Jewish radical to be charged for incitement

Explaining decision, attorney cites statements made by Lehava leader Benzi Gopstein that encouraged violence against Arabs

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, October 22, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, October 22, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The leader of a Jewish extremist group will be indicted, pending a hearing, on charges of incitement to violence, racism and terrorism, the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office announced Monday.

The allegations against Lehava head Bentzi Gopstein relate to a number of inflammatory public statements he made between 2012 and 2017.

Gopstein’s far-right group opposes intermarriage and the assimilation of Jews and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel. Lehava, which some lawmakers have tried to designate a terrorist group, has frequently called for action to be taken against non-Jews and homosexuals in order to “save the daughters of Israel.”

Gopstein is also expected to be charged with obstruction of justice, the Jerusalem District Attorney said in a statement.

A sign commemorating the anniversary of the death of far-right activist Meir Kahane draped on the Jerusalem Gardens Hotel in Jerusalem on October 30, 2017. The caption reads, ‘Bentzi Gopstein, the Jewish people thanks you.’ (Courtesy)

The statement cited a 2012 incident in which Gopstein grabbed a microphone at a wedding in the Modiin Illit settlement and began singing a song glorifying Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish terrorist who killed 29 Palestinian worshipers at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994.

Also referenced was a 2012 Channel 2 (now Hadashot news) interview in which Gopstein boasted of not hiring Arab workers. When asked what would happen if an Arab were to serve food at a wedding he was attending, Gopstein responded that the caterer would “have to look for the nearest hospital.”

In a separate Channel 2 interview, the Lehava head said that “there are no shortage of Arabs who deserved to be beaten up,” particularly “ones that flirt with Jewish women.”

In a statement responding to the announcement of the planned charges, Gopstein said that the attorney general and State Attorney’s Office, which recommended the charges, were “working for Reform Jews” who had petitioned the Jerusalem District Court against him.

“I will continue to fight assimilation, and the State Attorney’s Office must learn that a struggle on behalf of [Jewish] girls is not racism. Freedom of expression must be ensured for right-wingers as well,” he said.

Three members of the anti-assimilation Lehava organization, suspects in an arson attack on a Jewish-Arab school, are brought to a hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 15, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Coalition against Racism in Israel and the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center welcomed Monday’s announcement in a joint statement of their own, calling Lehava “a racist organization that organizes hate crimes and incitement.”

Last month, Gopstein and 14 other Lehava activists were arrested for allegedly threatening Arabs who were romantically involved with Jewish women. Gopstein was remanded to house arrest for five days.

Gopstein has previously been arrested on a number of occasions and investigated for statements he made against non-Jews, including for an article in which he called Christians living in Israel “bloodsuckers.”

He was also arrested shortly after members of his group tried to burn down an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem in November 2014. Gopstein was not charged over the attack, for which three Lehava members were eventually convicted.

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