Rabbi Bentzi Gopstein.
(photo credit: ARIK SULTAN)
Bentzi Gopstein, the head of the extremist anti-Arab organization ‘Lehavah,’ was arrested on Sunday along with 14 other activists from his group who are suspected of threatening Palestinians who were dating or in contact with Jewish women.
Detectives from the Police Central Unit arrested the suspects in their homes and collected evidence in an overnight operation.
In recent years police and security services have dealt with incidents by activists from the Lehavah organization who have harassed and assaulted members of the Arab community who were in contact with Jewish women.
All the suspects were questioned by police, and ten of them have already been released.
Following the arrests, police said that the move was made in order to “eliminate the phenomenon, prevent its continuity” and stop the harassment of Palestinians by Lehavah.
Before the court discussion on whether to extend his remand, Gopstein said that “nothing will help them [to stop us]; we will continue saving the daughters of Israel”.
“Lehavah is operating in a lawful way and it will continue to do so. [The police] are blaming me for calling a girl and telling her that she shouldn’t date an Arab. It is all nonsense,” he said.
Right-wing activist and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is representing Gopstein, said that the police are acting in the name of the far-left, and arresting Lahavah activists “for show” without summoning them for questioning.
On Twitter, Ben-Gvir wrote, “Once again the thought police are in action. At 5 a.m. they raid Bentzi Gopstein’s home and arrest him for threatening. Couldn’t they just summon him as is customary?”
The Coalition Against Racism welcomed Gopstein’s arrest. They stated that the police have two weeks to respond to their petition filed in the High Court of Justice over a year ago, to explain why Gopstein hasn’t been questioned yet over his alleged incitement for violence and racism.
“We hope that the police will come to a conclusion that will lead to further arrests and investigation – which will eventually lead to an indictment,” they said in a statement.