Israeli Politicians Condemn Haaretz in Response to Op-Ed

Netanyahu calls for an apology, while Defense Minister Lieberman calls for a boycott in response to an opinion piece on the 'religious Zionist' movement. Haaretz: Author was referring to the movement, not individuals

FILE PHOTO: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a political event in 2016.
FILE PHOTO: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a political event in 2016. Olivier Fitoussi

Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, condemned Thursday an Op-Ed published in Haaretz's Hebrew edition by Yossi Klein in which he wrote that the 'religious Zionists' are more dangerous to Israel than Hezbollah.

Netanyahu called on Haaretz to apologize, writing on his Facebook page that "the article in Haaretz is shameful and bizarre. They've lost it completely. The religous Zionist public in Israel is the salt of the land."

President Reuven Rivlin also criticized the article, calling Klein's remarks hateful statements. "Religious Zionism is an inseparable part of this land, better and more deeply rooted than all its detractors," he said.

In his op-ed, Klein wrote: "Religious Zionists are dangerous. They’re more dangerous than Hezbollah, hit-and-run drivers or girls with scissors. Arabs can be neutralized; religious Zionists can’t.

"What do they want? To take over the country and cleanse it of Arabs. If you ask them, they’ll deny it. They know it’s premature to be so candid. But don’t believe their denials 

"Their religious nationalism is extreme nationalism wrapped in hypocritical fear of heaven. It percolates through the education system, grows stronger in the army and even affects the Supreme Court. They’re already headed our way; in another moment they’ll be breaking down the door.

"They call themselves 'religious Zionism,' dripping with virgin oil and honey. That’s their flak jacket. Under its shield, they do contemptible deeds while casting their eyes heavenward.

"They are focused; only seizing control and expulsion interest them. Talk to them about “social gaps” and they’ll yawn; talk to them about the housing crisis and they’ll giggle. Housing crisis? Not for them. They won’t invite the homeless to come live in the beautiful houses they built at half price. They don’t want them there. They’re the elite, and the elite don’t want neighbors like that.

"The elite have changed, but not the system: Ashkenazi Jews on top, Mizrahi Jews on the bottom. They won’t mix with the Mizrahim. It’s not clear that MK Bezalel Smotrich’s wife would even agree to give birth next to them."

Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi ("The Jewish Home") leader Naftali Bennett strongly criticized Klein and Haaretz. "Even when you think Haaretz has reached the bottom of the barrel, it manages to surprise you and reach a new low. Not the religious Zionists, not the leftists, not the Arabs, no group in Israel deserves such a devilish and inciting indictment. Before it ends in bloodshed, Haaretz, stop. You should be ashamed."

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for a Haaretz boycott: "I call on Israelis to stop buying and stop reading Haaretz immediately. The fact that Haaretz decided to publish this article proves that the newspaper has lost its way, and that their hatred of everything Jewish and Israeli has pushed them over the edge of sanity."

Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, claimed the article was "a classic anti-Semitic text," and asked how renowned rabbis from the religious Zionist movement could possibly be considered more dangerous than Hezbollah. 

Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog also condemned the article, saying that the people are fed up with generalizations.

Haaretz responded to the aricle, saying that "Yossi Klein sought to warn of the dangerous direction in which Israel is being led by the religious Zionist movement, which today rules the government and sees itself as a leading force in Israeli society. In his opinion, the internal danger to Israel is more serious than the external threats, to which there is a security response. His remarks referred to the rabbinical and political leadership that speaks on behalf of the movement and not to everyone with a religious Zionist outlook."