Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the ultra-Orthodox leader of the Shas party, does not speak for the Israeli government. Nevertheless, since Yosef’s advice has been sought by Israel’s political leaders on the issue of a possible attack on Iran, the comments from Yosef and those coming from Tehran deserve to be compared.
Nima Shirazi notes:
The rhetoric used in recent speeches by top Iranian officials has garnered much attention in the mainstream media. In addition to the outrage expressed over the statement that the Israeli governmental system and guiding Zionist ideology is an “insult to humanity,” comments that the “Zionist regime” is a “cancerous tumor” have also met fierce condemnation.
Here, as is typically the case, the target of Iranian political venom is not the Jewish people or the state of Israel but instead the political system, Zionism, through which Israel is governed. Naturally, many Jews inside and outside Israel find such strident and hateful language threatening, yet such attacks on Zionism are no more a threat to annihilate the Israeli population than were calls for the end of the Soviet Union the expression of a desire to wipe out Russians.
In contrast, when Rabbi Yosef calls for Iran’s destruction, as he did yesterday, he appears to be advocating genocide. He might be calling on God to destroy Israel’s enemies but many a war maker claims as his inspiration, divine guidance.
Haaretz reports: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was updated last week on the Iranian nuclear project, called on Jews to pray for the destruction of Iran, this past Saturday.
During his weekly sermon, the ultra-Orthodox leader of the Shas party stated that his followers should pray for the annihilation of the enemies of the Jewish people during Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), with an emphasis on Iran and Hezbollah.
“When we say ‘may our enemies be struck down’ on Rosh Hashana, it shall be directed at Iran, the evil ones who threaten Israel. God shall strike them down and kill them,” said Yosef.”
The comments come in the wake of visits by senior defense officials, including National Security Council head Ya’akov Amidror and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, to Yosef to convince Yosef to support a possible Israeli attack on Iran.
It is not known whether Amidror or any of the others succeeded in persuading Yosef. However, during a sermon delivered the previous week, a day after his meeting with Amidror, Yosef said: “You know what situation we’re in, there are evil people, Iran, about to destroy us. … We must pray before [the almighty] with all our heart.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, which Israeli officials have said is divided over the question of launching a go-it-alone attack on Iran, includes a Shas minister as one of its eight members. Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
Yosef wields significant influence over Shas’s lawmakers, who seek his guidance on policy.
In the past, the Baghdad-born Yosef has stirred controversy by likening Palestinians to snakes, calling for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to “perish from this world” and describing non-Jews as “born only to serve us”.
But he has also spoken out in favour of Israel ceding occupied land for peace with the Palestinians in order to end conflict and save Jewish lives.