This is an interesting article
by Newsweek of all publications. To listen to the nonsense coming out of racist Labour politicians like Emily Thornberry, Joan Ryan et al, you would think that Israel was the embodiment of western democratic values in the Middle East. The ‘villa in the jungle‘ to borrow the racist phrase of the last Labour Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.
Yair Lapid is leader of Yesh Atid, a centrist party tipped to be the second largest party in the next Knesset
The reality is that Israel is the most right-wing, racist society on the planet. It is a society where hatred of Arabs, Africans and non-Jews is visceral. What is worse is that this hatred is encouraged by a far-Right government which includes a ‘Justice Minister’ Ayelet Shaked who has advocated genocide.
This is the consequence of Israel being an ethno-nationalist society, a society based on only part of its population. A society obsessed with racial purity, because being Jewish in Israel is a national/racial not a religious category. In Israel race is defined on the basis of religion, something which often confuses people. To make matters worse the Israeli Jewish population is itself divided between those who define themselves as Israeli first or Jewish first with a majority saying Jewish first. Not that this matters to Israel’s Palestinians because they are excluded from the tent and confined to the margins.
Although the article is well worth reading on the
growing influence of Israel’s neo-Nazi far Right although it doesn’t deal with
the reason why Israel’s alt-Right is growing so fast. When Lehava calls for preventing Arab-Jewish relationships
they are going with the grain of society.
There is broad consensus in the whole of society that Jewish-Arab
relationships are a danger to society, because a Jewish state cannot tolerate
large numbers of mixed couples. That is
the nature of the racism of Israeli society.
Mixed relationships, mishlinge, were
also a problem for the Nazi state and this one topic consumed most of the time
at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 which was devoted to planning the Final
Lapid is a Zionist consensus, from ‘left’ to ‘right’. So Yair Lapid, of the secular centrist Yesh Atid declared that “It bothers me, I admit. I say that if tomorrow my son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want you to meet Rona, not Rina, and she’s Russian Orthodox or Catholic and we’re getting married and the kids won’t be Jewish’ — would that bother me? It would bother me greatly.’
Israel is a Jewish state, or more
accurately a State of the Jews and the Jews are defined as a Jewish Nation.
What that means is that Israel consideres itself a state, not just of its own Jewish citizens
but all Jews, wherever they live. One of the central tasks of Zionism is the ‘ingathering of the exiles’
Israel is not is a state of all of its citizens.
That is why it’s an apartheid state.
Non-Jewish citizens do not have equal right with Jewish citizens. That is why there is no Israeli nationality
but a central Jewish nationality and over 130 other nationalities.
Because a Jewish state means a
permanent Jewish majority, the idea of
mixed marriages and a dilution of the primary race is seen as a threat
to the state itself. That is why Lehava
thugs patrol areas of Jerusalem unmolested by the Police attacking Arab males who are seen as likely
to establish social or personal relations with Jewish women.
The suggestion that Israel can do
nothing about Lehava, as the article states, is for the birds. The article quotes Israeli authorities as saying that ‘there is little they can do to stop
Gopstein—that he is protected by free speech.’ Utter nonsense. Israel’s Palestinians are closely monitored on social media and any threats they make result in instant arrest. Of course Jewish abuse is not punished.
Raed Salah, leader of the Northern Muslim League,
was convicted of racial hatred and gaoled
for 9 months because it was held he made a comparison between Israel’s behaviour and the Jewish
blood libel, a comparison which incidentally he disputed.
Nonetheless, despite its weaknesses this article
should be read by people as it outlines very well where Israel is now heading.
I also attach an older article beneath it from the Jerusalem Post, when Tzipi Hotovely, who is now acting Foreign Minister of Israel, invited Benzi Gopstein into the Knesset to address a Committee on the ‘problem’ of combating inter-marriage. Racism in Israel starts from the top down.
