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Prominent Israeli Rabbi Is Investigated For Encouraging Violence Reminiscent Of That Preceding The Rabin Assassination

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
March-April 2000

The spiritual leader of a key party in Prime Minister Barak's ruling coalition attacked the leader of another group in "terms so bitter that the attorney general was considering criminal prosecution." (Washington Times, March 20, 2000)  

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, compared Education Minister Yossie Sarid, head of the Meretz Party, to Satan and two other hated figures in the Scriptures.  

At a sermon to mark the festival of Purim, Rabbi Yosef said Mr. Sarid "is Amalek, he is Satan...May his memory be wiped out. He must be uprooted from the seed of Israel...Just as revenge was wrought on Haman, so will it be wrought on him."  

The rabbi's words "were received with thunderous applause and shouts of approval." Amalek is described in the Bible as the sworn enemy of the people of Israel.  

The Washington Jewish Week (March 23, 2000) reports that, "Yosef's speech reminded many Israelis of the hostility that preceded the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Orthodox student."  

The New York Times (March 28, 2000) reports a decision by Israel`s attorney general "to open a criminal investigation of...Rabbi Yosef...(He) will be investigated on charges of `praising or encouraging violence that could lead to death or injury,' as well as insulting a public employee and slander. In explaining his decision to open the investigation, the attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, noted that he had declined to do so last year after the rabbi insulted Supreme Court judges. Among other things, Rabbi Yosef had said that the judges `fornicated with impure,' or menstruating, women, which is proscribed in a strict interpretation of Jewish law...Mr. Rubinstein said the rabbi's statements could be heard by his followers as an incitement to violence against Mr. Sarid, whether he intended them that way or not. `What is the meaning of the vengeance that is to be visited upon Sarid, heaven forbid?' Mr. Rubinstein asked?"  

Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, who belongs to Mr. Barak's One Israel bloc, said that if Rabbi Yosef persisted in such statements it would be difficult for One Israel to sit in the same coalition as Shas. "I think that if Yossi Sarid had by chance found himself in the area where the rabbi was making these statements, there would have been a lynching," Mr. Beilin told Israel Radio.  

Shas accused Sarid of withholding funds from its religious school system. Mr. Sarid said that he has provided the funds even though the schools have not fully complied with a financial reform and management program to which they had agreed.

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