Brothers sentenced for Jerusalem arson hate-crime on Jewish-Arab school

Third suspect still standing trial for crime.

July 22, 2015 17:32
1 minute read.
Jerusalem school

A worker carries a burnt board in a classroom yesterday in the integrated Arab-Jewish Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

Two brothers associated with the racist Jewish extremist group Lehava were sentenced to two and two-and-a-half years in prison by Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday, for vandalizing and setting a classroom on fire at the nation’s largest Jewish-Arab school last year.

Nahman and Shlomo Twito, aged 18 and 22 respectively, from the West Bank settlement of Betar Illit, confessed to the November 29 hate crime that targeted the Jewish-Arab Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in southern Jerusalem.

After setting a preschool classroom alight, the brothers also spray-painted Hebrew graffiti on the school’s interior walls stating “Kahane was right,” “You can’t coexist with a cancer,” “Enough with assimilation” and “Death to Arabs.”
Jerusalem bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school ablaze in suspected hate crime

A third accomplice, Yitzhak Gabai, is still on trial for the crime.

Lehava staunchly advocates the anti-Arab ideology of the late Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York City in 1990 after his radical Kach Party was outlawed in Israel for inciting racism.

Nahman was sentenced to serve two years in prison, plus a 10-month suspended sentence, and ordered to pay the school NIS 15,000 in damages.

His brother, Shlomo, was sentenced to two years in prison, plus an eight-month suspended sentence, and ordered to reimburse the school NIS 10,000.

The Twitos and Gabai were arrested on December 7.

In a statement, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said the three targeted the institution “because Jews and Arabs learn together at the school, and the goal was to put opposition to coexistence and assimilation in the public eye.”

The brothers confessed to the crime, but Babai denies his role in the incident.

Funded by an NGO promoting Jewish and Arab coexistence, the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School serves more than 600 Arab and Jewish pupils from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade throughout Jerusalem, and is overseen by Jewish and Arab co-principals.

Following a December 13 protest in the capital’s Zion Square demanding that Lehava be outlawed, police raided the homes and arrested 17 members, including its leader, Bentzi Gopstein.

Ten of the suspects were subsequently charged with incitement and remanded by a judge at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

Gopstein, who deemed the charges unconstitutional, was placed under house arrest.

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