Amos Schoken
Amos SchokenFlash 90

Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken tried Thursday to explain why the newspaper published the libelous article by Yossi Klein against Religious Zionism.

In a Channel 2 interview Schocken said that "Yossi Klein has a right to express his opinion" but conceded that "maybe the term the National Religious in the context in which it appearred in the article should not have been used."

Schocken said that he accepts part of Klein's thesis "insofar as it applies to Religious Zionism's involvement in politics," adding that "the apartheid regime in the territories which stems from the settlement movement endangers Israel more than Hezbollah. That is my view."

"If all criticism of what Naftali Bennett is doing to secular education will be deemed anti-Semitism we might as well close the media altogether. The goal of Haaretz is to maintain a public debate over important issues in the State of Israel and whoever reads the article cannot ignore its role in the discussion which is critical for the state and for society."

In the article, originally titled "Worse than Hezbollah”, Klein slammed the Religious Zionist sector, claiming they are more of a threat than murderous Arab terrorists or the Hezbollah terror movement in Lebanon, which has killed hundreds of Jews worldwide since the 1980s.The newspaper changed the title to someting less abusive after complaints.

"The national religious [public] is dangerous, more dangerous than Hezbollah, more than [terrorist] drivers ramming their cars into people, or girls with scissors. The Arabs can be killed, they cannot, " he wrote, later changing the word "killed" to "neutralized."

"What do they want? To take control of the state and cleanse it of Arabs. If asked, they will deny it ... They know that it is too early to be so obvious. Do not believe their denials. Their religious nationalism is extreme nationalism, enveloped in a pious reverence. It permeates the education system, 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.

"I have more in common with the Eskimo of Alaska than with all the [national-religious leaders] and everything they represent. What do I have to do with Smotrich? What have I got to do with Israel Harel (a rightwing veteran Haaretz columnist, ed.)? What do I have to do with those who want to achieve freedom for themselves at the expense of someone else's freedom?"

The article was strongly criticized across the center to right political spectrum, with MK Yair Lapid, Minister Ayelet Shaked and Prime Minister Netanyahu all expressing their disapprobation to the media.