The leader of one of the world's biggest Jewish youth movements has come under intense criticism for Facebook post which appears to call for Israelis to take the foreskins of 300 Palestinians as retribution for the killing of three Israeli teenagers.
The post comes as violence flared again in east Jerusalem after the killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian, which police have hinted may have been a revenge attack by extremists for the brutal kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers hitchhiking home in the West Bank.
According to screengrabs of his Facebook wall, Noam Perel, the secretary general of Bnei Akiva, called for the biblical retribution, the same violence King David meted out to the Philistines in the Old Testament as a way to win his bride Michal from her father Saul. He had originally refused to apologise for the post, but later released a statement saying he regretted his words.
Bnei Akiva is the largest Jewish youth movement in the UK, running summer and winter camps and gap years in Israel.
"A whole nation and thousands of years of history demands vengeance," he had posted, according to Haaretz. He then called for the Israeli army to become an "army of vengeance".
In a statement released through Bnei Akiva's Facebook page, Perel said: "In the last few days, the entire Jewish people and the nation of Israel has been in enormous pain. The loss of our sons and our brothers has raised tremendous emotions.
"We are a nation on edge, experiencing national tragedy and all its ramifications. As a nation with a long history and tradition we turn to our sages and our forefathers in times of tragedy for strength and support.
"Following the discovery of the bodies of the three students, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, murdered in cold blood, I wrote a Facebook post that has been widely misunderstood. My words have been misrepresented due to their biblical and poetic style. I deeply and unreservedly apologise for the anger that this has caused. Particularly in times of national tragedy it is incumbent upon leaders and educators to be more precise and careful in words than I have demonstrated."
Daniel Goldman, a Newcastle-born co-chair of the Friends of World Bnei Akiva, told HuffPost UK: “Whilst the initial post was most unfortunate, I am pleased that Noam has made his position quite clear. At this time we are all trying to focus on continuing the spirit of unity inspired by the grieving families. As a youth movement our job is to stick to education and we rely on the government to take whatever action is necessary.”
Ben Dov Salasnik, the national director of the movement's UK branch told HuffPost UK that he "wholly condemns the implication that vengeance is the correct response to recent events and we wish to distance ourselves from statements and members within the global movement which suggest otherwise.
"Bnei Akiva UK is an educational and politically non-partisan movement and we call upon our members to continue praying for peace in Israel and the wider region, whilst supporting the right of Israel to act for the safety and security of its citizens."
Jeremy Newmark, the former chief executive of the UK's Jewish Leadership council said the comments were "racist incitement".
"A stain on a great movement placing world branches at risk," he tweeted.
Perel deleted the comments, but then posted again before his apology and called the row "a storm in a teacup" and said those who quarrelled with his words were unable to understand how he felt. He added that he hoped the Israeli government acted with such force as to be a deterrent, because "the price of injury to our children is too heavy to bear".
Comments underneath Perel's Facebook post called on him to resign. "You should not be an educational role at all, or lead Bnei Akiva in particular. Resign!" said Nadav Zilbershtein.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that police would investigate the “abominable murder” of Arab-Israeli 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, killed overnight in Jerusalem, by attackers who eyewitnesses identified as Jews. “Israel is a state of law and everyone needs conduct themselves according to the law,” he said.
“Israel is fully responsible for the killing of the teenager and we demand that the perpetrators be found and held accountable,” said Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.
Robert Serry, UN special envoy to the Middle East, has said the peace body “strongly condemns” the death of 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir.
“I recall the Secretary-General’s message: there can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians – any civilians. The perpetrators of such heinous acts must be brought to justice.
"I repeat my call on all sides to do everything they can not to further exacerbate an already tense atmosphere. Our thoughts are with the bereaved family."
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also said it “unequivocally” condemns the “deplorable” killing of Mohammad Abu Khdeir.
“Whatever the motive for this killing, it is utterly deplorable and we condemn it unequivocally. At this fragile time — in aftermath of the killings of the three Israeli teenagers — we all have a responsibility to promote an atmosphere in which peace and justice, rather than violence and aggression, can prevail.
"We all need to see the humanity in one another; this region does not need any more grieving mothers.”
Rioting has continued through the night and into the morning in east Jerusalem. Four days into Ramadan, Israeli security forces have taken the decision to close off the Temple Mount after masked rioters hurl rocks at police forces in the holy compound. Earlier, Palestinians had thrown homemade explosives at police near Shoafat, where the Palestinian teen was taken, with one person injured.
It follows mobs of Israeli extremists who also protested in Jerusalem on Tuesday, calling for revenge for the murder of the Israeli teens. Five Palestinians were attacked, with two hospitalised.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are continuing the manhunt for the chief suspects in the killings of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.
The Hamas-linked pair Marwan Kawasme, 29, and Amar Abu Aysha, 32, are widely suspected to have taken the teens, but not acted under the direct instructions of Hamas leadership.
Hamas has not taken responsibility for the kidnapping and killings but had previously praised the act. As Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that "Hamas will pay" after the discovery of the bodies but a Hamas spokesman was quoted warning on Monday night that “any Israeli response will open the gates of hell.”