Over 10 opposition lawmakers were ejected from a raucous Knesset committee meeting on Tuesday morning after they protested the presence of the leader of the far-right Lehava group at the session. Bentzi Gopstein, who dubbed the lawmakers “terrorists” and “traitors,” was not asked to leave.
The Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee was meeting to discuss a series of suspected hate attacks against Arabs perpetrated in downtown Jerusalem, allegedly by members of Gopstein’s organization.
“You are Islamic State with a kippah,” said Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli before being booted from the room by the committee’s chairman, MK Betzalel Smotrich of the right-wing Jewish Home party. “You are the foreskin of the Jewish Ku Klux Klan, the garbage of the garbage,” shouted Meretz MK Ilan Gilon.
Fellow Meretz MK Issawi Frij was forcibly removed by security guards, while Meretz MK Michal Rozin branded Gopstein a “fascist, terrorist,” before she was escorted out of the room.
Smotrich refused to kick out Gopstein, who had called the left-wing MKs “traitors” and the Arab lawmakers “terrorists.”
“Unlike you all, I am a democrat,” Smotrich told the meeting, before Gilon retorted: “Not so long ago, you volunteered to be an executioner.” He was referring to the right-wing MK’s July offer to act as executioner if the Knesset approved a death penalty for terrorists.
Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin shared a photo on Facebook of the lawmakers removed from the session, which included all the members of the Kulanu, Zionist Union, Meretz, and Joint (Arab) List present. According to Rozin, some ten MKs were asked to leave.
עכשיו מחוץ לוועדת הפנים הדנה על הוצאת ארגון להב"ה מחוץ לחוק. מנכ"ל להב"ה, בנצי גופשטיין, נואם בחסות ח״כ בצלאל סמוטריץ׳…
Taking the podium, Gopstein said the lawmakers “are afraid of me, because you know that one day I’ll be in the Knesset and you won’t.”
“Arabs are not afraid in Jerusalem, the people who are afraid are Jews, who are being murdered in the streets. We are in the streets to protect our daughters,” Gopstein said.
He later tweeted, “Watching the Arab and leftist MKs leave when I speak is the biggest pleasure. Makes me want to run for Knesset.”
Earlier this month, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the Israeli government was considering outlawing the Lehava organization over incitement to violence.
“We are examining all possible legal steps, including outlawing [such organizations],” Erdan said.
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 some evenings looking, they claim, for mixed couples.
Their vigilante patrols have often generated 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.