The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has called on the Israeli Parliament to censure one of its lawmakers for tearing up a copy of the New Testament in his office, and then distributing photos of himself doing it, according to reports.
Ironically coinciding with the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) convention in Washington, D.C., Michael Ben-Ari of the ultranationalist National Union Party was reportedly mailed a copy of the book (along with all of the other MKs) by Christian missionaries.
“This despicable book galvanized the murder of millions of Jews during the Inquisition and during auto-da-fe instances,” he was quoted as saying.
He reportedly continued: “This is an ugly missionary provocation by the church; this book and its senders should be in history’s trash can.”
According to the AJC, Ben-Ari has a long record of open hostility towards Israel’s Arab citizens, and has even been prevented from visiting the U.S. because of his association with the extremist Kach movement, which is banned in Israel.
According to U.S. consular officials, the State Department claimed it had a responsibility to keep terrorists from entering the country.
Israeli officials have quickly and overwhelmingly condemned the desecration.
Government spokesman Mark Regev said: “We totally deplore this behavior and condemn it outright. This action stands in complete contrast to our values and our traditions. Israel is a tolerant society, but we have zero tolerance for this despicable and hateful act.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin even denied the man’s request to explain himself on Wednesday, telling him to “stop giving the Knesset a bad name.”
And MK Masud Gnaim, who is Muslim, slammed the action, adding: “As a Muslim, I respect all religions’ holy books.”
According to the Israeli site Haaretz, members of CUFI don’t seem to be too fazed by Ben-Ari’s behavior.
Joshua Ahrens, a student from Portland State University, said: “My support of Jews is unconditional. I was astonished how quickly Jewish people opened their hearts and minds to me, and [the] responsibility is on me to explain my motivations. So one person (Ben-Ari) doesn’t trouble me at all.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.