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Monday, August 30, 2010

What exactly did Ovadia Yosef say? (updated)

The initial reports over the weekend claimed that former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called for a genocide against all Palestinian Arabs, wishing the plague on Mahmoud Abbas and all other Palestinians.

The New York Times said
he described the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as “evil” and called on God to strike “these Ishmaelites and Palestinians with a plague; these evil haters of Israel.”

YNet originally reported and translated the sermon this way:
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Saturday night wished death on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his people, who he called "evil enemies of Israel."

During his weekly lesson, held at the synagogue near his house in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har-Nof, the rabbi mentioned the blessing said at the Rosh Hashana feast that says, "May our enemies and adversaries be destroyed", and applied it to the current situation. "Abu Mazen (Abbas) and all those evil men – may they perish from this world. May God Almighty strike them and these Palestinians."

Today, however, YNet has changed the translation - after the entire world has already been convinced that Rabbi Yosef is a genocidal maniac.

Today's story says:
Ovadia, who heads the Shas religious party in Israel's ruling coalition, expressed hope in his weekly sermon Saturday that "all the evil people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), perish from our world."

"May God strike them down with the plague along with all the evil Palestinians who persecute Israel," he said.
This is much different from what was originally reported. This is not a call for genocide; it is a call for God to strike down Israel's enemies - a much different story and very much in line with daily prayers.

Is this another case of an overzealous media mistranslating (or, in the case of Israel's anti-religious media, misreporting) the words of the religious?

I cannot find the text of the sermon online, so I can't say for sure, but it sure looks like the media again placed their own preconceived notions of Jewish "extremism" ahead of an accurate story.

UPDATE: My readers come through again! Ruchie via email sends a link to the video and the money quote:

אבו-מאזן וכל הרשעים האלה, שיאבדו מן העולם. יכה בהם הקדוש ברוך הוא מכת דבר, בהם ובפלסטינים האלה, רשעים צוררי ישראל

Her translation is:
Abu Mazen and all those villains, may they perish. May the Almighty strike them with the plague, them and those Palestinians, evil enemies of Israel.


With all due respect, I think that YNet's newer translation of  צוררי ישראל as "persecutors of Israel" is more accurate.

To engage in a little pilpul, if he meant all Palestinian Arabs he would have not used the word "those", in Hebrew האלה. I think that he was referring only to those who are the "enemies" in the sense that they are actively against Israel. It is hard to know without hearing the entire context.

UPDATE 2: Yeranen Yaakov looks at the context as well.