Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most famous novelists, has hit out at radical Jewish settlers, labelling them “Hebrew neo-Nazis”.
At an event celebrating his 75th birthday, Mr Oz said strong language should be used to describe extremist settlers who target Christian sites in so-called "price tag" attacks including vandalism, arson, graffiti, and even threats against leaders of other faiths.
"We need to look this monster in the eye and call it by its true name," said Mr Oz. "We wanted to be like all other peoples. We had hoped that the day would arrive in which there would be a Hebrew thief and a Hebrew whore. We also have Hebrew neo-Nazi groups. There is nothing that the modern-day neo-Nazis in Europe do that those groups don't do here.
The award-winning writer added: "Perhaps the only difference [with Europe] lies in the fact that our neo-Nazi groups enjoy the tailwind of quite a few lawmakers who are nationalists, and possibly even racists, and also a number of rabbis who provide them with a basis that, in my opinion, is pseudo-religious."
In response, a number of right-wing Israeli politicians criticised Mr Oz , calling his comments a “cheapening of the Holocaust”.
Likud member and former Knesset speaker Reuvin Rivlin, who was present at the birthday event and was once a classmate of Mr Oz, said he had “crossed the line.”
“It's a cheapening of the Holocaust, and that insufferable comparison is liable to reverberate throughout the entire world,” said Mr Rivlin. “It is our duty to decry the price tag acts, but the comparison to the Holocaust is inappropriate.”
Israeli housing minister Uri Ariel said: “There is no way of comparing Nazis, whose entire essence was to annihilate other peoples in the name of the superiority of the [Aryan] race, to spray-painting graffiti and slashing tires.”
The Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem has voiced its concern over the price tag attacks saying they fear an “escalation of violence”. The Pope is set to visit Israel later this month.