An opinion piece in the Haaretz newspaper which described Israel’s national religious community as being “worse than Hezbollah” drew widespread condemnation Wednesday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and politicians across the spectrum calling for an apology.
The column by Haaretz writer Yossi Klein accused Israel’s national religious community of deceitfully attempting to take over and subvert the country, while carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
“The national religious are dangerous. More dangerous than Hezbollah, more than drivers in car-ramming attacks or kids with scissors. The Arabs can be neutralized, but they cannot,” he wrote.
“Their religious nationalism is extreme nationalism, wrapped in a pious reverence,” he continued. “It permeates the education system, it is getting stronger in the army and affects the Supreme Court. They are already on their way to us, another moment and they break down the door.”
The article was met with anger from members of the national religious community, including several government ministers, as well as from more publically centrist politicians.
“The article in Haaretz is shameful and disgraceful,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook late Wednesday. “The national religious community is the salt of the earth, their sons and daughters serve in the army and national volunteer service for the state of Israel and the security of Israel.
“I am proud of them like the rest of the country’s citizens. Haaretz needs to apologize.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) wrote on Facebook that she received a message from the mother of Benaya Rein, killed in the Second Lebanon War that Israel fought against Hezbollah in 2006, calling Klein a racist and asking her to let him know that her son died “so he could continue being a journalist.”
Education Minister and leader of the Bayit Yehudi party Naftali Bennett, told Channel 2 news that he too had received complaints from two families of fallen soldiers, saying that the article was harmful.
“Just when you think that Haaretz has sunk to its very lowest, it surprises you with a new low. No national religious, or leftists, or Arabs or any other group deserves a writer making an abusive, stupid accusation like this,” he said on Facebook. “Before it ends in blood, Haaretz, stop.” Read at YNet.