The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) slammed Shas spiritual leader and former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef for charging Hurricane Katrina was a punishment meted out by God as a result of President George W. Bush’s support for the Gaza and northern West Bank pullout.
"Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s remarks are outrageous in the extreme. While the Gaza disengagement was a painful process for Israel, attempts by those opposed to the withdrawal to cast it as a national tragedy, or even as against the will of God, are deeply disturbing," the press release said.
In his weekly sermon Tuesday, Yosef said, “There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there (in New Orleans). Blacks will study the Torah? (God said) let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”
“Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of this because they have no God,” said the rabbi.
Yosef then proceeded to explain in detail why Americans deserved the Hurricane.
“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled). It was God’s retribution…God does not short-change anyone.”
In response to Yosef’s remarks, the ADL has called for the rabbi to issue an apology to the American people.
"Rabbi Yosef’s remarks show a profound lack of empathy for the suffering of others, not to mention an extremely warped worldview. It is disturbing that a man of faith would use human suffering and loss to advance a political agenda," the statement said.
"Rabbi Yosef owes an apology to the United States and to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We hope that religious leaders in Israel will condemn his words as insensitive and beyond the acceptable limit for a national dialogue."