American-born rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, in Jerusalem, where he was known for his extreme views, such as expulsion of all Palestinians on the West Bank. He was assassinated in New York City. David H. Wells/Corbis via Getty
Updated | On November 5, 1990, at a
Marriott Hotel on Manhattan’s East Side, Rabbi Meir Kahane had just taken his
seat at a Zionist conference when El Sayyid Nosair, a 34-year-old
Egyptian-American, shot him in the neck. Hours later, the Brooklyn-born
rabbi—known as the most racist politician in Israeli history—was pronounced
Most Israelis didn’t mourn. Two years before, the Israeli government had
banned his political party, Kach, for its anti-Arab platform. Kahane had called
for the forced expulsion of the millions of Arabs living in Israel, whom he
often referred to as “dogs.” As the Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi puts it, “Kahane turned his political agenda into a kind of Jewish jihad with an
explicitly religious, apocalyptic message.”
Yet 27 years after Kahane’s murder, on another November evening,
hundreds of Israelis gathered in West Jerusalem to commemorate the anniversary
of his death. It was one of 25 such events held throughout Israel that week. At
the podium, Jewish extremists took turns praising the rabbi, calling him a
righteous prophet whose politics were ahead of his time.
Among those in attendance: Kahane’s prodigy and successor, Ben Zion
“Bentzi” Gopstein. In 2005, he established Lehava, a nonprofit whose Hebrew
name translates to “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land.” Gopstein’s group
sends patrols of young men to “defend” Jewish women from Arabs. It also runs a
hotline for people to report Jews having interfaith relationships, or renting
or selling apartments to Israeli Arabs. Lehava has grown into the largest
radical right-wing organization in Israel, with chapters in every city and more
than 10,000 registered members—most of them young adults and teenagers. The
group spreads its message and recruits members in schools, city streets and
Though Gopstein operates under the guise of fighting assimilation—a
cause familiar to many American Jews—his critics argue that mission is just a
front. Lehava, they say, is as dangerous as Kach. And like Kahane before him,
Gopstein is rallying people around the goal of expelling Palestinians from
Israel and the West Bank.
Benzi Gopstein, Israeli leader of the extreme right-wing movement Lehava, poses on August 11, 2015, in Jerusalem. Israel police had questioned him after he condoned torching churches amid an uproar over hate crimes, including the deadly firebombing of a Palestinian home. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty
But unlike Kahane’s views, which stood on the margins of Israeli
society, Gopstein’s perspective has become mainstream—a shift, analysts say,
that reflects Israelis’ dwindling faith in the prospect of peace with the
Critics argue that Israeli lawmakers have also enabled Lehava, even as
they’ve demonized left-leaning human rights groups. Yet Israeli authorities say
there is little they can do to stop Gopstein—that he is protected by free
speech, and because his group is a nongovernmental organization, it has avoided
the legal restrictions placed on Kahane’s political party. “Lehava is doing
this very smartly,” says Tehilla Shwartz-Altshuler, a law professor at Hebrew
University and a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank.
But the group’s critics aren’t giving up. Last fall, the state
attorney’s office announced its intention to indict Gopstein on charges of
incitement to violence, racism and terrorism, along with obstruction of
justice, pending a prehearing. (The charges all relate to statements he’s made
in recent years. Among them: that Palestinian men who flirt with Jewish women
deserve to be beaten.) Gopstein is still awaiting his prehearing. In the
meantime, to the dismay of his distractors, he is a free man, with a large and
“The Israeli army, the Shin Bet and Mossad, they know how to deal
with Muslim terror,” says Gadi Gvaryahu, the chairman of Tag Meir, one of the organizations battling Lehava. “Yet the state of Israel
doesn’t know how to deal with right-wing extremists. People like Bentzi
Gopstein are more dangerous to Israel than Muslim terror.”
Coexist With Cancer’
Several months ago, I met Gopstein in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel,
and he appeared giddy. A Jewish teenager had just left her Arab lover. Gopstein
had been calling her for months, urging her to do so. Now, she finally
had—because she was pregnant with his child. Gopstein says this was important
because now the baby would be raised Jewish instead of Muslim.
Since founding Lehava, he says, he has “rescued” at least 1,000 girls
like her. And in Jerusalem, Lehava activists are known for harassing—and
sometimes beating—Palestinian men. Gopstein’s work has sometimes gotten him
into trouble. Weeks earlier, police detained him, along with 14 members of
Lehava, for threatening Arabs who were dating Jewish women. “Every time they
arrest me, more people join my cause,” he says, smiling. In 2016, he was questioned
by police after calling Christians
bloodsucking vampires who should be expelled from the country. In 2014, he was
detained after Lehava members set fire to a joint Jewish and Arab school in Jerusalem. The group also sprayed
graffiti on the school’s walls. “You can’t coexist with cancer,” it read.
