Shin Bet: Anti-Arab Activists Admit to J'lem School Arson

Suspects reportedly members of extremist group Lehava, which is fighting Jewish assimilation.

Ido Erez,Ynet

The three suspects arrested for an arson attack at a Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Jerusalem are members of the right-wing Lehava organization, the Shin Bet said on Thursday.

Lehava, an anti-Arab group, attempts to combat Jewish assimilation. According to the Shin Bet, the three suspects confessed their actions during questioning.

According to the Shin Bet, The suspects, Yitzhak Gabbai, 22, of Jerusalem and brothers Nahman Twito, 18 and Shlomo Twito, 20 of Beitar Illit, said they carried out the attack at the the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School "because Jews and Arabs learn together at the school, and the goal was to put opposition to coexistence and assimilation in the public eye."

The Shin bet said that Lehava activists are "instilled with Kahane's legacy, and in that spirit they sprayed statements like 'Kahane was right' and 'there is no coexistence with cancer' within the school, statements taken right out of Kahane's teachings."

A burned classroom at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School, Nov. 29, 2014.
Tali Meir

The Shin Bet called the act "the latest in a series of violent incidents involving Kahanist activists from Lehava."

Roughly two weeks ago, a fire broke out and racist graffiti was found at the school in Jerusalem. No injuries were reported, but a classroom was seriously damaged, as were other parts of the school. Shortly after, suspects were arrested.

Attorneys Itamar Ben Gvir and Avihai Hajbi, who are representing the suspects, said in response that "In the wake of the court's decision yesterday, we met with the suspects after five days of interrogation by the Shin Bet. We discovered harsh abuse, sleep deprivation, psychological pressure and it turns out that one of the suspects said already on Sunday that a Shin Bet interrogator had threatened him with punishment so that he would confess." The attorneys added that they will ask to have the confessions invalidated. Ben Gvir and Hajbi also said that "We are certain that when the time comes, after an in-depth examination of the confessions, they will be found to be worthless."

Lehava chairman Bentzi Gupstein said in response: "Lehava works day and night to rescue Jewish girls from assimilation. Lehava uses only legal means. It's strange that when left wing anarchists or the son of MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) are arrested, the Shin Bet doesn't point an accusing finger at leftist organizations. The Shin Bet is trying to incriminate Lehava and to undermine the holy work of rescuing Jewish girls. We will continue to operate legally to rescue Jewish girls."

Last August, activists from the extremist anti-miscegenation group worked to disrupt the wedding 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 the page's many inciting remarks. The page, created in November 2013 had over 35,000 followers when it was closed. At first, the page was used to identify mixed Jewish-Arab couples, and it quickly became a platform for anti-Arab remarks.