JERUSALEM -- Calling the Christian faith’s New Testament a “despicable book,” a right-wing Israeli lawmaker tore up a copy of the biblical text and threw it in a trash can as one of his aides took pictures that he later released to Israeli media.
Lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari, of the far-right National Union Party, blamed Christianity and the New Testament for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe that led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.
The copy of the New Testament had been sent to Israeli lawmakers by the Bible Society of Israel in an attempt to foster goodwill among the religions, according to a report Tuesday in Israel’s Maariv newspaper, which also published the photo of Ben-Ari destroying the book.
“Sending this book to [Knesset members] is a provocation, and the appropriate response is to send this book and what it represents to the rubbish bin of history,” Ben-Ari was quoted as saying. The Knesset is Israel's parliament.
Other lawmakers condemned the act as intolerant and disrespectful. Those who also received copies of the New Testament either ignored the gift or returned them, Maariv reported.
Ben-Ari is no stranger to controversy. He is a former member of the ultra-nationalist Kach Party, which Israel banned for supporting racism and violence against Arabs. His recent application to visit the United States was denied by American immigration officials, who cited their right to ban “terrorists” from entering the country.
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari, right, shown with a fellow conservative at a rally Sunday in Nazareth over proposals to expand the military draft in Israel, has triggered controversy by tearing up a copy of the New Testament sent to him and other legislators by the Bible Society of Israel. Credit: Ahmad Bharabli / Agency France-Presse / Getty Images.