Lehava Chairman: This is Israel Not the KGB

Bentzi Gopshtain made clear Thursday that Lehava will continue the fight against assimilation and will not be silenced by police crackdown.

Hezki Baruch, Cynthia Blank,

Bentzi Gopshtain
Bentzi Gopshtain
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Upon leaving the hall of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Thursday, Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopshtain stated adamantly that he will not submit to the recent police crackdown on his anti-assimilation organization which he notes completely observes the law.

Judea-Samaria police raided the homes of members of the activist group Tuesday morning, including Gopshtain's home, and arrested the members on suspicion of "incitement," after the Israel Security Agency arrested three Lehava activists on suspicions of being involved in the arson of a bilingual kindergarten in Jerusalem earlier this month.

Gopshtain has argued the alleged arson, which according to the indictment was committed after the school held a memorial to the terrorist leader Yasser Arafat, has no connection to his organization, which is not responsible for the independent action of the three youths. 

"The prosecution of the State of Israel thinks that it is forbidden to speak here. I want to find the prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, and tell him it is not the KGB here, this is the State of Israel," Gopshtain said.  

"We will talk and no one will silence us. We will continue to fight against assimilation - that is Judaism, not racism. I urge everyone not to be silent - today it's me, tomorrow it's you." 

Gopshtain warned, "When you say [the blessing] 'Thank God for not making me a gentile' they can arrest you; do not be quiet about this!"

Noting on freedom of speech, Gopshtain added, "the only reasonable suspicion [prosecutors have] are those things I said in the media. Tomorrow they will investigate me for things I just said. I will continue to talk to the media and no one will shut my mouth."

He then turned to rabbis asking for their support of his organization's efforts to prevent assimilation, which is a clear edict of Jewish law, saying "I call on every rabbi to raise his voice and say that this arrest against the war on assimilation is a disgrace. No rabbi can tell me it should not happen. We cannot remain silent." 

Judge Yaron Minkevich of the Jerusalem Magistrate Court extended Gopshtain's detention, and that of two other Lehava members arrested this week, by one day on Thursday.  

The police wanted to extend their detention to seven days, but Minkevich rejected the request, stating that since no significant developments in the investigation have arisen the longer extension is unwarranted. 

If the police do not submit another request to extend their detention, Gopshtain and the two others will be released from custody on Friday, for three days of house arrest and with the prohibition of contacting each other for three more days. 




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