Though his comments were denounced as “racially charged” and “utterly unacceptable” by the Anti-Defamation League, a New York City-based organisation devoted to battling anti-Semitism and racism, it was gathered that he used a derogatory Hebrew term for a black person, before going on to call a black person a “monkey”.
Reacting to the criticism he faced, the office of the Rabbi who represents Israel’s Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent, said he was citing a passage from the Talmud – the book of Jewish law.
Yousef has previously courted controversy for suggesting secular women behave like animals because they dress immodestly. In March 2016, Yosef was forced to retract a comment that non-Jews should not live in Israel, calling it ‘theoretical’, The Times of Israel reported.
He said non-Jews could live in Israel only if they observe the seven Noahide Laws, which are prohibitions against idolatry, blaspheming God, murder, forbidden sexual relations, stealing, and eating limbs off a live animal, and which prescribe the establishment of a legal system.
Non-Jews, Yosef said, are in Israel only to serve Jews, the Israeli newspaper claims.
Israel has two chief rabbis. Yosef represents those with origins in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East, and David Lau represents Ashkenazic Jews, with origins in European lands of the Roman Empire.
Israel has been in the news lately, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that African refugees had three months to get out of the country.
Describing African refugees numbering about 40 000 as “infiltrators”, Netanyahu said they had two choices. They could either accept a once-off payment of $3500 (R42300) and relocate to another African country or spend the rest of their life in jail in Israel. They have until March to decide.