Commentary: Why does State Department condemn Yosef’s comments but not inflammatory statements by Palestinians?
By Shoshana Bryen
WASHINGTON, D.C. — “We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by [Israel’s former Chief] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.” – State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley.
After years of officially sanctioned Palestinian anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement which received only the mildest pro-forma rebuke from official American sources, we are relieved to know that Mr. Crowley can, in fact, be deeply offended. After all, the Hamas Bunny didn’t offend him. The stories of Jews putting Palestinian children in ovens didn’t offend him. The “museum exhibit” of the Sbarro pizzeria bombing that required patrons to step on an Israeli flag to enter didn’t offend him. The naming of a public square in honor of a terrorist who killed 37 Israelis on holiday and an American photographer didn’t offend him. And he appears not to have been offended by Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake yesterday awarding a Palestinian woman the “Shield of Resoluteness and Giving” in honor of having four sons serving a total of 18 life sentences in Israeli prisons for killing Israeli civilians in terror attacks.
The difference between the official celebration by Palestinian authorities of defamatory and inflammatory statements (not to mention murder), and the condemnation of Rabbi Yosef by supporters of Israel is not whether the State Department takes note of the former, but that we take note of the latter. The Conservative Movement of the United States released the following statement yesterday:
This past May, the Rabbinical Assembly passed a resolution on civil discourse in our society. It calls for speaking out against demonizing rhetoric and calls upon leaders to “conduct themselves according to the highest standards of civility in all public discourse.”
“Calling for Palestinians “to perish” is unacceptable and intolerable in a civil society. Furthermore, Rabbi Yosef’s words are not acceptable as words of Torah. Our tradition teaches us that the litmus test of authoritative Torah teaching is whether the words are words of “pleasantness and peace.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 32a, based on Proverbs 3:17) Torah teachings that are the clear antithesis of “pleasantness and peace,” such as those of Ovadia Yosef, must be categorically rejected.
“As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that, like many of his comments over the years, constitute irresponsible incitement to violence. We view with hope the prospects for peace and security for Israel and her neighbors and recognize that such irresponsible and inciting comments harm these prospects at a crucial time.
“As we enter a New Year of renewal and return, we call on the entire House of Israel to embrace a religious vision that is open-minded and pluralistic, respectful and peace-loving. May this year bring Peace to Israel and all the world.”
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
The Jewish Theological Seminary
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
Jewish Educators Assembly
North American Association of Synagogue Executives
Solomon Schechter Day School Association
The organizations represent the spiritual leaders, communal leaders and educators of Conservative Jewry in the United States and Masorti Judaism in Israel. This follows the quick and explicit repudiation of the Rabbi’s words by the Government of Israel.
A similarly civilized repudiation of Palestinian lies and hateful behavior by Palestinian leadership groups is still awaited. The fact that we are still waiting should be a source of offense to Mr. Crowley on behalf of the State Department.
Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.