A controversial ultra-Orthodox rabbi based in New York said on Wednesday that he would not apologize for public comments in which he said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is the “devil” who should be “skewered” and said he would welcome Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s death as “eternal happiness.”
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, known for his outlandish statements on the Holocaust, the LGBT community and Reform Jews, told Channel 12 news that he would not retract remarks on the politicians.
“I’m not going back on anything that I’ve said,” Mizrachi said. “I have nothing to sugarcoat for you.”
Mizrachi was responding to a Channel 12 news report earlier in the week that quoted from videos the rabbi had made of his sermons.
“A man who declares that above all else that he is an enemy of Haredim, of Judaism, Torah and yeshivot, who wants to overthrow and destroy them… a man like this is an enemy of Israel in my eyes,” Mizrachi said of Liberman in one sermon. “When a person like this leaves the world, it is eternal happiness.”
In another speech, Mizrachi attacked Bennett, saying that “the devil” should be skewered with a spear. He also called the religiously observant premier a non-Jew, using the term as an insult, and accused him of betraying the Jewish people.
“How does one shut the mouth of the devil?” he said of Bennett. “Boom, grab a spear and skewer him.”
He likewise called Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Liberman and Bennett “leftists who are the great enemies of the State of Israel.”
Mizrachi claimed in the interview that his words were not incitement, and stressed that it was forbidden to hurt anyone.
“We cannot take the law into our hands,” he said. “A hundred times I said in my sermons that no one has the authority to do the work of God.”
While given a final opportunity to retract the comments, Mizrachi refused.
“Bennett is a leftist, Liberman is also a leftist, and they are in cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mizrachi said, in an apparent reference to the Ra’am party, a coalition partner. “Where do you see incitement here? I say in my sermons it is forbidden to hurt anyone, it is forbidden to take the law into one’s own hands, and it is forbidden to act in violence toward anyone. I’m not going back on anything that I’ve said.”
The report was hardly the first time Mizrachi spurred headlines.
In a video posted online in 2015, Mizrachi falsely claimed high assimilation rates in pre-World War II Europe and broad Nazi definitions have exaggerated the numbers of Jews killed during the Holocaust. At least five million of the six million were “total goyim,” Mizrachi told the crowd, adopting a Hebrew word for non-Jews that many consider pejorative.
“The truth, I am telling you, is that not even one million Jews were murdered,” Mizrachi said, trashing accepted historical accounts. “A lot of non-Jews were meshed into the count, but in truth, how many Jews really were killed?”
During the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Mizrachi said that a “guaranteed” cure for coronavirus is to heat the back of the throat with a hairdryer. He recommended this treatment five times a day for two days for confirmed cases, and twice a day for five minutes each for suspected cases.
He also said people were “dreaming” if they believed going to a hospital would help them.
Originally from Israel, Mizrachi moved to the United States in his twenties and received rabbinic ordination there. In the past decade he has been teaching at the Ohr Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, and producing kiruv, or Jewish outreach, videos.
He has amassed nearly 71,000 followers on his Instagram account, and has more than 35,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.
According to his website, Mizrachi “has spoken in over 5,000 lectures worldwide as well participated in many weekend seminars, radio shows and other Hebrew and English events in which he enriched the knowledge and awareness of Judaism among thousands of Jews who once were lacking Jewish awareness whatsoever.”