Hundreds of people have signed an online petition calling for the UK government to ban a rabbi who says that Down’s Syndrome and autism is punishment for sins in a previous life, two weeks before he is due to visit.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, who claims more than 100,000 Facebook followers, has provoked outrage by claiming that less than a million halachic Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and that blind children are being punished for watching pornography in a past life.
Mizrachi, who lectured children in Britain two years ago, has been told he is not welcome by leading figures of British Jewry, who called him a “hate preacher” ahead of his intended UK visit from 16-19 September.
The online petition had, by Monday morning, attracted more than 440 signatures, appalled by his comments and views, which they describe as “cultish, divisive and contemptible”.
Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement and former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: “This hate preacher should stay out of the UK.” Similarly, former Three Faiths Forum (3FF) director Stephen Shashoua wrote: “Hate should be given no oxygen.”
Sociologist and author Keith Kahn-Harris added: “Jews have hate preachers too, sadly. While this guy doesn’t recruit directly for violent groups, there is a violence to his views.”
Videos are available online showing Mizrachi telling Jewish children that “God only want him [the disabled child] here 40 years to suffer… Why? Measure for measure. You spoke bad about people for the previous life, now you going to feel what it is to live 40 years without be able to say a word.”
Mizrachi, who has also suggested that Ashkenazi Jews were killed in the Holocaust because they went to college, has previously hit back at critics, calling them the names of evil biblical characters and describing them as “worse than Hitler”.
He founded Orthodox outreach group the Kiruv Organisation in New York in 1995, but has since fallen from favour, and was criticised by the Novominsker Rebbe, the president of the ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel of America, who said Mizrachi’s claims were demonstrably false, profoundly offensive and extremely hurtful”.
It is not clear whether Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP will ban Mizrachi from entering the UK, which she has the power to do if his visit is seen as “not conducive to the public good”.
Asked about Mizrachi’s visit, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.” They added, however, that “coming to the UK is a privilege, and we expect those who come here to respect our shared values”.