Racist Incitement by Israeli Leaders Must End

Washington, D.C. – One of the leading Israeli political and religious leaders, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, called for the annihilation of Arabs saying “they are evil and damnable,” during a Passover sermon on Monday. Yosef, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel, is the spiritual leader of Shas, the third largest party in the Israeli Knesset and part of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Yosef preached that “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable. The Lord shall return the Arab’s deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them form this world.” This latest outburst is part of a recurring pattern of incitement by the Rabbi. Last August he called the Arabs “snakes” and added, “Those evildoers, the Arabs?it says in the Gemara religious texts that God is sorry that he ever created those sons of Ishmael.”
At a time when Palestinians are being inundated by Israeli and American demands to “curb incitement,” Yosef’s latest racist outburst underlines the kind of extreme incitement and hatred that characterizes much of the discourse about Palestinians and other Arabs in Israeli society. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation’s largest Arab-American membership organization, calls upon the Bush Administration to stop ignoring the fact that Israeli leaders routinely engage in vicious racism and incitement against Arabs and to be evenhanded in demanding that calls to violence are curbed.
ADC notes that such truculent and racist remarks have a long history among Israeli political leaders. In 1983, cabinet minister Rafael Eitan called Palestinians living under Israeli occupation “drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Last year, Prime Minister Ehud Barak described Palestinians as “crocodiles.” Before taking office Prime Minister Sharon called for the assassination of specific Palestinian political leaders. The new Minister of Infrastructure Avigdor Lieberman threatened to bomb Egypt, Iran and Lebanon, and new Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi continues to advocate the expulsion of all Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. While members of Congress and the media have been quick to blame the conflict in the Occupied Territories on supposed Palestinian incitement, such a connection is seldom drawn to blatantly racist remarks by Israeli leaders or to the Israeli occupation itself.
Rabbi Yosef’s remarks are yet another demonstration of the pressures in the Israeli political mainstream against regarding the Palestinian people as equal human beings. Such sentiments are clearly important factors in Israel’s continued refusal to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 242 and fully withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 and its refusal to accept the creation of a fully-sovereign, independent Palestinian state. It also elucidates the high level of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the apartheid-like conditions in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Arab Americans expect our government to take a firm line against racism and incitement from all sources, including from Israeli political and religious leaders, as a necessary element of bringing the conflict to a peaceful resolution and ending the occupation.

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