Police 'Ignore' Court, Arrest More Lehava Members

Despite having arrests last week thrown out by court, police once again arrest Lehava activists; 'police ignoring court rulings.'

Uzi Baruch, Ari Yashar,

Arrested Lehava member (file)
Arrested Lehava member (file)
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

After the arrest of ten activists from the Lehava anti-assimilation organization last Tuesday - after which a court dismissed the arrests leading to the release of all ten last week - police this week continued their campaign against the group, arresting eight more members.

The arrests this time focused on different members than those targeted last week, with the only "improvement" according to the organization being that police raided their homes at 6:30 a.m. instead of 5 a.m.

The crackdown on Lehava comes on the apparent pretext of the arrest of three youths who are members of the organization. They are suspected of setting fire to a bilingual Jewish and Arab school in Jerusalem and scrawling racist graffiti after the school held a memorial honoring the terrorist leader Yasser Arafat.

Lehava has strongly denied any connection to the independent acts of the three noting that it is a completely legal organization, and the court evidently threw out police claims that any connection existed. Many have charged the left with repressing the group for ideological reasons.

Attorneys Itamar Ben-Gvir and Avichai Hajbi who represent the Lehava members stated "it was possible to investigate without arrests. It's been ruled already that freedom is the general rule and arrests are the exception, but in the 'nationalist crime unit' of the Judea-Samaria district police, they give the impression that they don't know any process other than arrests."

"More serious than this, the officers ignore the rulings of the courts in recent days that criticized them again and again and decided that calls against assimilation are not a violation of the law," added the two. Indeed, assimilation is forbidden by Jewish law.

As Lehava Director Bentzi Gopshtain and the other last two activists still in jail were released to a five day house arrest last Friday, Ben-Gvir said "this is an excessive, media and populist arrest driven by pressure from people on the radical left and meant to harm activities against assimilation."

"The prosecution of the State of Israel thinks that it is forbidden to speak here. ...It is not the KGB here, this is the State of Israel," said Gopshtain after having his arrest extended by a day last Thursday, with the court rejecting the police request for seven days.

"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," said Gopshtain.

The police crackdown didn't stop at Lehava - last Thursday the Jerusalem offices of former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari's Otzma Yehudit party were raided by police, who made the outlandish claim that they were a front for Lehava.

"On false pretenses, and to make up for the severe criticism being levied at them, they decided that the best move was to come into our offices and interfere with the organization of an election event for our party," said Ben-Ari.