The spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party for Sephardic Jews has accused Ashkenazi Jews of being the source of all evil, according to the Maariv daily on Wednesday.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said during a lecture on the Torah in Jerusalem that "all evil stems from the Ashkenazis".
The 80-year-old rabbi is not a representative of some fringe movement - Shas has 11 MPs in the 120-member Israeli parliament.
The party claims to represent Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean and Middle East and Rabbi Yosef is considered a leading expert on the Torah.
Fire and brimestone
The religious scholar has previously caused controversy with a speech in which he called for Arabs to go to hell.
But this time he targeted Israel’s Ashkenazi Jews – who migrated from central and eastern Europe following World War II.
"You the Jewish Ashkenazis, you have been in the West, in hell. Why did you come here? What you say or do is of little importance," he said.
Internationally, tensions are just as high.
Scores of self-styled “Torah True Jews” based in the United States have criticised Israel’s continuing attempt to refer to itself as ‘the Jewish State’.
In a high profile email campaign last Wednesday, thousands of people received a stark warning of "the danger Zionists were placing on Jews worldwide".
Rabbi Dovid Feldman told Aljazeera.net that a silent majority of Jews opposed the Zionist ideology which led to the creation of modern Israel.
Feldman claims there are many more rabbis and others who sincerely practice their faith that hold similar opinions all round the world.
Calling themselves True Torah
Jews, some rabbis denounce Israel
The message urged would-be-emigrants not to believe that events in Istanbul or France “make it necessary for Jews to leave their native countries and move to the most dangerous place on Earth for the Jewish People.”
Response to Sharon
The campaign came in response to comments made on 17 November by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The PM told journalists at a hotel in Rome: “The best solution to anti-Semitism is immigration to Israel. It is the only place on Earth where Jews can live as Jews.”
The invitation has been received coldly by The True Torah campaign and by some eminent religious scholars.
Feldman and the late rabbi, Yoel Teitelbaum, extensively promoted a theological position that requires Jews to condemn the foundation of the secular state of Israel.
The rabbi claims the Zionist movement rejects all of the fundamental principles of Torah and insists Jews do not need a state of their own, adding the very establishment of a “Jewish” state is a grave violation of tradition and law.
In a letter addressed to US President George Bush and published in the Washington Post in September, the website "jewsagainstzionism" applauded the sentiment.
“They [Israelis] don’t represent the Jewish people in any way whatsoever. They have no right to speak in the name of the Jewish people.
“We deplore acts and policies carried out by those who – misusing the name of Israel – have substituted the ideal of nationalism for the teaching of the holy Torah.”
The website also criticised Tel Aviv’s policy of filling people with fear and paranoia in order to realise their goal of bringing more immigrants into the country who are to “serve as cannon fodder in the Zionist war against the Palestinians”.