RabbiAccording to the BBC, a senior rabbi from a party within Israel’s coalition government has called for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to “vanish from our world”.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef expressed the wish that “all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world”. He went on to say: “May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel.”

Of course, what everyone really wants to know, is why the Rabbi is dressed like the late pop singer Michael Jackson in the picture used by the BBC today?

To no ones surprise, this guy has issues with all kinds of people.

The 89-year-old former chief rabbi of Israel has been at the centre of controversy before, with comments about Arabs, secular Jews, liberals, women and gays. In 2001, during a Palestinian uprising, he called for the annihilation of Arabs and said it was forbidden to be merciful to them. He later said he was referring only to “terrorists” who attacked Israelis.

Rabbi Yosef does a pretty good impression of a nutty imam offering up fatwas, doesn’t he? How about this gem:

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, once said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for U.S. President George W. Bush’s support for Israel’s Gaza pullout.

“It was God’s retribution. God does not shortchange anyone,” Yosef said during his weekly sermon.

And how about the rabbi’s thoughts on Gay Pride?

A leaflet published by the ultra-Orthodox community titled “Jerusalem is on fire” included statements by leading rabbis against the parade. The leaflet said plans are being made for a mass rally in protest of the “abomination parade in Jerusalem.”The leaflet quoted Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community, as saying “This (parade) will not take place. We must do everything to banish this disgrace from the Holy city.”

The ultra-Orthodox community fears that holding the Gay Pride Parade in the capital would expose religious youth and children to homosexuality. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the ultra-Orthodox community’s religious court, said “this parade poses a real threat to the citizens of Israel,” while leading haredi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky suggested holding the parade in Sodom. His metaphoric suggestion was backed by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

As for this week’s comments, the lovely rabbi spoke out as Middle East talks are poised to begin in Washington. The United States condemned the remarks as “deeply offensive”. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments with a statement saying that his government wanted peace with the Palestinians.

What bothers me more than the offensive remarks is the fact that mainstream Israeli political parties have given this nut and his religious right party a platform. By selfishly doing so, for the sake of political power, they are responsible for the damage caused by Yosef’s comments. This reminds me of the way the Republican Party in the United States has elevated extremists, such as the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren and Doug Coe (The Family) to positions of influence and power — at a great cost to America.

It is time that mainstream political parties across the world stop giving the veneer of credibility and respectability to violent and irrational religious leaders or parties. When they make common cause with such dangerous groups or individuals, they bring down the level of dialogue, serve as barriers to peace, and divide societies.

For the world to progress in the 21st Century, responsible politics must prevail, and this means avoiding coalitions with people and parties that dogmatically adhere to inflammatory and divisive ideologies.