In each of those cases, Gopstein was released the same day. He has never
been indicted either. The last time Israeli authorities put him behind bars was
in 1994, when the government banned Kahane’s political party. (The ban was in
response to a massacre committed by another Kahane prodigy, Baruch Goldstein,
who opened fire in Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, killing 29 Muslim
worshippers and wounding 125 others.)
The Justice Ministry refused to comment on Gopstein’s case while the
investigation is underway. “He’s always been found not guilty because they have
nothing,” says Gopstein’s attorney, Itamar Ben Gvir. “They don’t even have one
example of Bentzi telling people to commit an attack. Praising Baruch Goldstein
[which Gopstein has done] isn’t illegal. You can think it’s an awful thing to
say. You can think it’s a wonderful thing to say. That’s a democracy.”
Yet Gopstein’s actions, critics say, speak to his real agenda:
anti-Palestinian hatred. “Gopstein wants us to believe that he’s just worried
about the future of the Jewish religion, but he’s not,” says Gvaryahu. “We
never heard him fight against assimilation in the United States, and here the
intermarriage rate is really insignificant.” Indeed, just 2 percent of Jewish Israelis have a non-Jewish spouse, compared with 44 percent in the U.S.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, has a unit for Jewish
terrorism, but a spokesman tells me it’s the police’s responsibility to deal
with Lehava. Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the local cops have
been trying to prevent and respond to violence committed by Gopstein’s
activists, but there is only so much they can do. “Police operations take place
all year round in connection with Lehava,” Rosenfeld says, speaking in October,
shortly after Gopstein’s latest detention. “Those suspects were released after
significant evidence was presented against them. The police recommendation was
to continue holding them. But at the end of the day, the decision made by the
court, unfortunately, is what it is.”
Gopstein’s critics argue that Israel should treat him the same way it
treats his Palestinian counterparts. But Israel has a long history of handling
Jewish radicals differently. In 1984, the authorities determined that a Jewish
militant group was plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, one
of Islam’s holiest shrines. A court convicted 25 Jewish settlers of waging an underground campaign of violence
against Arabs in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. All were soon released,
except for three who were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in
prison—but they wound up serving less than seven years. Jewish settlers cheered
their return home. And they weren’t the only ones. Many of the Jewish
extremists arrested in the 1980s and 1990s quickly re-entered Israeli society,
becoming settlement leaders and political activists.
Israeli supporters of Lehava chant slogans outside the wedding hall where an Arab-Israeli man and a Jewish woman got married on August 17, 2014, in the Israeli coastal city of Rishon Letzion. GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty
More recently, in 2005, a Jewish extremist went to prison for stabbing
marchers at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade. In 2015, three weeks after his
release, he stabbed a 16-year-old Israeli girl to death at the same event.
Gopstein and Lehava activists protested against that parade, calling it an
“abomination,” and have continued to protest it every year since. “Israel
should put much more into fighting Bentzi,” argues Gvaryahu. “It’s about time.”
Yet Gopstein’s supporters believe the state has treated him too harshly,
protecting free speech for Arabs and not for Jews. “What they’re accusing
Bentzi of, you can say the same about the Arabs,” says Ben Gvir, Gopstein’s
attorney. “Thousands of Arabs praise Palestinian terrorists, and no one is
Human rights groups call that argument absurd. Israel has imprisoned 470
Palestinians for social media incitement since 2015. Among them: the Arab-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour, who was arrested in October 2015, jailed for three months and remains
under house arrest for publishing a poem and two Facebook status updates, which her attorneys claim Israeli
authorities translated improperly. Tatour was indicted for incitement to
violence and support of a terrorist organization.
Some, such as Shwartz-Altshuler, say this disparity is not caused by
racism or bias but by outcomes: Because Arabs commit more terrorist attacks
against Jews than the other way around, they’re more likely to be convicted of
incitement. “The fear is that those incitements on Facebook in Arabic will make
someone who sees them take a knife and go stab someone,” says the law
professor. “On the other hand, Israeli authorities are well aware of the
dangers that movements like Lehava pose to Israeli society”—and yet perhaps
less concerned they’ll lead to deadly violence.
