Lehava Head Warns Police Crackdown Will Backfire

Head of anti-assimilation group explains arrest meant to silence his group which court agreed acts legally, warns of risk if it is banned.

Ido Ben-Porat, Ari Yashar ,

Lehava director Bentzi Gopshtain
Lehava director Bentzi Gopshtain
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Bentzi Gopshtain, director of the Lehava anti-assimilation organization that has become the subject of a police crackdown, remains in a five-day house arrest after being released from full arrest last Thursday on suspicions of "racism" and "incitement," which the courts threw out.

"I sat for several days in a very strenuous investigation," Gopshtain told Channel 2 on Sunday. "They played all the TV programs that I appeared in. For that you arrest someone at five in the morning?"

Gopshtain explained "we aren't conducting any terror, we act only according to the law. But it annoys them and bothers them that there are so many people and so much support, so this is what they do - arrest."

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.

"They need to ask and investigate to see if they even did it and burned the school. Under the Shabak (Israel Security Agency) anyone can confess to everything," said Gopshtain, remarking on charges made the youths' attorney that they confessed under coercion by "severe abuse, sleep deprivation and psychological pressure."

Noting on the police crackdown on Lehava, Gopshtain continued "the thing is I calm these people down. When they come to me they have a legitimate framework to work in."

"If they make Lehava illegal - that will explode in their faces," warned Gopshtain. "Those who murdered (Mohammed) Abu Khder were not Lehava activists, those who murdered (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin were not Lehava activists."

"My activists work according to the law, if they did otherwise, that has no connection to me. I don't deal with censure. That isn't the way. Our goal is to reach the government and change it," said Gopshtain, possibly in a reference to the Otzma Yehudit party which shares an ideological basis with Lehava.

In court, the judges confirmed that Lehava's calls against assimilation are not a violation of the law by any means, and indeed Jewish law forbids assimilation.

"I have no problem with Arabs, I'm not racist. I have a problem anyone who isn't ready to accept that this is a Jewish state. Whoever doesn't accept that is my enemy. That isn't racism, that's a desire to live. Whoever is an enemy of mine has no reason to be here," explained Gopshtain.