Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein should press incitement charges against MK
Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) for tearing a New Testament and throwing it in
the trash, the Knesset’s sole Christian MK, Hanna Sweid, said.
hooliganism, bullying and an apocalyptic act of hatred that was baseless and
unnecessary,” Sweid told The Jerusalem Post after Ben-Ari destroyed the book,
which was mailed to all 120 MKs by a messianic Jewish organization.
reflects the culture of a man who is dangerous to nations and religions of the
Sweid, an MK in the Arab- Jewish socialist faction Hadash,
complained to the Knesset Ethics Committee, but said he has no doubt that it
will not punish Ben-Ari effectively or remove his parliamentary immunity. He was
also skeptical that the Attorney- General’s Office would heed his call, though
he called Ben-Ari’s actions on Tuesday “incitement,” and expressed fears that
they would encourage the public “to raise a hand against Christians.”
hope that [Ben-Ari] represents a minority, and such incitement won’t continue,”
According to Sweid, “Evangelicals support Ben-Ari’s path of
occupation and settlements.
I hope they will now see who they are dealing
Sweid said he was disappointed that there was not more of an
outcry, but at the same time is not accusing those who did not speak out against
Ben-Ari of supporting such acts. However, the Hadash MK stated that if the
public does not stand up against Ben-Ari, he will be encouraged.
same time, Sweid thanked Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin for his “noble and brave”
condemnation of Ben-Ari in the plenum on Wednesday.
“I condemn any
disrespect of holy texts of any religion, including ripping the New Testament by
an MK yesterday,” Rivlin said. “Every holy book is important to its
According to the Knesset speaker, if a parliamentarian from
another country would burn a Torah and call it a provocation, the world would
condemn him or her.
“Democracy is the freedom of speech, but it is not
anarchy, and freedom of faith and worship is one of the founding values of this
country,” Rivlin added.
On Tuesday, Ben-Ari tore up a copy of the Book of
Testaments, combining the Bible and New Testament in one volume, sent to all 120
MKs by The Bible Society in Israel, a messianic Judaism institution for
research, publication and dissemination of holy books.
Ben-Ari’s request to respond in the plenum on Wednesday, telling him to “stop
giving the Knesset a bad name.”
But the National Union MK made his
thoughts on the matter clear.
“Millions of Jews were murdered in the name
of the New Testament, this revolting book brought massacres of Jews in the
[Spanish] Inquisition and throughout history,” Ben-Ari said.
the National Union MK, The Bible Society wanted to “step on the corpses of the
millions of martyrs that were murdered because of their Judaism.”
allegations that Christians support the Right, Ben-Ari accused the Likud of
accepting donations from Evangelicals, and said that he, like his ideological
forbearer Kach leader Rabbi Meir Kahane, would not accept a cent from
The Likud declined to comment.
Ben-Ari said he has no
doubt his reaction was appropriate and called for all other MKs to throw the New
Testament in the trash.
After Rivlin’s condemnation in the Knesset,
several MKs reacted for and against Ben-Ari in the plenum.
Ze’ev (Shas) said the copies of the New Testament sent to the Knesset were
written by “heretics” – meaning messianic Jews – and as such must be burned. He
added that a Torah written by a female Reform Rabbi should also be
Ze’ev condemned missionary activity, and called sending the
books to MKs a “pointless provocation.”
Other MKs expressed their disgust
“I got a copy of the New Testament in the mail, too, but I
never thought to rip it up or burn it,” MK Masud Gnaim (United Arab List-Ta’al)
said, calling Ben-Ari and Ze’ev racists.
“As a Muslim, I respect all
religions’ holy books.”
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) broke a Knesset
regulation Wednesday, bringing a photograph of Kahane on the plenum stage,
saying he is to blame for Ben-Ari’s actions, and tearing it up.
Jürgen Bühler, director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, said
that Ben-Ari’s actions “have needlessly inflamed this situation and were an
obvious stunt to gain publicity.”
“We recognize that he does not
represent the Israeli mainstream, which rejects this sort of incendiary act and
shows respect for the sacred books of other faiths,” Beuhler
Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, the Latin patriarchal vicar in Israel,
strongly condemned the act.
“I speak not only on behalf of the Catholic
and Latin Church in Israel, but also on behalf of all Christian communities
We express our strong protest and condemn the actions of Michael
“All Christian communities are scandalized by this action, there
is absolutely no justification for it whatsoever. This is a holy book and it is
completely unethical to treat it in this way, and goes against religious values
which demand mutual respect.
We don’t ask others to adopt our religious
values only that they show respect.”
Ben-Ari’s desecration also defies
the values of democracy, the bishop said.
“We have to respect the other,
the minorities in the country and those with other religions.
unbelievable that a member of Knesset, in the Knesset itself and in front of the
media, can do such an unjustifiable action. It is a provocation to all Christian
communities in Israel, the Middle East, and around the world.”
Sharon contributed to this report.