But are they doing enough to contain that danger? Jewish extremists have
committed some of the most horrific crimes in Israeli history—from Goldstein’s
massacre to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister who championed
peace with the Palestinians. His assassination—by Yigal Amir, a Jewish
radical—came after months of right-wing Jewish incitement against Rabin and his
peace efforts. It remains the only assassination of an Israeli head of state in
the country’s history.
This poster is indicative of the racism in Israeli elections – a government party promises to campaign against inter-racial sex and relationships
“The fact that Kach was considered a terror organization means that any
group stemming from it is essentially also a terrorist group,” argues Fady
Khoury, an attorney at Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in
Unlike the U.S., Israel has no constitution—and so no fundamental right
to free speech. Instead, Israeli courts protect this freedom on a case-by-case
basis. “The courts are very careful when it comes to pressing criminal charges
against people over speech,” says Shwartz-Altshuler. And when it comes to
people like Gopstein, the professor claims, “the Supreme Court is more afraid
of government censorship than of what Lehava is saying to Israeli society.”
Ultimately, Israel may not have the power to stop Gopstein, since he is
not a politician and has not committed any known attacks. “Kahane was not
banned from speaking outside the Knesset,” notes Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman
Institute and a former member of Kahane’s
Jewish Defense League in New York. “A democracy, especially a democracy under
siege from constant war and terror, needs to walk a fine line between allowing
freedom of speech and ensuring that freedom of speech doesn’t result in
violence. Lehava needs to be reined in when it crosses the line. And it has
repeatedly crossed the line. At the same time, Lehava’s ideas cannot be
In recent years, there have been political efforts to derail Gopstein,
but they have largely failed. In 2015, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon tried to designate Lehava as a terrorist group. A year later, he was
forced out of the government and replaced by Avigdor Lieberman, a hawkish
figure who once said that disloyal Arab citizens of Israel should be beheaded. “Extremist and dangerous forces, Ya’alon warned as he resigned, “have taken over Israel.”
Since Kahane’s days, Israel has moved far to the right. Today, according
to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 48 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel should expel its
Arab citizens, who constitute nearly 20 percent of its population. Twenty years
ago, 32 percent of Israelis considered themselves left-wing. Today, that figure is 19 percent, according to the IDI, the Jerusalem-based think tank. A November report by IDI found that 51.5 percent of Jewish Israelis feel that to preserve
Israel’s Jewish identity, Arabs and Jews should live separately, and 58 percent
say that people who aren’t willing to say Israel is the nation-state of the
Jewish people should have their citizenship revoked. Today, the government is
even considering legislation that some observers say would make Israel’s status
as a Jewish-majority state more important than its democratic values. This
would be the first step, some observers claim, toward establishing the country
Part of this hard-right shift, analysts say, has to do with the trauma
of the violent second intifada, or uprising. Between 2000 and 2005, Israelis
lived through a long series of almost daily suicide bombings in cities such as
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It also reflects a loss of faith in the peace process.
After Israel and the Palestinians signed the historic Oslo Accords in 1993,
many had hoped the bloody, decades-long conflict would end. Instead, both sides
are locked in a stalemate, and Israel has fought two wars with Hamas, the
Islamist group that controls Gaza.
Arab-Israeli Muslim groom, Mahmoud Mansour, and his Israeli bride Morel Malcha sit in Mansour’s family home in Tel Aviv on August 17, 2014, ahead of their wedding ceremony. Their union was met with extreme protests from Lehava, which militates against the “Jewish assimilation and intermarriage.” Daniel Bar-On/AFP/Getty
Gopstein says he’s merely expressing what most Israelis believe, which
he insists isn’t racist. “Arabs who accept this state as a Jewish state
can stay here. Those who don’t need to leave,” he tells me. “We don’t want to
kill Arabs just because they’re Arabs. That’s racism. But Arabs who want to
take our country from us? God gave Israel to the Jewish people, and people who
don’t believe that shouldn’t be here. ”
A resident of Kiryat Arba, the radical Jewish settlement inside the
mostly Palestinian city of Hebron, Gopstein rejects the claim that he
encourages or even inspires his followers to commit violence. “I’m against
doing illegal things,” he insists. “The solution is not to burn the Arab-Jewish
schools; the solution is to close them.” And yet he doesn’t condemn those
illegal acts and even defends Goldstein’s Hebron massacre. “I don’t think that
what Goldstein did was bad. I just wouldn’t do it myself. He saw Arabs killing
his friends and family, and he saw them being happy about their deaths. So he
Like Kahane, Gopstein’s ultimate dream is an Israel that operates
according to Jewish law, or Halacha, where the only Arabs who live there are
those loyal to a Jewish theocracy. “At this rate,” he says of Palestinian
citizens of Israel, “it’s either us or them.”
