NEW YORK (JTA) — Several U.S. Jewish groups condemned the public destruction of a copy of the New Testament by Israeli Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari.
Ben-Ari, a member of the National Union Party and reportedly a devotee of the late Meir Kahane, invited a legislative aide to photograph him ripping up a New Testament and throwing it in the garbage. Ben-Ari then had the photos sent to Israel’s daily Maariv. The book reportedly was mailed to Ben-Ari and the Knesset’s other members by a messianic Jewish group called the Bible Society in Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee issued statements condemning the action. In an interview with JTA, Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called it an "outrageous" action that was "not acceptable."
[UPDATED: After initially declining to comment, the Jewish Federations of North America condemned the incident. Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the organization, issued a statement to JTA condemning the "deplorable incident" and saying it "doesn’t represent the values we live by."]
The Knesset’s lone Christian parliamentarian, Hanna Sweid of the Hadash Party, told the Jerusalem Post, “This is hooliganism, bullying and an apocalyptic act of hatred that was baseless and unnecessary.”
Other Knesset members, including a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned the incident, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin reportedly denied Ben-Ari a chance to explain himself on the Knesset floor, saying Ben-Ari should stop giving the Knesset a bad name.