Israel Police Arrests Four More anti-Arab Activists From Rightist Group Lehava

Move comes after the arrest of Benzi Gopstein, head of the right-wing anti-Arab organization.

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Lehava booth at Zion Square in Jerusalem. Sign reads: A king's daughter for a king's son.'Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Israel Police's Judea and Samaria division on Sunday morning arrested four activists from the Lehava organization, and detained four others on suspicion of incitement and calling for racist acts of violence.

Police officials said that the arrests were made in Jerusalem, Rishon Letzion, Beitar Illit, Netivot and Herzliya. Attorney for the suspects, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said in response "they could have conducted the investigations without arrests. It's already been determined that freedom is the rule and arrest is the exception, but 'the unit for nationalist crimes' at the Judea and Samaria division gives the impression that it knows nothing but arrests. Further, the officers ignore the court's recent rulings against their actions that have time and again decided that statements against assimilation are not in violation of any laws."

Last week, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court remanded for three days Benzi Gopstein, chairman of the right-wing, anti-Arab group Lehava, after he was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of incitement to racism.

During the remand hearing, Gopstein’s attorney, prominent Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir, told the court that the alleged offenses were out of date if they had taken place at all, and they were no reason to remand his client.

He gave as an example the fact that Gopstein had been questioned about a letter he sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he became aware that the latter’s son was dating a non-Jewish woman (from Norway), and was also questioned about an interview he gave in 2011. Judge Eitan Kornhawser stated, “An examination of the extensive material before me suggests that there is a reasonable foundation to the suspicion attributed [to Gopstein].” However, the judge also noted that a reading of the investigation in detail “suggests that the court must oversee the investigation and its findings.”

The case of nine other individuals suspected of activities in Lehava, which is being heard separately from Gopstein’s, also came before the court on Tuesday.

Police raided the residences of several members of Lehava, a right-wing, anti-Arab organization, early in the day. In total, 10 members were arrested on suspicion of incitement and calling for violent crime. The police are expected to ask the court to extend their remand.

According to Ben-Gvir, one of the three Lehava members charged with torching the Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem had offered to give police incriminating information on Gopstein, in return for a lighter sentence.

Ben-Gvir blamed the arrest on “pressure from leftist politicians.”

“Police are taking action against Lehava even though it is clear to them it’s a legal organization that overtly works against assimilation,” he said. “It’s an embarrassment.”

Last August, activists from the extremist anti-miscegenation group worked to disrupt the wedding celebration of a Jewish woman and a Muslim man from Jaffa. The organization held a protest, and the couple asked for supporters to come out and demonstrate against the Lehava protest, which was attended by roughly 200 activists.

Later, Lehava’s Facebook page was closed after many complaints were filed against its many inciteful remarks. The page, created in November 2013, had over 35,000 followers when it was closed. At first, it was used to identify mixed Jewish-Arab couples, and it quickly became a platform for anti-Arab remarks.