London – A hugely popular Brooklyn rabbi whose sometimes controversial statements have found him subjected to torrents of criticism found himself banned from a flight to London today by the United Kingdom’s Home Office.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi has raised public ire on several occasions with contentious statements including saying that children who are born with Down Syndrome and autism are atoning for sins committed in a previous life, while those who are blind are doing penance for having watched pornography in a prior existence.
Word began spreading yesterday that he could be denied entry into the country because of his remarks, as reported by The London Times (http://bit.ly/2XTsD56) and he was prevented from boarding his plane to the United Kingdom earlier today.
Times Of Israel (http://bit.ly/2XSyYOp) reported that Rabbi Mizrachi had originally been scheduled to speak at three synagogues in northern London: Beit Hamedrash Knesset Yechezkel in Golders Green, Seuda Shlishit Knesset Yechezkel and the Heichal Leah Synagogue in Hendon on topics including “Defeating the Modern Day Amalek.” The Heichal Leah Synagogue later announced that Rabbi Mizrachi’s lecture would not be held due to a scheduling change.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said that those who come to spread hatred will be barred from entering the country.
“This government upholds free speech but we will not let it be used to excuse detestable views that directly contravene our values,” said the spokesperson. “We take the threat from extremism seriously and we will challenge it wherever we see it.”
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2XURVju) Rabbi Mizrachi came under fire several years ago after saying that only one million Jews had died in the Holocaust. He later apologized for those remarks, but also said that his words had been deliberately misconstrued in an effort to discredit him, with segments of previous lectures spliced together in a distortion of his remarks.
Among those who have voiced opposition to Mizrachi’s statements are England’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and hundreds of people signed a 2016 petition categorizing him as a “hate preacher” and calling for him to be banned from Britain. David Toube, director of Qulliam, a London-based think tank focusing on counterextremism, said that he was pleased that the mainstream Jewish community was united in opposing Rabbi Mizrachi.
Rabbi Mizrachi, who has an estimated 200,000 followers on social media, gave a different account of the situation, saying that after hearing that his detractors told British authorities that he had spoken out against homosexuality and Palestinians, he elected to cancel his trip.
“I saw in the news reports published this morning that they would review my claim and then decide if they will let me into the country,” Rabbi Mizrachi told VIN News. “I couldn’t take the risk of traveling for hours, with a big suitcase full of my books, getting there and having to sit for hours while they make their decision and then worry about having to possibly make it back home in time for Shabbos.”
According to Rabbi Mizrachi, he received over 1,000 supportive emails today from his followers.