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Israeli Leaders Calling Arabs

Washington, D.C., August 7 — One of the leading Israeli political and religious leaders, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, described Arabs as “snakes” and victims of the Nazi holocaust as “sinners” before a crowd of cheering supporters last Saturday, August 5. Yosef is the spiritual leader of Shas, the third largest party in the Israeli Knesset. Shas had been a key member of Prime Minister Ehud Barak‘s coalition until it withdrew, and Barak is actively wooing it to return to the government. Yosef denounced Barak for meeting with Palestinian leaders, calling the Palestinians “snakes.” “Why are you bringing them close to us?” he rhetorically asked Barak, “You bring snakes next to us. How can you make peace with a snake?” “Those evildoers, the Arabs–it says in the Gemara religious texts that God is sorry he ever created those sons of Ishmael,” Yosef added.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest Arab-American membership organization, notes that such blatantly racist remarks have a long history among Israeli political leaders. In 1983, cabinet minister and former military chief of staff Rafael Eitan called Palestinians living under Israeli occupation “drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” While the American media has been quick to blame both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the failure of the recent Camp David summit to produce an agreement on supposed Arab intolerance and intransigence, such a connection is seldom drawn to blatantly racist remarks by Israeli leaders.
Rabbi Yosef‘s remarks are yet another demonstration of the anti-Arab racism prevalent in Israeli political discourse, and the pressures in the Israeli political mainstream against regarding the Palestinian people as equal human beings. Such sentiments are clearly important factors in Israel‘s continued refusal to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 242 and fully withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and its refusal to accept the creation of a fully-sovereign, independent Palestinian state. It also helps to explain the high level of discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the apartheid-like conditions in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
ADC President Hala Maksoud said “the American government and press need to be far more alert to the profound implications of such outrageous remarks from Israeli political leaders. Peace demands not only reconciliation, but a recognition of the equality and humanity of the other party. These remarks show that the discourse in Israeli society is still mired in the deepest racism and intolerance against Arabs, and indicate why Israel continues to resist a just peace agreement.”