Tony Greenstein | 07 November 2017 | Post Views:

Israeli Government Refused to Arrest Lehava Leader Benzi Gopstein for his call for burning Churches and Mosques

One of the many myths about the ‘only
democracy in the Middle East’
is that there is, unlike anywhere else in the
region, complete freedom of worship. 
This belief is particularly common amongst the more stupid
fundamentalist Christians of the USA’s Bible Belt .

In fact Jewish Orthodoxy holds Christianity
in even greater contempt than it does Islam. 
Zionism today, for purely pragmatic reasons, viz. the support it gets
from the United States, keeps this quiet. 
If medieval Christianity was anti-Semitic then Judaism was anti-Christian. 
In 2012 Michael Ben Ari, a
far-Right member of the Knesset and Jewish Union gave vent to his hatred when
he tore up
a copy of the New Testament and threw it in a dustbin.
The results of the destruction of a Church
Contrary to the myth of the
Judeo-Christian heritage (a modern invention with no basis in history) Maimonedes,
the ‘Rambam’ held that Christianity was far worse than Islam.  The Talmud is full of invective against
Jesus, the son of god, a blasphemous concept in itself.  A Jew can pray
in a mosque
(for example the Hebron settlers pray in Hebron’s Ibrahimi
Mosque which they fool themselves is the Cave of the Patriarchs) but they are forbidden
to pray in a church.  See also Pray in
mosque, rabbi rules
Today in Israel both religions
are hated with about equal venom.  Apart
from specific legislation such as the recent Muezzin Law [Israeli
ministers to ban use of speakers for Muslim call to prayer due to ‘noise
] or the banning of the Northern Muslim League, there is an
atmosphere of hate and distrust of anything other than the Orthodox Jewish religion.  Reform and liberal Jewry is tolerated,
although Reform Jewry with its equality for women is not considered properly Jewish.
This why there has
been a wave of arson attacks against churches and mosques.  It is also why Benzi Gopstein, leader of the
Kahanist fascist group Lehava, can get away with a call for the burning
down of churches and mosques.  When you
consider that Israel has gaoled and held under house arrest for the past 18
months an Israeli Palestinian poet, Dareen
for talking about resistance in poems put on Facebook you can imagine
what would have happened if a Palestinian had called for the burning down of
synagogues.  They would have been gaoled
and the key would have been thrown away. 
You would have the Luke Akehursts and other Zionist propagandists
talking about Arab hatred etc.
Far-right Kahanist MK Ben Ari rips up a copy of the Christian Bible – no action was taken against him by the Knesset (unlike the suspensions of Palestinian MKs)
Yet Gopstein has
never been prosecuted.  The Vatican has called
for him to be arrested and charged but in Israel, a call for racial discrimination
on the grounds of religion is not a
crime (unless committed by a Palestinian in which case it is ‘terrorism’).  Rome – Vatican Calls On A-G To Indict Extremist
Jewish Leader Following Endorsement Of Burning Churches
The article below shows how there
has been a complete disinterest on the part of the Israeli Police who have
refused to treat the wave of attacks on Christian and Islamic religious
buildings seriously.  No attempt has been
made to try and tackle those behind the wave of attacks on churches and mosques.  Below that is an article from Ha’aretz on
what happened when an Israeli fascist calls for arson of other than Jewish religious
buildings – nothing.

Tony Greenstein

doing nothing to stop attacks on churches and mosques

Stained glass and
a statue of the Virgin Mary were among the items destroyed in the latest attack
on St. Stephen’s church at Beit Jamal, west of Jerusalem. (Latin Patriarchate of
Since 2009, at
least 53 churches and mosques have been vandalized in present-day Israel and
the occupied West Bank.
The vast majority
of those cases – 45 – have been closed without any charges against
In all, there have
been just nine indictments and seven convictions, according to Israeli
government data reported by the newspaper Haaretz. Only eight of the
cases remain under investigation.
MK Ben Ari hard at work
They were usually
dismissed on the grounds of unknown perpetrators.
A lawmaker raised
the matter in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, at the request of Tag Meir, an
organization that monitors racially motivated crimes.
According to Haaretz, public security
minister Gilad Erdan wrote to the lawmaker that
the attacks “were perpetrated from various motives, ranging from negligence
through mental illness and, in extreme cases, incidents of arson that appear
The newspaper
noted that Erdan’s assertion “seems to contradict the fact that most of the
cases were closed on the grounds of ‘perpetrator unknown.’
according to Haaretz, all the
cases involved arson.
The name of the organization
Tag Meir
 is a play on the Hebrew words tag mehir – or price tag – the term
Israeli settlers and extremists have adopted to describe their sometimes lethal attacks on
non-Jews and their property, especially Palestinians.

