The anti-assimilation Lehava organization has canceled a protest on Mount Herzl, originally set for Wednesday night, against an Arab Israeli journalist to be honored at the annual Independence Day ceremony.
The group called off the protest due to police restrictions, Channel 2 reported.
The head of the Lehava organization, Bentzi Gopshtain, filed a request with police Monday to hold the rally at the national military cemetery, stating that Lucy Aharish was “not a Zionist” and was therefore unfit to have a leading role in the annual ceremony. Police authorized the rally, the Ynet news site reported, but demanded that it take place in an area out of the ceremony’s view.
This was unacceptable to the organization. “Due to the police’s silencing, which was designed to stifle a legitimate protest, we decided to cancel the protest across from the ceremony,” the group said in a statement.
“It is a regrettable fact [Aharish] was chosen to light a torch on Independence Day,” Gopshtain said. “If a representative of the Arab sector were chosen who accepts that the Land of Israel is the land of the Jewish people, I would understand.”
The far-right activist added that “once a woman whose flag is not the Star of David, the IDF is not her army, and her soul does not yearn for the two-thousand-year-old hope, is selected, then there is a huge missing of the point of lighting a torch and communicating a message, precisely on Independence Day.”
The Lehava organization is a nationalist group with a prominent presence in Jerusalem and can often be seen handing out literature warning against inter-ethnic or inter-religious relationships to pedestrians on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street, a popular downtown area with bars, clubs and restaurants frequented by tourists and young Israelis.
Gopshtain was arrested in November along with nine other members of the organization for his alleged involvement in setting fire to a multicultural Arab-Jewish school in the capital.
Following the incident, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was reportedly considering designating the group a terror organization, effectively banning it.