A wall at a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem reads "Enough with assimilation.".
(photo credit: ISRAEL FIRE AND RESUCE SERVICES)
One week following a series of arrests culminating in the apprehension of 17 members of his radical anti-assimilation organization, including his own, the leader of Lehava condemned police for violating the group’s freedom of speech.
Lehava head Bentzi Gopstein, who was arrested last Tuesday and remains under house arrest for incitement after three young members of his organization were arrested for allegedly vandalizing the nation’s largest Arab-Jewish school, said his group has been unfairly targeted.
“We aren’t conducting any terror,” said Gopstein during a Sunday interview with Channel 2. “We act only according to the law. But it annoys and bothers [leftists] that there are so many [of us] and so much support, so this is what they do: arrest.”
Gopstein went on to claim that Lehava members charged with setting a preschool classroom on fire in Jerusalem’s Max Rayne Hand in Hand School on November 29 and writing anti-Arab graffiti were coerced into making a false confession by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
“They need to ask and investigate to see if they even did it and burned the school,” he said. “Under the [Shin Bet] anyone can confess to everything.”
According to two attorneys representing the three young men charged with the hate crime, their confessions were coerced under duress during interrogations that included sleep deprivation and physical threats.
Due to the alleged intimidation, their attorneys contended that the confessions are inadmissible.
Claiming that he works to “calm” and encourage Lehava members to work within a “legitimate framework,” Gopstein went on to state that the crackdown will backfire.
“If they make Lehava illegal, it will explode in their faces,” he said during the interview.
“My activists work according to the law, if they did otherwise, that has no connection to me. I don’t deal with censure. That isn’t the way; our goal is to reach the government and change it.”
Moreover, despite his group’s anti-Arab platform, Gopstein alleged that he is not a racist.
“I have no problem with Arabs,” he said. “I have a problem anyone who isn’t ready to accept that this is a Jewish state. Whoever doesn’t accept that is my enemy.”
“That isn’t racism, that’s a desire to live,” he continued. “Whoever is an enemy of mine has no reason to be here.”