This story has updated the titles of Tehilla
Shwartz-Altshuler and Fady Khoury
Marriages between Jewish women and Arab men took center stage at a meeting of
the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women this week, when committee
chairwoman Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) hosted a hearing on the subject in honor of
Jewish Identity Day in the Knesset.
“We must confront the fact that the country has not valued education, which is the
only way to prevent Jewish women from forging life connections with non-Jews,”
“The struggle against assimilation only reaches headlines through stories about
Jewish women marrying Muslim men, but it is important to remember that the
phenomenon is much wider – 92,000 mixed families live in the State of Israel.
There is a need to create a curriculum for girls in high schools that deals
with Jewish identity. The fact that girls reach a state of intermarriage
testifies to the fact that the education system was absent.”
Jewish Identity Day in the Knesset on Tuesday was sponsored by the Tzohar
organization and by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), and featured a number
of committee meetings, all focusing on aspects of Jewish identity in Israel.
But not all the lawmakers thought that the subject was appropriate material for
a committee hearing.
“There cannot be a hearing that seeks to determine with whom it is permissible
to be married. It is a personal issue – there are things that the state should
not be involved with,” complained MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al).
“This hearing gives legitimacy to an anti-democratic and very dangerous
situation in which the Knesset is expected to back up Halacha – the concept of
Jewish identity does not need to make racism kosher.”
Sanaa elicited a chuckle from fellow MKs when he cited the Bible as proof of
“Ruth the Moabite wasn’t Jewish, but her descendant was King David,” he said. “I’d like to see what would happen if in France they held a hearing about what
happens when Christians marry Jews.”
Yad L’Achim’s Zehava Drori said her organization took care of women who “are
affiliated with all kinds of minorities.
“The scale of the problem is very wide – we feel that there is a constant
silencing of the phenomenon,” she said.
Yad L’Achim representatives said there was a growing phenomenon of “girls who
are converted to Islam without even being aware of the significance of what is
happening to them. The sheikh comes to their house, and converts them.”
Under Israeli law, mixed-religion couples cannot be married in Israel, and thus
the women are converted to Islam. But the women, said organization
representatives, do not understand that their children, though Jews according
to Halacha, will be registered as Muslim.
Yad L’Achim says it is currently working with approximately 1,000 women, while
in 2008, it only had about 500. Most of the women, it says, came from
backgrounds of severe economic or emotional distress.
“It is not racist to oppose intermarriage – marriages between Jewish women and
Muslim men are like water and oil,” said Sarit, a Jewish woman who had been
married to an Arab man. “It is not racist because they are not bad, but there are
differences in mentalities that are impossible to deny.”
Ben-Zion Gopstein of the Lehava organization said that “there are a number of
organizations that work with these girls after they ask for help, but we need
to reach them before they get to the [Arab] villages.
“This is Lehava’s goal. We go to schools and to entertainment areas and explain
to girls what it means to be a Jewish woman. There are those who date and marry
Arabs – including those from religious schools, and haredi girls.”
Gopstein said that in one religious girls’ school he had visited in Bat Yam, 20
percent of the girls at the age of 14 were dating Arabs. “The problem is the
legitimacy that is given today to intermarriage,” he said.
“The Jewish Agency invests millions in the war against assimilation overseas,
but here in Israel, every girl wants to be Bar Refaeli,” he continued,
referring to the Israeli supermodel who is dating non-Jewish film star Leonardo
Gopstein noted that “in this very Knesset, there is an MK who is married to a
German man,” a reference to Labor MK Einat Wilf. But, he complained, “it is not
politically correct to speak out about it. We don’t discuss this as being