Lehava head Gopshtain acquitted of assaulting Nawi

Anti-assimilation activist had been accused of assaulting Ezra Nawi, other extremists, who infiltrated Jewish community in Hevron.

David Rosenberg,

Bentzi Gopshtain
Bentzi Gopshtain
Miriam Alster, Flash 90

Bentzi Gopshtain, head of the controversial Lehava anti-assimilation organization, was acquitted on Sunday by a Jerusalem district court of assault charges.

The charges stem from an incident in 2008 in Gopshtain’s home town of Hevron. Leftwing activists and local Arabs climbed a security fence separating the Givat Avot community from the surrounding Arab neighborhood.

Among those accusing Gopshtain of assault was radical leftwing activist Ezra Nawi, who has recently been accused of publicizing the names of Arabs who have sold land to Jews, leading to their execution.

Gopshtain was alerted to the infiltration and immediately rushed from his home in Givat Avot to the security fence, where he confronted the infiltrators.

The presiding judge, Dov Pollock, noted that while the film evidence made it clear that Gopshtain had in fact engaged in a physical altercation with the infiltrators, his actions were considered reasonable self defense.

Regarding the background of the incident, in his ruling, Pollock constrasted Gophstain's eagerness to explain to police the context of the incident, while his accusers had refused to comment. 

"Those involved in the incident exercised their right to silence during questioning. On the other hand the accused [Gopshtain] explained the context of the situation during questioning. He explained that he saw a number of people trying to climb over the fence into the neighborhood where he resides".

Gopshtain explained his actions, saying that he was worried the infiltrators were trying to attack his community. "I thought they were terrorists," he said.

Gophstain went on to say that if he had known one of the infiltrators was Ezra Nawi, he "would be more afraid of the fact that he's a convicted pedophile."

Nawi was convicted in 1997 over sex crimes committed against an Arab child.