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When the President of Syria made anti-Jewish statements what was the response? There was wide media coverage, angry editorials and denunciations by public figures. Excellent, but what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? An important Jewish politician makes repeated racist comments and calls for the murder of Arabs. The response? Total silence.

The politician is Ovidah Yosef of the Shas Party, which is a powerful part of the Israeli governing coalition. The French News Service AFP reports that on July 27 Yosef, a rabbi, gave a sermon on Israeli radio in which he said, “In the old city of Jerusalem they’re swarming like ants. They should go to hell — and the Messiah will speed them on their way”. The sermon was broadcast by Israeli Army Radio, giving it semi-official government standing. Earlier this year Yosef denounced Arabs as “snakes” and “vipers”.

He has actually gone far beyond these disgusting references. He’s twice called for the mass murder of Arabs. In a pre-Passover sermon in April Ha’aretz news service reported that he said Arabs were an enemy of the Jewish people and that, “It is forbidden to be merciful to them, you must give them missiles, with relish – annihilate them. Evil ones, damnable ones.” The news service stated that “Rabbi Yosef, who has also attacked Israeli leftists and others in graphic terms, also was quoted as saying ‘May the Holy Name visit retribution on the Arabs’ heads, and cause their seed to be lost, and annihilate them, and cause them to be vanquished and cause them to be cast from the world.’ “

Back in 1989 the Shas Party issued a campaign booklet that included a prayer calling for a shoah (holocaust) of Arabs. Yosef wrote the preface to the booklet.

A person who has talked this poison year after year obviously should be driven from public life. The major media should be campaigning. Political leaders in Israel and the U.S. and clergymen from every political persuasion should be condemning his views. Yosef should be kicked out of any elected, appointed or spiritual position he has with Shas.

Yet none of this has happened. In the U.S. there is scarcely a newspaper or TV station that hasn’t reported and reported on Louis Farrakhan’s nasty statements about the Jewish religion. However, the vicious comments of a man who is ten times more powerful are totally overlooked.

I personally wrote about Yosef to the Anti-Defamantion League, the Jewish organization that is dedicated to rooting out racism. I also wrote to President Bush, Connecticut’s Senators and all six of our members of Congress. I contacted the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.

The silence is defeaning.

(The writer is a Jewish-American who has chaired the Middle East Crisis Committee of New Haven since 1982.)

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