Israeli police Monday night arrested Bentzi Gopstein, chairman of the right-wing Lehava group, and nine other Lehava members in a nighttime raid and charged them with incitement and encouraging violence and terror.
Three members of the group already have been indicted for allegedly setting on fire a Jerusalem school promoting coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
Gopstein lives in Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, and other Lehava members were arrested in Petach Tikva, Jerusalem and Netivot, in the Western Negev.
Gopstein’s lawyer and right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir charged that the police and the office of the Attorney General succumbed to pressure form extreme left-wingers by arresting Gopstein while ignoring complaints about leftists stating that “soldiers should be shot at checkpoints.”
Ben-Gvir also told Israel Radio that the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) tried to frame Gopstein on phony charges during questioning of the suspected arsonist.
“They told one of the suspects to make a deal and say that Gopstein sent them to set the school on fire, but the suspect replied that Gopstein had nothing to do with the arson and also told his group to work within the law.”
Ben-Gvir also complained that if police want to close down Lehava because three of its members committed a crime, the life-wing Hadash party also should be banned because the son of Hadash MK Dov Khenin was arrested for attacking a security guard.
Regardless of discrimination, hard-core nationalists who are not associated with incitement may be pleased that Gopstein has been arrested because Israel’s establishment media usually lumps all right-wingers with any extremists.
He appeared recently on a television show with an Arab-Israel journalist who has constantly condemned Hamas and told her she “doesn’t belong” in the State of Israel.”