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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Rabbi denounced as "war criminal"
Shas spiritual leader meets PM Ariel Sharon
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is said to have expressed the "same policy pursued by Sharon"
The Arab world has denounced Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's statements calling for the "extermination of the Arabs" as "racist" and "venomous".

Palestinians burn picutures of Rabbi Yosef
Palestinians condemned Rabbi's "racist" remarks

Palestinian Minister Hasan Asfur urged international bodies and human rights groups to denounce the rabbi as a "war criminal".

"This is the culture of murder, terrorism and blood", Mr Asfur said.

He said no one could expect Ariel Sharon's government to punish Rabbi Yosef for making such comments because the government's own "political culture and action are in line with his racist statements".

He described the rabbi's statements as a "clear call for murder and a political and intellectual terrorism that will lead to military terrorism".

Palestinian police post attacked by Israel
A war of words?

Attacks

Senior Palestinian official Al-Tayyib Abd-al Rahim linked the rabbi's remarks with subsequent Israeli attacks on police posts in Gaza during which an officer was killed and nearly 30 men wounded.

He said the attacks were a "gift from Sharon's government to the racist Ovadia".

As founder and spiritual leader of Israel's third largest political party Shas, Rabbi Yosef is also a significant political figure.

In other Arab opinion, Syria's government-owned daily Al-Thawra highlighted the fact that Shas leader Eli Yishay had defended Yosef by saying he had merely expressed "the same policy pursued by Sharon".

And such "provocative statements" together with the reality on the ground "reflect the true picture of Israel's suppressive and bloody policy", the paper said.


The rabbi's sermon is in conflict with spiritual values

Orthodox Church spokesman Atallah Hanna

An editorial in the pro-government Saudi newspaper Al-Watan said the remarks by the "leader of Israel's rabbis" showed the different factions within Israel had "chosen the path of confrontation" and that any effort to have peace with it is "no more than an illusion".

Reward

Meanwhile, one Jordanian businessman was so incensed by the rabbi's remarks that he sent a letter, published in a leading Jordanian paper under the headline "Who wants to be a millionaire?" offering 1m Jordanian dinars to anyone who would kill the "cursed extremist".

Religious leaders in the region also condemned Rabbi Yosef.

The Mufti of Jerusalem said as a man of religion Rabbi Yosef was supposed to preach sublime values, tolerance and amity instead of "spewing venomous statements".

Spokesman for the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem Archimandrite Atallah Hanna described the rabbi's sermon as "inhumane and immoral and in conflict with spiritual values and religions".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

10 Apr 01 | Middle East
Rabbi calls for annihilation of Arabs
08 Aug 00 | Middle East
Profile: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
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