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Hundreds rally against racist group 'Lehava' in Jerusalem

The rally comes after three members of the group were arrested as suspects in the arson attack against a mixed Jewish-Arab school.

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people protested in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square Saturday night against racism and called to outlaw Lehava, a racist, anti-misegenation group . Three of its members were charged several days ago with an arson attack against a mixed Jewish-Arab school two weeks ago.

The protest was organized by a group of activists who identify as: “Jerusalem doesn’t stay silent in the face of racism.” Protesters held signs in Hebrew and Arabic that read “Stop the racism” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” They called out chants like “Lehava’s racism begins in the government” and “Jerusalem will not be silent; outlaw racism.”

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Among the speakers at the protest was Murad Mana, whose child attends the bilingual Arab-Jewish school in the city which was burned exactly two weeks ago. He said, “We will not allow any bully to burn down our coexistence.”

+972 blogger Orly Noy, whose children also attend the bilingual school, also spoke at the rally. “This type of violence does not take place in a vacuum,” Noy told the crowd and wrote in a post later Saturday night (Hebrew). “It sprouts from a bed of growing deligitimization of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, both inside Israel and in the occupied territories.”

+972 blogger Orly Noy speaks at a rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

+972 blogger Orly Noy speaks at a rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Three Israelis arrested for the arson attack on the mixed Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem two weeks ago are active members of Lehava, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Thursday, after a Shin Bet gag order was lifted on the case.

One of the suspects is from Jerusalem and the other two are brothers from the West Bank settlement Beitar Illit. The three reportedly admitted in their interrogation by the Shin Bet that they carried out the attack because they object to Arab-Jewish coexistence and that they hoped their act of arson would “raise public awareness” against the phenomenon.

A burned first-grade classroom at Jerusalem’s bilingual school after it was the target of an arson attack, November 30, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

A burned first-grade classroom at Jerusalem’s bilingual school after it was the target of an arson attack, November 30, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

In addition to the burning of a first grade classroom and its books, graffiti found on the school included: “death to Arabs,” “coexistence is a cancer,” “no to assimilation” and “Kahane was right.”

All these messages are explicitly identified with Lehava, whose leader, Benzi Gupstein, is a disciple of the late Meir Kahane. Kahane’s Kach party was disqualified from participating in Israeli elections in 1988 for inciting to racism, and was banned outright in 1994. Kach is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Read also: Facing  right-wing violence, Israeli leftists learn to fight back

Since the summer, groups of Lehava activists have become a regular staple in downtown Jerusalem, where they go around making racist remarks against Palestinian pedestrians and taxi drivers, sometimes physically attacking them. And although the group claims to be strictly committed to advocating against Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in Israel, its activities are rife with incitement to violence and racism. Just last month they urged Israeli soldiers to shoot Palestinians in the head.

This is not the first time Lehava has been directly tied to acts of violence. In September, two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Amir Shwiki and Samer Mahfouz, were beaten badly by a group of Jewish Israelis, several of them identified as activists with Lehava.

Related:
Jerusalem mixed school set on fire in arson attack
Palestinian-Jewish couple hires wedding security for fear of anti-miscegenation group
We will overcome: Arson and mourning at Jerusalem’s bilingual school

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    COMMENTS

    1. Why can’t Jews and Palestinians get along? They can! The lunatic fringe on both sides heed the call of hatred and violence, but the biggest problem is the GoI and the pro-right supporters in the west who have billions and billions of dollars invested in fomenting hatred and violence at every turn. To quote Susan Pensak “this is from the top down”. Stay strong – when you’re on the side of righteousness you will not be defeated. Lehava is just another flavor of the KKK.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bryan

      Always great to see men and women of principle standing up to be counted. The biggest existential threat that the State of Israel faces comes from fanatical Jewish extremism – time for ordinary Israelis to fight back and reclaim their country.

      Reply to Comment
    3. It’s time for the fanatics on both sounds to be ostracized and marginalized by decent people everywhere, like these good people did. Starting now, moving forward now, not looking back – that’s a distraction that keeps the goal from ever being reached. It can be done and it has been done. The governments always put stumblingblocks before the people. They must go.

