A Justice Ministry department has opened an investigation into a non-profit charity organization that has ties to the Jewish extremist Lehava group, according to a Sunday television report.
The group allegedly funding Lehava activities is called The Foundation for the Salvation of the People of Israel, according to Channel 13 news.
The group’s members reportedly include Lehava head Bentzi Gopstein and Ayala Ben Gvir, the wife of MK Itamar Ben Gvir, whose Otzma Yehudit party is part of the far-right Religious Zionism faction.
The investigation was launched by the Justice Ministry’s Registrar of Associations to find if the charity group is a front and used just to transfer donations to Lehava.
The extreme-right organization is itself not listed with the department, and can act without government oversight.
According to the Guidestar site, a center that provides information on non-profit organizations in Israel, the Lehava-linked group received some ILS 650,000 ($200,000) in 2019.
Last month, Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben-Barak urged Defense Minister Benny Gantz to designate Lehava as a terror organization, with Channel 13 reporting at the time that he sent a letter to Registrar of Associations regarding The Foundation for the Salvation of the People of Israel.
That report said Ben-Barak was also seeking to outlaw the foundation, that new Public Security Minister Omer Barlev was involved in the effort, and that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was approached to help lay the legal groundwork.
Lawmakers across the political spectrum have attempted to designate Lehava a terrorist group, but those attempts, including in 2015 by then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, made little headway.
Lehava leader Gopstein has been arrested on a number of occasions and investigated for statements that 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.
More recently, Gopstein attempted to launch a political career in Otzma Yehudit, but was barred by the Supreme Court from running in 2019 over remarks that “unequivocally” proved that he “systematically incites racism against the Arab public.”