Sunday, August 29, 2010

‘Is this how netanyahu’s government prepares for a peace agreement?’

As reported in the Daily Star, this was the question asked by Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat after this week's weekly sermon from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in which he declaimed:
“May all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen, vanish from our world. . . .  May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel."
[Abu Mazen (Mazen's father, literally), by the way, is the more familiar name used by Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas.]

Palestinian spokesmen are suitably outraged:

“an incitement to genocide . . . .  “This is racist incitement of a spiritual leader of a coalition member party. These hateful remarks cannot be dismissed as politically insignificant.  . . .  The spiritual leader of Shas is literally calling for a genocide against Palestinians, and there seems to be no response from the Israeli government. He is particularly calling for the assassination of President Abbas who within a few days will be sitting face to face with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Is this how the Israeli government prepares its public for a peace agreement?”

The rabbi Ovadia is hardly the first Israeli rabbi to call for the killing of Arabs.  What makes him special is that he's the spiritual leader of Shas, an Ultra-Orthodox political party with a substantial following, enough so for Mr. Netanyahu to have brought them into his ruling coalition.  In other words, although he may disavow the rabbi's tender words, he can't completely turn his back on them.

The State Department condemned the remarks.  You bet - and they're probably both enraged and very worried.  With "negotiations" between Israelis and Palestinians to get underway in D.C. this week, after a lot of bluster and manipulation by the US to get both sides to the table, this kind of racist fulminating from the leader of a major party in Netanyahu's government is bound to cool even more what were already very dim hopes of success.

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