Rabbi Bentzi Gopstein.
(photo credit: ARIK SULTAN)
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Ben-Zion on Sunday acquitted “Bentzi” Gopstein, the head of the extreme rightwing anti-assimilation organization Lehava, of assault charges at stemming from an incident in 2008.
Gopstein was accused of assaulting Ezra Nawi, an activist with the radical left-wing group Ta’ayush. Nawi infiltrated Gopstein’s Givat Avot neighborhood, located in Hebron.
Nawi, a prominent Israeli campaigner for Palestinian rights, made national headlines in January when he said he helps Palestinian authorities find and kill Palestinians who sell land to Jews.
He was also accused of publishing the names of Arabs who legally sell their land to Jewish buyers.
Nawi was subsequently arrested, and charged with contacting a foreign agent over the suspicion that he arranged for Palestinian land brokers who sold land to Jewish Israelis to be turned over to the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service.
He was released to house arrest two weeks later.
Nawi alleged that Gopstein attacked him after he and left-wing activists and local Arabs climbed a security fence separating the Givat Avot community from the surrounding Arab neighborhood.
After Gopstein learned of the security breach, which he said posed an imminent threat to the community’s Jewish residents, he confronted the intruders, whom he believed to be terrorists, to ensure they did not harm anyone.
After reviewing surveillance footage of the incident, the judge presiding over the case ruled that Gopstein acted in self-defense when he attempted to stop Nawi and the other the trespassers.
Judge Dov Pollock noted that Gopstein fully cooperated with authorities after the incident.
“Gopstein explained the context of the situation during questioning,” the judge ruled. “He explained that he saw a number of people trying to climb over the fence into the neighborhood where he resides,” adding that Gopstein “thought they were terrorists.”
JTA and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.