Israel's Chief Rabbi Calls African Americans 'Monkeys'

The Sephardi chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, has stoked controversy by describing African Americans as “monkeys” during one of his weekly religious lessons.

The remark, which will prompt further discussion about entrenched racism within the country, was reported by Israeli newspaper Ynet News.

Yosef, whose status as Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rishon Lezion is constitutionally recognised as a position of public office, is no stranger to inflammatory remarks having previously issued a “religious edict” encouraging the killing of any Palestinian armed with a knife.

While Yosef’s incitement of violence against Palestinians may have been overlooked, his description of African Americans as “monkeys” has drawn wide attention.

Yosef made the remarks as he cited a hypothetical story about encountering a black person in the US. He referred to black people using the pejorative Hebrew word “kushi”, which refers to a dark-skinned person usually of African descent, and called a black person a “monkey”.

“We don’t say a blessing for every negro,” said Yosef while explaining that praise and blessing is only said for the “negro” whose father and mother are white. “If you know, they had a monkey for a son, they had a son like that,” blessing shouldn’t be offered to them, he explained.