Israeli lawmaker received a copy of the New Testament from a Christian group called The Bible Society in Israel in his Knesset mailbox. This is not unusual and most lawmakers just quietly toss the copy in the trash or return it.
However, Michael Ben Ari, of the National Union Party, ripped his copy to shreds and threw it in the garbage, with his aide photographing the scene. On Tuesday, he released the photo to the Israeli Daily Maariv.
"Sending the book to lawmakers is a provocation. There is no doubt that this book and all it represents belongs in the garbage can of history," Ben Ari said, adding that it "galvanized the murder of millions of Jews" throughout history, including during the Spanish Inquisition.
A government spokesman stated they deplore such behaviour and outright condemn such acts.
Government spokesman Mark Regev told Ynet that "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."
Ynet News quoted Ben Ari as saying, "This abominable book (the New Testament) galvanized the murder of millions of Jews during the Inquisition and during auto da fe instances," Ben Ari said adding that "Sending the book to MK's is a provocation. There is no doubt that this book and all it represents belongs in the garbage can of history."
Itamar Ben-Gvir said Ben Ari, an Orthodox Jew, was enraged to receive a copy of the New Testament, pointing out that Christians slaughtered millions of Jews in the name of Jesus.
Many Christians over the centuries persecuted Jews, holding them responsible for Jesus' crucifixion.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on the Knesset to censure Ben Ari for tearing up the Bible. Ben Ari allegedly has a history of hostility towards Christians, as well as Israeli Arabs. He was barred from visiting the States, where he was born, due to his association with an extremist grouped called the Kach movement, which was banned in Israel.
"MK Ben-Ari's extremist views and actions are outrageous," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The photograph of MK Ben-Ari tearing up the Christian Bible, holy to many around the world, is a sacrilegious outrage, an abominable assault on an entire religion."
During the Knesset session in Jerusalem, Speaker Reuven Rivlin said, “I condemn all disrespect of holy writings, including the tearing of the New Testament by an MK last night. Imagine a foreign parliament member tore the bible, relating to it as a provocation. Democracy means freedom of speech but not freedom to disrespect other religions. A foundation of the state is freedom of worship and belief.”