The Shabbat sermon of Rabbi Benny Lau could end up costing him, after the Otzma Yehudit Party filed an NIS 100,000 lawsuit against the religious-Zionist rabbi for slander.
In the sermon at the Ramban synagogue in Jerusalem Lau vowed to “go to war” to prevent followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane from entering the Knesset. He expressed outrage that Kahane followers former MK Michael Ben-Ari and lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir were given slots on the Bayit Yehudi slate, because of Kahane’s anti-Arab agenda.
Lau urged his congregants to research the Nazi Nuremberg laws and compare them to the bills advanced by Kahane when he was an MK in the 1980s. The rabbi equated Kahanism with Nazism and warned that mistreating minorities goes against the Torah.“A vote for Bayit Yehudi is a vote for the racism of Kahane,” Lau said.In a letter they sent to Lau on Sunday morning, Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir demanded an apology. “Your words were clear slander and gravely insulting,” Ben-Gvir wrote. “You crossed a red line by comparing Jews to Nazis – Jews who are loyal to the State of Israel, the Land of Israel and the people of Israel. The Nazis murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust and tried to destroy the entire Jewish population of the world, just for being Jews, due to their racism.”Ben-Gvir wrote that by contrast, Otzma Yehudit is a statesmanlike party that advances the national interests of Israel and the Jewish people. He included in the letter quotes from former Supreme Court judge Ayala Procaccia criticizing comparisons of any Jew to the Nazis. “Freedom of expression is of course a basic right in a democratic country, but even freedom of expression has its limits,” Ben-Gvir said. “The harsh words of Rabbi Lau blatantly crossed that line. Comparing Jews to Nazis is unacceptable. It cheapens the Holocaust and harms the six million Jews who were slaughtered. Rabbi Lau must know there are ramifications for his words.”
Ben-Gvir, who is a lawyer, threatened to sue Lau for slander on Saturday night before he sent the letter Sunday morning.“He knows we are not in favor of killing Arabs,” Ben-Gvir said. “He knows our platform encourages the emigration of those who are not loyal to the State of Israel. Those who are loyal, we have no problem with – ‘Ahalan wasahalan’ [an Arabic phrase meaning ‘you are welcome’]. We will take off our gloves before Rabbi Lau, who accepts anarchists and Leftist extremists, and always scolds others to listen to differing views. But when it comes to Otzma, he speaks with a new peak of primitiveness and hatred.”