Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on Tuesday refused to apologize for an attack on the country's Russian-speaking Jewish community, despite political and public uproar.
"There are many, many gentiles here, some are communists, hostile to religion, haters, of religion," Yosef says in a video made Monday. "They're not even Jewish, they're gentiles."
He doubled down on the comments on Tuesday, declaring in a new video: "I said it clearly and I'll say it again."
He did, however, attempt to qualify his remarks.
"Along with the blessed immigration of Jews from the former USSR, who gave their lives for the protection of Judaism – there is a minority of immigrants who are not Jewish according to halacha, who migrated here on the back of the 'grandson clause' in the Law of Return," he said, referring to the law that allows anyone with a Jewish grandparent to gain Israeli nationality.
"Anyone who lets these gentiles come here works out of superfluous considerations, and chiefly acts in a dishonest manner towards them," he added.
He also again criticized the Law of Return, stating that an amendment to the law was a chief priority.
In the original video obtained by Ynet, Yosef was heard describing the post-Soviet Jewish community as "complete gentiles," whom he said were brought to Israel to influence the social balance in the nation.
The rabbi's statements garnered furious criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who himself immigrated from Ukraine 1987, called the immigration from former USSR an "integral part of Israeli society."
"We fulfilled our dream of returning to Zion and it's impossible to imagine the State of Israel without the Soviet immigration's major contributions," he said.
"Even during the election campaign, there is no room for such invalid discourse of hatred and division."
Moldovan-born Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman, whose party was founded to cater to the Russian-speaking community, branded Yosef's statements as "racist and bluntly anti-Semitic."
Former head of the left-wing Meretz party, Democratic Union MK Tamar Zandberg, called for Yosef to be investigated by police for inciteful comments.
First published: 19:33 , 01.07.20