Controversy raged in Israel on Sunday after a rabbi who heads the biggest ultra-Orthodox political party said the 6 million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust died because they were reincarnations of sinners.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of the Shas Party, also declared that Prime Minister Ehud Barak has “no sense” because he is trying to make peace with the Palestinians, who are “snakes.”
Barak’s allies have said the only way for Barak to stay in power while pursuing peace with the Palestinians is to woo the powerful Shas Party back into his splintered coalition.
But Yosef, whose party commands 17 of parliament’s 120 seats, harangued both Barak and the Arabs in his weekly sermon late Saturday:
“Where are this man’s brains? He runs a mad dash after them [the Palestinians] to catch them and then he continues to make peace. But what is peace? This is peace? There should be security for the people of Israel.
“Why are you bringing them close to us? You bring snakes next to us. How can you make peace with a snake?” Yosef said to the applause of followers.
“Those evildoers, the Arabs--it says in the Gemara [religious texts] that God is sorry he ever created those sons of Ishmael.”
Yosef’s sermons are broadcast by the party’s radio stations and beamed overseas by satellite.
He called the Nazis “evil” and the victims “poor people,” but he said those killed “were reincarnations of the souls of sinners, people who transgressed and did all sorts of things which should not be done. They had been reincarnated in order to atone.”
Barak told the Cabinet on Sunday that the statement is unworthy of a rabbi of Yosef’s status.
“His words are liable to harm the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust and are liable to hurt the feelings of their families and the feelings of the entire nation,” Barak said, according to his office.
Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yasser Abed-Rabbo said: “The statements of this idiot and racist are a disgrace for every Israeli. Every Israeli stands accused of being a racist until he condemns this racist and idiot.”