Anti-assimilation group could be classified as terrorist

Defense minister reportedly seeks to outlaw Lehava after arson attack on Jerusalem Arab-Jewish school

Lehava protesters hold signs reading 'Assimilation is a Holocaust' outside a Jewish-Muslim wedding near Tel Aviv, August 17, 2014. (Flash90)
Lehava protesters hold signs reading 'Assimilation is a Holocaust' outside a Jewish-Muslim wedding near Tel Aviv, August 17, 2014. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon intends to classify the Jewish anti-assimilation group Lehava as a terror organization, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.

According to the report, the defense minister has been working with the Shin Bet security apparatus and legal experts in order to build a case against the far-right organization.

Three members of Lehava, headed by activist Bentzi Gopshtain, were charged with setting fire to a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem.

The November 2014 arson attack was coupled with extensive anti-Arab graffiti spray-painted throughout the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School.

Inside the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School, an Arab-Jewish school that was vandalized over the weekend, Nov. 30, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA)
Inside the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem, an Arab-Jewish school, after it was vandalized on November 29, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA)

Gopshtain was also arrested, along with nine other Lehava members, and charged with incitement in connection with the attack.

Following the arrests of the 13 Lehava members, authorities raided the Jerusalem headquarters of the organization, confiscating laptops and other equipment.

The nationalist group has a prominent presence in the capital city and can often be seen handing out anti-assimilation literature to pedestrians on Ben Yehuda Street, a drag of bars, clubs and restaurants popular with tourists and young Israelis.

Gopshtain called the threat to outlaw the group a “political stunt that demonstrates why one shouldn’t vote for the Likud,” the ruling party to which Ya’alon belongs.

“I suggest that [Ya’alon] aim to outlaw the Islamist Movement and then preoccupy itself with an anti-assimilation group… Instead of taking care of an enemy of Israel, the defense minister is trying to win over votes from the Left [by] taking on Lehava. The group acts to save the daughters of Israel [Jewish women] and deserves the Israel Prize,” he said in a statement.

Lehava made headlines in August of last year after protesting the wedding of Morel Malka, a Jewish convert to Islam, and Mahmoud Mansour, an Arab-Israeli resident of Jaffa, outside their reception in Rishon Lezion in central Israel.

Four anti-assimilation protesters were arrested after they tried to approach the hall in violation of a court order, which stated that they could not come within 200 meters of the celebrations.

Stuart Winer and Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

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