Israeli religious politician sparks new controversy

The spiritual head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a member of Israel's governing coalition, stirred new controversy on Monday by implying that Israeli soldiers killed in battle died because they didn't follow Jewish commandments.

Israeli religious politician sparks new controversy
The spiritual head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a member of Israel's governing coalition, stirred new controversy on Monday by implying that Israeli soldiers killed in battle died because they didn't follow Jewish commandments.

"How can you be surprised if the soldiers, God forgive them, are killed while they don't respect the Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest) and do not follow the commandments of the Torah," Rabbi Ovadia Yossef said in a sermon, parts of which were broadcast on public radio.

"May God have pity on them, that they return to religion and all can live in peace," he said.

Several parents of soldiers killed during Israel's war in Lebanon last year criticised the comments on the radio, saying the piousness of their sons did not prevent them from being killed.

The octagenarian Yossef -- spiritual mentor of a party that has 12 of the 120 seats in parliament and is a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's governing coalition -- is no stranger to controversy.

Seven years ago, he sparked outrage when he said that the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II did "not die for nothing," but were the "reincarnation of Jews who had sinned" in previous generations.

A former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Yossef's party draws its support from poorer Israelis of Middle Eastern origin.

In other past controversial remarks, the Baghdad-born Yossef has referred to Arabs and Palestinians as "snakes" and "vipers" who were "swarming like ants"; said that "all evil stems from the Ashkenazis" -- Jews of eastern European origin; and promised heaven to those who vote for his party.

AFP
Last Mod: 27 Ağustos 2007, 17:22
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