      Reply to Comment
    4. RICK

      To speak about “fanatics on both sides” belies the fact that the whole issue is the result of laws of the state of Israel designed with the express purpose of defining Jews as having superior rights over non-Jews, thus creating oppression through legal inequality. There is your “fanatics”; A racist system supported by the American tax dollars and almost every Jewish congregation and organization in the U.S. What chance do “decent people” have up against that? Only active resistance such as Jewish Voice for Peace” and other such organizations.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Rashers

      There are many thoughtful comments here, none of which appears supportive of Lehava, which is a disgusting organisation promoting disgusting doctrines. Marnie and others, however, appear to think this is a “lunatic fringe” which needs to be ostracised and marginalised, in order for a “right-thinking”, reasonable, humane middle ground to prevail. Lehava is a particularly virulent and unpleasant manifestation of racism and Zionist supremacism but it is merely the “outside edge” of mainstream Israeli public opinion. I’m afraid that it is the majority of Israelis now who support their government’s policies of peppering the West Bank and East Jerusalem with yet more illegal, Jewish enclaves. It is the Israeli government and political establishment, with broad public support, that seeks to introduce measures which will further discriminate against Palestinians. Israel has lurched too far to the right for the voices of reason and humanity to prevail against such as Lehava; and against the wider, anti-Arab sentiments which now represent the vox populi of Israel. Israel is spiralling into a vortex of fully-fledged Fascism, drowning out the temperate arguments and threatening or silencing those who articulate them.
      Prof. David Dean Shulman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in his new book about “Protective Edge” wrote a perspicacious comment: “One has to bear in mind that Israelis live in a largely mythic world, a somewhat modified and vastly simplified version of the Iliad. In this starkly polarized vision of reality, in which Israelis are by definition innocent victims of dark, irrational forces operating against them…… violent coercion is the option both of necessity and of choice.” It is this mythic world which has now become the reality perceived by most Israelis; what can change this, I do not know – unless it be a slap in the face from someone bigger and more powerful, which could shock the national psyche into a more normal pattern of thought and a more acceptable from of behaviour.

      Reply to Comment
      • I’m the only one who used the term lunatic fringe. If I start to believe that all the Jews in Israel are of one mind (which a few trolls here want the rest of us to believe) then in my mind there’s no hope. If there’s no hope, I don’t know what’s going to happen and I don’t think this state can survive with the continual occupation of Palestinian people and the suffering inflicted upon them. I do appreciate your opinion.

        Reply to Comment
        • Rashers

          Marnie, I appreciate your reply &, yes, you were the only one to use the actual phrase “lunatic fringe” but it was implicit also in e. g. Bryan’s comment about “ordinary Israelis” fighting back. “Ordinary Israelis” are not members of Lehava; but they do support the Occupation and the progressive marginalisation and – yes – eviction of Palestinian Arabs from Israel. A majority probably supports the official expansion of Israel to include Gaza,the whole of the West Bank and of Jerusalem.

          Reply to Comment
          • Sluggo

            You are full of shit. The majority of Israelis *do not* support the annexation of Gaza into Israel. That’s all I need to see to know that you have noting to contribute except intolerance.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rashers

            Intolerance? If I am wrong, then can I expect early next year to see “ordinary Israelis” elect a government which reverses current policies on settlement and Occupation?

            Reply to Comment
        • Rashers

          Correction: in my reply, I said,”they [ordinary Israelis] do support the Occupation…” This sounded as though ALL ordinary Israelis support the Occupation and other policies. Some clearly do not support Occupation, annexation, etc; although I do not believe these dissenters are greater than a minority.

          Reply to Comment
      • Sluggo

        Rashers, the majority Israelis prefer safety and life. Ending the occupation without the proper safety guarantees in place would be suicide. You can twist this into saying that the majority of Israelis prefer occupation, but that is simply wrong. Why don’t you encourage the recalcitrant Palestinians to embrace peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state in an end of conflict?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Sluggo

      The Arabs should expect that groups like this arise after rejecting co-existence for nearly a century.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rashers

        Do you realise how morally bankrupt the comment, “[They] should expect groups like this to arise, etc.” sounds? Why should the Palestinians or anyone else expect racist beasts like Lehava to arise? You might as well argue that Israel should expect armed resistance groups to arise after decades of systematic and systemic discrimination against the Arabs! As for “rejecting co-existence for nearly a century”, were the Arabs consulted about the settlement of Palestine in the first place?

        Reply to Comment