Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Friday that the Israeli government was considering outlawing the far-right extremist Lehava organization over incitement to violence.
The minister’s comments came hours after a Jew stabbed four Arabs in the southern city of Dimona, as violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories continued Friday.
“There are organizations like Lehava, and their activity causes incitement to violence,” Erdan said during a tour of Jerusalem. “We are examining all possible legal steps, including outlawing [such organizations]. We are not dismissing any step.”
Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopstein said in response that he was “amazed” at Erdan’s comments. “I did not hear that they outlawed the Islamic Movement,” he said, referring to the radical Islamist group that operates in Israel. “Every hour a Jew gets stabbed here. Guard us, the people of Israel.”
Gopstein added: “We are fighting assimilation, you should give us a prize.”
On Friday morning, an Israeli teenager stabbed and wounded three Palestinian men and a Bedouin Arab in an attack that police said had a “nationalistic” motivation. The suspect, who reports said has a criminal background, confessed to the stabbing, saying that he thinks “all Arabs are terrorists.”
Gopstein himself was arrested Thursday night during an anti-Arab march organized by Lehava in Jerusalem. Three other members of the group were arrested.
Police forcefully dispersed protesters, who were shouting slogans against Arabs in Sacher Park in central Jerusalem. The protest turned into a riot after police suspected that one of the marchers was carrying a knife. When officers detained him, others in the group began throwing rocks at the police.
Far-right activists Michael Ben Ari, a former MK, and Baruch Marzel were also at the protest.
Ben Ari said after the arrests that “Israel Police is strong against Jews and harms the freedom of expression. Instead of containing the protest as they do with Arabs, police is implementing discriminatory policies.”
Lehava was established as an organization aiming to prevent marriage between Jews and Arabs, which is prohibited according to religious Jewish law. The group has become identified with the extreme Jewish right and its members have been seen patrolling downtown Jerusalem on Friday nights looking, they claim, for mixed couples.
Their vigilante patrols have often escalated into scuffles and there were several instances over the past year where members of the organization have beaten Arabs who came to town for a night out.
Most of the organization’s members are teens.