In Jewish extremist camp, youths learn to withstand Shin Bet grilling

In Jewish extremist camp, youths learn to withstand Shin Bet grilling

Exposé of summer course run by right-wing Lehava organization shows military-style training, courses on how to keep Arabs from dating Jews

Lehava summer camp 2016 (Screen capture: Ynet)
Lehava summer camp 2016 (Screen capture: Ynet)

A right-wing extremist Jewish group ran a series of summer camps in the West Bank teaching young people how to withstand interrogation by the Shin Bet security service, as well as teaching them Krav Maga self-defense, basic Arabic and counter-missionary work, according to a Tuesday report.

The Lehava organization, headed by Bentzi Gopstein, organized five camps in the West Bank’s southern Hebron Hills over the summer, each lasting for three days.

Video of the camp published by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper shows dozens of youths taking part in military-style training exercises, including running through obstacle courses and instruction in Krav Maga self-defense.

According to Yedioth, some of the training was to be used to teach youths how to fight Israeli security forces, which have launched a crackdown against Jewish extremists in recent years.

Israeli activists often accuse Palestinians of indoctrinating youths through camps run by Hamas and other terror groups teaching children how to fight.

In addition to physical training, the camp, which was for youths ages 14-22, also ran sessions on legal rights for detainees and the best techniques for withstanding interrogation, the latter taught by Noam Federman, a former spokesperson for the outlawed Kach party, who has been repeatedly accused of taking part in Jewish terror activities.

Lehava, which some see as the torchbearer for the Kach movement, has been linked to a number of cases of arson carried out by right-wing extremists, as well as attacks on Arabs. The group, which regularly protests outside mixed Jewish-gentile weddings and gay pride events, touts itself as an anti-assimilation organization standing up for Jewish rights.

Several of the campers told Federman, who spent nine months in administrative detention as a terror suspect, they had been arrested by police, though he countered that Shin Bet interrogations were on another level.

“Shin Bet is something completely different, and you have to prepare for it in a completely different way,” Federman said, according to the newspaper. “Shin Bet is not a place for the fainthearted. But if you are strong enough to remain silent and not allow them to play with you, you can destroy them,” Yedioth quoted him as saying.

Itamar Ben Gvir, a well-known right-wing lawyer, advised the youths of their rights and how much compensation they could claim for wrongful arrest. He smiled as he spoke of the hundreds of thousands of shekels he had won in legal disputes with the authorities.

“Everything we did here was legal,” Gopstein told the paper. “There was no use of weapons. These kids come to protect Jewish honor. We love the army, but we are against the violent interrogations of the Shin Bet.”

Campers were also taught enough Arabic to break up a potential intermarriage. “They taught us how to approach an Arab who is dating a Jewish girl,” one participant explained to Yedioth. “I know how to say ‘give me your sister’s phone number’ in Arabic, and how to make clear to him that he must break off all ties with the Jewish girl.”

On Monday morning, Gopstein accused Yedioth of “lying and inciting” against the camp.

“Their headline about how to fight against the security forces shows that there are no limits to their audacity,” Gopstein wrote on Facebook (Hebrew). “Everything we spoke about was how to protect our soldiers and our daughters.”

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