Monday, August 30, 2010

Obama Administration Jumps To Condemn Statement Of 90 Year Old Rabbi (Updated)

These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace. As we move forward to relaunch peace negotiations, it is important that actions by people on all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it.
Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
PA source: Even Israel stopped paying attention to Rabbi Yosef
Ynet News

It is both understandable and not entirely unexpected that the US State Department should come out with a condemnation of the remarks of Rav Ovadiah Yosef:

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef denounced upcoming peace talks with the Palestinians, which are set to start September 2 in Washington, and called for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “perish from this world,” Army Radio reported overnight Saturday.

“Abu Mazen and all these evil people should perish from this world,” Rabbi Ovadia was quoted as saying during his weekly sermon at a synagogue near his Jerusalem home. “God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians.”

The Shas spiritual leader also called the Palestinians “evil, bitter enemies of Israel” during his speech, which is not the rabbi’s first sermon to spark controversy.
But the condemnation does raise the issue of what Rav Yosef and Abbas have in common--and what sets them apart.

What they have in common of course is incitement--and

Israel Behind The News has been coming out with reports of of Palestinian incitement since last year:
Since then, the focus of the reports has been on the UNRWA.

Palestinian Media Watch also has been keeping track of incitement of hate by Abbas and the PA.

In May, Itamar Marcus presented on Capitol Hill his report, From Terrorists to Role Models: The Palestinian Authority’s Institutionalization of Incitement which reported on the Palestinian Authority policy of naming schools, streets, sporting events, summer camps and ceremonies after terrorists.

In addition, PMW also issued reports on incitement for May and June.

One might have thought that institutionalized hate in the West Bank might be considered something of an impediment to forwarding the peace process--but if it is, neither Crowley nor anyone else in the Obama administration are letting on.

Which brings us to what separates Rav Yosef and Abbas--only one of them has actively and publicly pushed for peace. And we both know that description does not fit Abbas.

But it does fit Rav Yosef. From Wikipedia:
Despite his controversial public comments, Rabbi Yosef has long been a distinguished rabbinical authority advocating peace negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has done so since the late 1980s. His main justification is the halakhic principle of Pikuach Nefesh, in which all the Jewish commandments (excluding adultery, idolatry, and murder) are put on hold if a life is put in danger. Using an argument first articulated by the late American rabbinical leader Joseph Soloveitchik, Rabbi Yosef claims that the Arab-Israeli conflict endangers human lives, thereby meeting the above criteria and overruling the priority of commandments pertaining to settling the land of Israel. Therefore, Israel is permitted — even obligated if saving lives is a definitive outcome — to make serious efforts to reach a peace settlement as well as to make arrangements to properly protect its citizens. Rabbi Yosef first applied the Pikuach Nefesh principle to Israel's conflicts with its neighbors in 1979, when he ruled that this argument granted Israel authority to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Some claimed, however, that the ruling was also motivated by Rabbi Yosef's desire to oppose his Ashkenazi colleague, Rabbi Shlomo Goren.

Using this precedent, Rabbi Yosef instructed Shas to join Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government coalition, and later that of Ehud Barak as well. However, Shas abstained on Oslo I and voted against the Oslo II agreement. Furthermore, as Oslo stalled and relations between Israelis and Palestinians began to deteriorate, and particularly following the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Rabbi Yosef and the party pulled "rightward", supporting the Likud. (Hat tip: Boker Tov, Boulder)
When and where has Abbas ever publicly--and in Arabic--actively pushed for peace and showed a willingness to make concessions to make peace possible?

Crowley's statement is just one more reminder of how distant a real peace is in the Middle East--and why.

Also check out Barry Rubin's What Threatens Peace: A Mountain of Hate or A Few Nasty Words?

UPDATE: CAMERA points out The Incitement Double Standard: Ovadia Yosef vs PA Leadership:
On Saturday (Aug. 28), a sermon by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, in which he dubbed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "evil" and called on God to strike "these Ishmaelites and Palestinians with a plague, these evil haters of Israel," sparked intensive media coverage. Major media outlets such as the New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Boston Globe, Daily Telegraph and Irish Times all covered the incident, some dedicating entire stories to it.
In contrast, a week and a half earlier, on Wednesday Aug. 18, when Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad honored one of the planners of the Sept. 5, 1972 Munich Massacre, in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered, and not one of these media outlets had a word to say.
There couldn't be a starker illustration of the media's double standard when it comes to reporting Israeli versus Palestinian incitement.
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