebody who is actually a party to the negotiations. For the Palestinians its a non-starter, so its dead in the water. As you know, political debate in Israel is lively, loud, contentious and includes a broad spectrum of opinions. So I can bring an example of any opinion that I want to use in my argument, and scream gevalt, look what Israelis are saying. So what??? Politicians say lots of shit here, you have to learn to ignore them.
Second, every democracy has a limit to free expression. If you are a member of a body of a government, you must have allegiance to the basic idea of the government and country. You cannot advocate or support violence, or advocate dissolution of the country. Imagine a member of congress of a European parliament giving verbal support for ISIS. Do you think that this would be accepted??? Members of US congress have been forced to resign for far lesser things, like bigoted statements or harassment. Society has decided that these things are unacceptable for a legislator. In Israel, you can advocate for Palestinians and Arabs, their rights, etc, but this does not give you license to support terrorist groups and advocate dissolution of the state, as a lawmaker. This is what some Arab MKs here have done. They are often more extreme than most Israeli Arabs themselves.
As for Israeli democracy, there are strong democratic institutions here, including the High Court, a lively and competitive free press, a high level functioning court system, NGOs of all sorts, an educated public, and all of the things that support a parliamentary democracy. Is it possible to become the Weimar Republic? Sure, but not very likely.
Rabbi Yousef retracted and went back with explanation on the quote above.
Obviously the political system is involved but as it is said דברי חכמים נשמעים בנחת
It seems he inherited his style of locution from his father who used to make even more outlandish statements.
You have a habit of saying that you are not defending this, that or the other meanwhile defending it.
First of all Lieberman is not just anybody. He was foreign minister when he came up with this proposal and he isn still a strong contender for Netanyahu’s job. And of course he would like to get his way through mutual consent first resorting to harsher measures when that is not forthcoming.
Your comparison of the proposed bill for the expulsion of members of parliament with cases elsewhere where people are forced to resign because of personal scandals etc. is quite mistaken. In the Israeli proposal it is a matter of an institutionalised mechanism to remove members of parliament for political reasons and clearly aimed at a certain ethnic group. Do you know of any really democratic government where such a mechanism exists? Rivlin, who is supposed to be a rightist, said that the proposed bill showed “a problematic understanding of parliamentary democracy”. You are overtaking him on the right. A strange thing to do for a man who likes to pose as a moderate.
What did I violate that I am now moderated? I’m trying to abide by your rules.
Forgive me for stating the obvious but don’t the vast majority of Palestinians already follow the Noahide laws? The only people subject to deportation would be murderers, no?
Hmm, what about gay Palestinian adulterers?
The concept of the Noachide laws is way too complicated to be discussed adequately in one or two sentences. But yes the 4th of the laws is a prohibition against “unnatural sex.”
I wasn’t being too serious Pea! 🙂 These are old concepts. Many uncomfortable writings occur in all religious traditions. Our task is to make sure we concentrate on the best texts in our traditions!
In 1492 several of my ancestors left Spain for Portugal because they would not become Catholics. Unfortunately their religious freedom in Portugal did not last long when its King wanted to marry a daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella who demanded a favor in return namely the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal or their conversion to Catholicism. My ancestors became “conversos”. Around 1600 when Portugal had become part of Spain the King of Spain introduced the Spanish Inquisition into Portugal with terrible consequences for my ancestors who had a successful sugar-import business from Brazil at the time. They were all accused of being secretly Jewish. My ancestor Anrique de Milao was burned alive in Lisbon in 1609. The remainder of his family succeeded in fleeing to Glueckstadt (then Denmark), Hamburg, and Amsterdam.
Why do I tell this story? Because it reminds me of what Yitzak Joseph wants to do to all non-Jews living in the land of the former British Mandate. That includes all Christians too, who are after all goy’s. He is the Pope of an Israeli Inquisition. How shameful! How shameful!