Michael Ben-Ari, a member of the National Union Party in the Israeli Knesset, wanted a staff member to film him recently for his constituents to see. While most politicians go for the baby kissing scene or memorial day speech, Ben-Ari wanted to be shown tearing out the New Testament from a bible and throwing it into the garbage — a despicable act of religious intolerance and hate.
Ben-Ari is reportedly a devotee of the late Meir Kahane and apparently a Jewish version of Rev. Terry Jones. To their credit, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have condemned the action.
A Christian member of the Knesset has called for Ben-Ari to be charged with incitement, which I believe is a mistake. Such prosecutions are part of a trend of prosecuting critics of religion. Rather than punish such acts as crimes (under international blasphemy standards or hate crime laws), such acts should be subject to this type of universal condemnation. It is an act of free speech but it is also hateful and disgraceful. Notably, the destruction of the bible did not trigger the type of vandalism and killings often following the destruction of Korans. However, it should result in the censorship of this member by the Knesset.
Ben-Ari has been outspoken in opposing the visit of the Pope to Israel and advancing his extreme agenda. His 2012 visa application to attend a conference in D.C. was denied on the State Department’s as part of its “prerogative to ban terrorists from entering the country.”
Ben-Ari later explained his actions by insisting “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.”
It always impresses me how prejudiced hateful people like Ben-Ari will reach back to find some historical excuse for hating other people or faiths — in this case the Spanish Inquisition.
Despite the criticism of some leaders, the response to Ben-Ari has been rather muted, including from his fellow party members. There is no indication whether he will face a formal sanction for his hate-filled demonstration.