Third attack

In the most recent
attack, on 20 September, vandals shattered a statue of the Virgin Mary, broke
stained glass and destroyed a cross in St. Stephen’s Church in the Beit Jamal
Salesian Monastery west of Jerusalem.
“I was shocked,”
the church’s caretaker Father Antonio Scudu told the Catholic News
. “I didn’t expect to see something like this. The church is
always open. If you see what happened, you feel they did it with hate. They
smashed everything.
Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s senior cleric
in Palestine, said, “this is not
only an act of vandalism but an action against the sacredness of the holy
places and the faith of people.”
This was the third
attack on Beit Jamal in the past four years, but no arrests have ever been
Wadie Abunassar,
adviser to the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, condemned the
desecration in a post on Facebook .
We are fed up
with repeated attacks on holy places,”
Abunassar stated, adding that “anger is
not only directed at the aggressors,”
but at Israeli authorities which have
failed to deal with the phenomenon.
Abunassar told The
Electronic Intifada that there was growing public frustration at how the police
deal with the incidents, given the small number of cases that have been

Unchecked incitement

Israeli police
spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld has claimed that the
incidents are unconnected.
“There have been
arrests in previous cases,”
he said. “We are looking into this case to see if
it was an individual or a group. These are all separate cases.”
While Abunassar
does not know if the incidents are done by individuals connected to each other,
he points to constant incitement by extremist rabbis inspiring such actions.
He added that
these right-wing preachers are not “sufficiently deterred by Israeli law
enforcement authorities.”
He recalled one of
the more notorious cases, Torat Hamelech or The King’s Torah, a 2009 book by
Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur.
The book argues that it is
permissible in certain circumstances to kill the non-Jewish children and babies
of Israel’s enemies since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us.
As a result, the
UK banned the entry of Elitzur.
authorities investigated the pair for incitement, but eventually decided not to charge them.
Amongst other
figures who encourage these attacks is Bentzi Gopstein, the head of Lehava,
a vigilante group that opposes miscegenation between Jews and Arabs.
In August 2015,
Gopstein publicly called for the
burning of churches and mosques.
The Vatican urged Israel to
charge Gopstein with incitement to violence and terrorism.
Months later,
Gopstein wrote an article branding
Christians “blood-sucking vampires” and urging their expulsion from the
Although bishops
have asked to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss these hate
crimes, their request has been ignored. 

Lehava’s Benzi Gopstein tells
yeshiva panel that the Rambam’s ruling for destruction of idol worship is still
Chaim Levinson Aug 06, 2015 2:03
No grounds for outlawing racist
group, concludes Israeli security agency
Bentzi Gopstein, head of the anti-gentile group Lehava, in court, December 16, 2014. Emil Salman
The leader of the extremist
anti-assimilation group Lehava allegedly called for churches to be torched, at
a panel held this week for yeshiva students. Benzi Gopstein said he is prepared
to spend 50 years in jail for doing so, according to a report by the Haredi
website Kikar Shabbat.
During the yeshiva intercession,
known as bein hazmanim, many yeshivas hold summer camps for their students.
These combine Torah study with other activities, like trips and panels to
discuss current events. Kikar Shabbat obtained and posted a recording of such a
panel at the Wolfson Yeshiva camp, at which Gopstein appeared along with Rabbi
Moshe Klein, the rabbi of the Hadassah Medical Centers; Elad Deputy Mayor
Tzuriel Krispal; and Yated Ne’eman journalist Benny Rabinovich.
The panel was debating whether
Jews are commanded to eliminate idol worship, as the Rambam (Maimonides)
states. After Gopstein responded affirmatively, Klein hastened to interject,
It is a mitzvah according to the Rambam, but in our times the answer is no.”

The issue generated an argument
on the panel, with Gopstein defending his position that churches should be
burned. In response to a question by Rabinovich as to whether he “is in favor
of burning churches in the Land of Israel
,” Gopstein answered, “Did the Rambam
rule to destroy [idol worship] or not? Idol worship must be destroyed. It’s
simply yes – what’s the question?”

Rabinovich pressed the issue,
saying, “Benzi, I must say I’m really shocked by what you’re saying here. You
are essentially saying we must go out and burn down churches. You’re saying
something insane here.”

Gopstein replied, “What’s the
question? Do you doubt it?”

When Klein warned him the panel
was being filmed, and that if the recording should get to the police he would
be arrested, Gopstein replied, “That’s the last thing that concerns me. If this
is truth, I’m prepared to sit in jail 50 years for it.”

As the panel discussion unfolded,
Rabinovich tweeted a message on his Twitter account: “I’m shocked to the core.
I’m sitting at a panel right now with Benzi Gopstein, who says outright it’s a
mitzvah to burn churches, and he is prepared to sit in jail 50 years for this.”
Some of the yeshiva students who saw his tweet called him a “moser” (informer).
In response to the release of the
recording, Gopstein said, “At a closed panel of the Wolfson Yeshiva, there was
a halakhic debate about the Rambam’s approach to Christianity. During the debate
I said that, according to the Rambam, idol worship must be destroyed. I
stressed several times I was not calling to take operative steps, but that this
is the Rambam’s approach and that it’s the responsibility of the government,
not of individuals.’
“I understand there’s a campaign
against right-wingers and they are trying to catch us on every word. But I
would recommend that they first investigate the preachers in the mosques or [MK
Ahmad] Tibi and [MK Haneen] Zoabi. Then let them come to me
,” Gopstein added.
The Israel Religious Action
Center, the legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement, petitioned the High
Court of Justice last October against Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein for not
prosecuting Gopstein over previous inflammatory remarks and actions. It has
been waiting for a response since January.
“For many months, we have waited
for a decision by the attorney general regarding complaints against Gopstein
for incitement to racism,”
said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform
Movement. “If even these remarks don’t lead to a quick decision to prosecute
him, we can publicly declare that Israeli law allows incitement to racism and
violence. What else has to happen for the State of Israel to seriously fight
those who have decided to ignite the fire of hatred and fanaticism?”

Yair Ettinger contributed to this

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