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Members of the Reform movement on Wednesday accused the former Sephardic chief rabbi of slander for allegedly stating that the Holocaust happened because of the activity of Reform Jews in Germany.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu is said to have made the statement on Friday in an interview with a pirate radio station, and the six Reform movement members have filed a slander complaint to the police.

"Rabbi Eliyahu's statements are no less serious than Holocaust denial, and the Israeli public must respond accordingly ... The public in Israel has had enough of rabbis cursing and wants a spiritual leadership whose 'ways are ways of pleasantness,'" they said.

Most of the complainants are survivors or descendants of survivors. The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) said there were numerous requests for immediate public and legal action after the broadcast.

Eliyahu, who is considered the spiritual leader of the National Religious Party, was asked by the radio interviewer, "What was the sin of the six million?" In response, he quoted from Exodus 22:5: "If fire gets out of control and spreads through weeds, and [then] consumes bound or standing grain or a field, the one who started the fire must make restitution."

He then said, "Those people [Jews in general] are not to blame, but Reform started in Germany, those who changed the religion began in Germany. And because it is written that God was angered, even He did not differentiate among the righteous, it was done." The chief rabbi of Safed, Eliyahu's son Shmuel Eliyahu, said his father's words do not justify the Nazi crimes but "are based on historic facts," and that anti-Semitism rose where there was assimilation.

He called the complaint against his father "a joke."

Among the complainants are IMPJ Chairman Abraham Melamed, who is also the chairman of the Department of Jewish History and Thought at the University of Haifa and a Yad Vashem board member. Michael Sheizaf, a Bergen-Belsen survivor and a member of the Darchei Noam Reform congregation in Ramat Hasharon, is also among the complainants.

Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski protest Eliyahu's statements in a letter to the rabbi on Wednesday.