'Left Repressing Lehava and Government is Silent'

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir slams coordinated 'leftist crackdown' on Lehava head Bentzi Gopshtain, asks why government not defending democracy.

Benny Toker, Ari Yashar,

Bentzi Gopshtain
Bentzi Gopshtain
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir who represents Bentzi Gopshtain, director of the anti-assimilation Lehava group who was arrested with nine other activists of the group Monday night on suspicions of "incitement", accused the political left of being behind the crackdown.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Ben-Gvir said "there is pressure here from politicians on the left who for a year have been pumping Attorney General (Yehuda) Weinstein and State Attorney Shai Nitzan to arrest Gopshtain and make Lehava illegal, and here it happened. After ceaseless attempts they are arresting him on matters of freedom of expression."

The crackdown on Lehava comes after three youths who are members of the organization were arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a bilingual Jewish and Arab school in Jerusalem and scrawling racist graffiti. According to the indictment submitted against them on Monday, the three decided to do so after learning the school held a memorial honoring the terrorist leader Yasser Arafat.

Ben-Gvir remarked that the attempts to frame Gopshtain as being somehow connected to the arson failed. "We already heard how they tried to convince those arrested in the matter to admit that Gopshtain sent them and have their punishment lightened, but it didn't help because he has no connection to the arson."

"We heard what Knesset member (Hanin) Zoabi says and what the Islamic Movement in Israel does; Bentzi spoke against marriages with Arabs, this is blatant democratic activity," said Ben-Gvir, noting Gopshtain's activities supporting the Jewish injunction against intermarriage.

"Where is the attorney general when the topic is the Islamic Movement in Israel? (Gopshtain's) wife Anat told me they took a picture of (Rabbi Meir) Kahane from the wall - seriously, they're arresting him for that?" stated Ben-Gvir.

Commenting on the spate of condemnation being showered on Gopshtain, Ben-Gvir added "there's an MK going around from studio to studio talking about making Lehava illegal, there is pressure from politicians - we are familiar with it all."

Former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua, who recently merged with Labor, on Tuesday applauded the arrest, revealing discussions had been held in the past to pave the way for targeting the heads of Lehava and make it illegal, stating "they have no place in Israeli society."

The admission of discussions trying to silence Lehava confirms accusations by Gopshtain - who was remanded in custody for an additional three days on Tuesday - and Ben-Gvir, that the organization has been targeted in a coordinated, ideologically-driven "delegimitization" attempt, which comes despite the fact that Lehava operates completely according to the law.

"I suggest today to all leftists to remember what judge Aharon Barak said about freedom of procession, it isn't just to walk with wreaths, but rather is also for those who are opposing something," said the attorney.

Remarking on Lehava's work, he added "Bentzi is doing holy work and saves Jewish girls from marriages with Arabs, so even if Shai Nitzan is angry he needs to understand that Gopshtain is a lot more democratic than Hanin Zoabi."

As noted by Ben-Gvir, in nearly all cases of mixed marriages with Arabs in Israel, the Jewish partner is the bride. It is a well documented phenomenon that such wives often suffer abuse from their Arab husbands, and many require help to escape.

Ben-Gvir at the arrest extension hearing of Gopshtain Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90