Former NRL player Jarryd Hayne has stirred up a 2000-year-old controversy and angered Jewish groups by arguing that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ.
The 27-year-old – who is trying out in the US National Football League for the San Francisco 49ers – tweeted: “Jesus wanted to help people but was killed by his own people.”
Challenged on this by one of his followers, Hayne doubled-down the next day, tweeting: “The Jews were the people who took him to the Romans n forced them to give the order because they couldn’t.”
Argument over who was responsible for Jesus’ death has spurred fighting and persecution for centuries.
Most Christians no longer hold the view that the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus’ death, and persistent belief in that narrative is now associated with anti-Semitism.
In 1965, the Vatican officially recognised that the Jews were not culpable in the death of Jesus, and Pope Benedict XVI reiterated this in a 2011 communication.
Hayne published the tweets on July 1 and 2, while he was in Sydney attending the Hillsong annual conference, but the tweets were deleted on Friday morning, July 10, after Fairfax Media contacted Hayne’s manager.
Hayne spoke at the week-long Hillsong convention and also posted a photograph on Instagram of visiting pastor Jentezen Franklin.
“Wayyyyyy up, I feel blessed,” Hayne commented on the photo.
Chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, Dvir Abramovich, said he was deeply concerned by Hayne’s tweets and labelled them “damaging, painful and irresponsible”.
“For thousands of years Jews were held in contempt and were persecuted and murdered because they were labelled as Christ-killers,” he said in a statement.
“Rather than fuelling anti-Semitism, we need sportspeople to be powerful voices in countering racism and Jewish-hatred, especially when attacks against Jews worldwide are on the increase.”
In a phone interview, he told Fairfax Media that “repulsive” comments made by prominent people led to the normalisation of anti-Semitism.
“I’m not saying that Hayne is anti-Semitic but I think his statements are very, very dangerous,” he said.
“Sportspeople are role models and people look up to them. The last thing we want is an Australian display of anti-Semitism.”
Hayne’s Australian manager Wayne Beavis said the tweets were “just a personal comment” and he had no further statement to make.
“I haven’t discussed it with him. It’s not something I’m going to be chasing him down for,” he said.
It comes shortly after a Brisbane-based financial adviser was exposed for a series of tweets labelling Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg a “Tinkering Jew” and “Central Planning Jew”.
James Howarth, principal of Retirement Wealth Advisers, initially stood by his “right to free speech” when interviewed by The Australian, but later apologised to Mr Frydenberg.
An investigation was commenced by the industry’s peak body and Mr Howarth’s licence was revoked.