Arabic media review

For Arabs, Ovadia Yosef left bitter memories

‘His name means servant of God but he served no one but Israel,’ remarks leading news channel

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem, September 2012. (Flash90)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem, September 2012. (Flash90)

The Arab press dedicates many articles to the deceased leader of Sephardi Jews in Israel, Ovadia Yosef, alongside coverage of a presidential Egyptian visit to Saudi Arabia.

“The rabbi who called for the extermination of Arabs, describing them as insects, dies,” reads the headline of an Internet article for Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya, featuring a long biographical expose of the rabbi, including photos of the two Palestinians who planned to assassinate him in 2005.

“His name means servant of God but he served no one but Israel,” reads a sub-headline in the article, citing statements by Yosef calling on believers to have “no mercy over Arabs,” and “hit them with missiles.”

“The death of ‘kingmaker’ Ovadia Yosef: the most hateful rabbi toward Palestinians and Arabs,” reads a headline in Lebanese pro-Hezbollah daily Al-Akhbar.

“While Yosef is described as the most hateful rabbi toward Palestinians and Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, and the most influential in the religious world, Israel and the Haredi circles await repercussions that could change the map of power-sharing in the religious camp,” reads the article.

Highlighting Yosef’s controversial statements, Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat nevertheless dedicates an article to his legacy, calling him “one of the greatest Jewish legislators” and saying he led “a controversial life.”

“Chief Israeli rabbi who described Arabs as insects and wished the plague upon Abu Mazen and his people dies,” reads the daily’s headline.

Hezbollah’s news channel Al-Manar poignantly points to the tension between Yosef’s upbringing in an Arabic-speaking environment and his hatred for Arabs.

“The death of rabbi Ovadia Yosef: the Zionist Arab who hated Arabs,” reads the channel’s Internet headline.

Focusing on Yosef’s political positions throughout life, Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera highlights the rabbi’s “leniency with the Jews and racism with the Muslims.”

“Yosef’s rulings displayed forgiveness towards nonreligious Jews in a bid to prevent the widening of gaps between the groups,” reads the article. “On the political level, Yosef did not express a hostile position toward Zionism unlike his colleagues in the extremist rabbinical establishment who considered it contradictory to Jewish law.”

Unsurprisingly, media affiliated with Hamas point to the condolences expressed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to Yosef’s family during a meeting with Israeli MKs in Ramallah on Monday.

“Anyone expressing sorrow over the extremist Yosef’s death is like him,” Hamas leader Salah Bardawil tells Hamas news website “How can condolences be expressed for a person who permitted the killing of Palestinians and participated in that his entire life?”

Focusing on the possible inheritance war in Shas, Jordanian independent daily Al-Ghad notes Yosef’s “fluent command of Arabic.”

“In past years, Yosef released many racist statements against Arabs, describing them in dangerous racist terms such as ‘snakes,’ calling explicitly to increase attacks against them. However, these statements abated in the last few years. Yosef also expressed harshly worded criticisms of Zionism and secular Jews, doing so from a purely religious basis, despite his right-wing tendencies.”

Palestinian passport: The fifth worst in the world

A Palestinian passport is the fifth worst passport to have in the world, a new international report quoted by independent Palestinian daily Al-Quds reveals.

Henley and Partners, an international consulting firm on citizenship and residency planning, found that only four countries rank lower than the Palestinian Territories in terms of their passport-holders’ ability to obtain entry visas into countries around the world.

Only Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan rank worse than the Palestinian Territories in their passports’ value.

“Passports are an indicator for most countries around the world in ascertaining the identity of the foreigners wishing to enter their territory,” the article helpfully explains.

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