Christian MK calls for legal action against Ben-Ari

Rivlin to Ben-Ari: Stop giving the Knesset a bad name; National Union MK tore up New Testament, blamed it for Jewish deaths.

MK Ben-Ari tearing up a New Testament 370 (photo credit: Itamar Ben-Gvir)
MK Ben-Ari tearing up a New Testament 370
(photo credit: Itamar Ben-Gvir)
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.
“This is 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.
“This reflects the culture of a man who is dangerous to nations and religions of the world.”
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.”
“I hope that [Ben-Ari] represents a minority, and such incitement won’t continue,” Sweid sighed.
According to Sweid, “Evangelicals support Ben-Ari’s path of occupation and settlements.
I hope they will now see who they are dealing with.”
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.
At the 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 believers.”
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.
Rivlin rejected 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.
According to 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.”
As for 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 non-Jews.
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.
MK Nissim 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 incinerated.
Ze’ev condemned missionary activity, and called sending the books to MKs a “pointless provocation.”
Other MKs expressed their disgust with Ben-Ari.
“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.
Dr. 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 added.
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 here.
We express our strong protest and condemn the actions of Michael Ben-Ari.
“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.
“It is 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.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.