JERUSALEM (AP) — The speaker of Israel’s parliament says he refused to display a Christmas tree in the building because of the “painful memories” it evoked among Jews.

Yuli Edelstein told Israel Radio Thursday such a public display of a Christian symbol could be construed as offensive. Jews have suffered from centuries of persecution by Christians.

Israeli Parliament Speakers Reason for Not Displaying Christmas Tree

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening session of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Earlier this week, Edelstein rejected the request of a Christian-Arab lawmaker. He said the parliamentarian could display a tree in his office and party’s conference room.

Edelstein says the initiative is part of an Arab campaign to chip away at Israel’s Jewish nature. He warned that if he had agreed he would then likely face further requests to display a cross and crescent in parliament.