Bentzi Gopshtain
Bentzi GopshtainYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Left-wing campaigners have called for an investigation after a controversial right-wing activist urged a ban on Christmas celebrations in Israel and called Christian missionaries "vampires."

Bentzi Gopshtain, who heads the anti-assimilation Lehava organisation, made the comments in an article on the haredi Jewish website Kooker.  

"Christmas has no place in the Holy Land," wrote Gopshtain, who lives in Hevron and has been arrested by police several times - though never charged with any crime.

He spoke of the "fall of the line of defense of the Jewish people for hundreds of years against our enemies, the Catholic Church."

"The mission of those vampires and bloodsuckers remains. If Jews cannot be killed, they can be converted," he wrote of missionaries working to convert Jews in the Holy Land.

"We must remove the vampires before they drink our blood once again."

The Coalition Against Racism in Israel and other left-wing NGOs accused Gopshtain of branding all Christians "vampires," and called on authorities to investigate him.

But in a Facebook post Tuesday, Gopshtain slammed his critics - particularly the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, where the story first surfaced - for "distorting" what he said, suggesting they didn't bother to read the article in question.

"The Haaretz newspaper is crying that I called Christians vampires," he wrote. "But ...they didn't read what wrote. I called missionaries who work to remove Jews from their religion 'vampires'. But the facts don't concern Haaretz."

Lehava claims to fight for Jewish identity, in particular by opposing intermarriage in Israel.

AFP contributed to this report.