Lozowick wrote back than in response to condemnations of Rav Ovadia Yosef in response to his calling for the death of Mahmoud Abbas and "these Palestinians". Among those condemning Rav Yosef back then were Palestinian Arab negotiator Saeb Erekat, who denounced him for preaching genocide -- followed by the State Department and media.
In response, Lozowick notes the context of Jewish history in which Rav Yosef spoke, and which his critiques ignore:
Read the whole thing.
In the middle of the second century CE the Jews renounced the use of political power. The catastrophe of two defeats by Roman armies, the first destroying the Temple and the second depopulating Jerusalem and Judea, was too much to bear. The Mishna, followed by the Gemara, were so traumatized they succeeded in hiding the true extent of the destruction and horror; it took the archeologists and historians of the 20th century to decipher the true enormity, especially of Hadrian's genocide. Instead, the Talmud concentrated on the loss of great scholars and the stubborn, sometime suicidal determination to pass on the teaching of Torah. Implicitly, and eventually explicitly, the Jews told themselves they had a pact with God. They would suffer in his name, but he would fight their wars; they might die for his law, but he wouldn't allow their enemies to win. Their personal fate might be terrible, the destinies of their community dire, but the nation would always survive, and the enemies – eventually – would be defeated.
The yearning for divine retribution, at times blood-curdling in its intensity, was a substitute for action and for the need, even the permissibility, of counterforce. No matter how harsh the persecution of the Jews, there was never any cycle of violence. Words of violence effectively replaced the violence itself for 18 long centuries.
Admittedly, this has changed. In the 20th century the Jews returned to the use of national power. Most of them are secular, they no longer believe in a God to fight their battles for them, and not all of the violence they engage in is wise. The ancient traditions, however, are still there. When the Rav Yosef lifted the theme for his talk straight out of the prayer book, he wasn't calling for genocide, nor inciting to violence. On the contrary. He was continuing a quiescent tradition, by calling on God to do what the Jews won't do and shouldn't do.
There is no causal line from his words to deeds, nor did he intend there to be. He was speaking as a Jew does in Elul. Perhaps it's too much to expect anyone to respect him, but at least they might refrain from damning him.
|Rav Ovadiah Yosef -- Not an Ayatollah, he did not call for the murder of Arabs. |
Credit: Wiki Commons
But of course Rav Ovadiah Yosef's critics, neither then or now, refrain from condemning him.
Nor do the seem to notice the difference between religious Jews who call on G_d to avenge them -- and the Islamists who we read about every day eager to do the job for Him.
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