Bentzi Gopstein, a far-right activist with a checkered past of anti-Arab and anti-Christian activism, was convicted on Sunday of inciting anti-Arab racism in comments he made in 2014, Israeli media reported.
Gopstein had been charged with four other instances of incitement to terrorism and violence against Arabs, of which the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court cleared him.
The comment that led to his conviction was made at a ceremony commemorating extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was murdered in New York in 1990.
“The enemies within us are like cancer – there is no place it doesn’t have outgrowths. Rabbi Kahane already warned us about the same outgrows,” Gopstein said.
“This dangerous cancer is coexistence, and in the government there are all kinds of ministers with and without kippa [yarmulke] who are encouraging coexistence, let them [Arabs] survive, insert them into the hi-tech sector and let them become doctors.”
The focus of this cancer is the Temple Mount, he continued. “The Temple Mount is the biggest outgrowth of the cancer and as long as the Israeli government won’t wake up and remove this outgrowth from the Temple Mount we won’t be able to bring the nation to a complete redemption.”
Following the verdict, Gopstein appeared unremorseful. “I was sure that after October 7 everyone understood that I am right and was right in everything I said and warned… but still, about the charge that I warned about the Arabs who want the war against us, those who are enemies, and if we don’t fight them they will come and kill Jews - and for that they convicted me?”
Apart from his hate toward Arabs, Gopstein is well known in Christian and Messianic Jewish circles for leading numerous protests against their events which have resulted in violence.
He is the founder and leader of Lehava, meaning “flame” in Hebrew. It is also an acronym for “Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land,” as the group opposes the intermarriage of Jews with other non-Jews and has called for removing all Arabs and Christians from the land of Israel.
In 2015, Gopstein was questioned by Israeli police after he spoke in support of burning churches, referring to them as places of “idol worship.”
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, in the past, has defended Lehava members in court as a lawyer and was a popular figure in the group until they accused him recently of “going soft” for rejecting some of Kahane’s teachings.
Gopstein was also involved in the riot by a far-right Orthodox Jewish religious group at a worship event planned and promoted by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel (MJAI) at a believer-owned venue in Jerusalem last June.
We recommend to read:
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.