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Report: US may add two far-right Jewish organizations to its list of terror orgs

Secretary Blinken told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the two groups will soon be added to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, according to Channel 14 News 

Lehava's CEO Benzi Gopstein is being arrested by police for harassing people at a Christian event in Jerusalem, Sep. 22, 2016. (Photo: Dor Kedmi/Flash90)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised Palestinians that two far-right Jewish organizations will soon be added to the United States’ Foreign Terrorist Organization list,  according to an exclusive report by Israel’s Channel 14 News.

That promise was allegedly made during a phone call between Blinken and Palestinian Authority President Abbas last month. 

The two groups – Lehava and La Familia – have been tied to cases of violence against Arabs in Israel over the years. 

Lehava, which means “flame” in Hebrew, is an acronym that stands for Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land. The extremist organization opposes personal relationships between Jews and non-Jews. It is also opposed to homosexuality and a Christian presence in Israel. In the past, Lehava members have been involved in arson attacks on churches and mixed Arab-Jewish schools. 

Lehava's CEO Bentzi Gopstein has led violent protests at both Messianic Jewish and Christian events and once said Israel should expel all Christians. Gopstein is a disciple of Meir Kahane, a U.S.-born rabbi who promoted the forced expulsion of most Palestinians and Arab Israelis from Israel and the Palestinian territories. 

Kahane’s political party, Kahane Chai (Kach), was banned in Israel because its platform “incited racism,” and was declared a terrorist organization by the United States. 

Last month, it has been reported that the U.S. was preparing to remove the Kach movement from terror list, along with four other groups, that are “believed to be defunct,” the report said. 

The second organization, La Familia is a fan club of Jerusalem’s soccer team, Beitar FC. While the team has repeatedly denounced the group and distanced itself from it, La Familia is known for it racist rhetoric, violence, insulting Arab players and chating “death to the Arabs.” 

According to the report, Blinken told Abbas that the Israeli government is also inching toward labeling the two as terror organizations. Channel 14 reported that Blinken floated the development in response to Abbas’ complaints about violence and incitement against Palestinians. Abbas also demanded that the U.S. remove the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from the terror list.  

According to the report, the Palestinian sources noted that Abbas expressed his outrage to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf. 

“How do you allow yourself to sit with the head of a terrorist organization?” he reportedly asked her. “Time after time you repeat and define me as terrorist since I am the head of the CEO, whereas you acknowledge that the Kach movement is not a terror organization.” 

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently called for Lehava and La Familia to be declared terrorist organizations after far-right activists chanted anti-Arab slogans during the Jerusalem Day flag march and engaged in violence. Gantz said that their designation is being examined by the security establishment. 

The Palestinian sources in Ramallah added that the conversation between Blinken and Abbas was especially tense. Abbas said that he cannot sustain the current situation with neither diplomatic horizon with Israel nor American involvement. Blinken demanded that the Palestinians cooperate with Israel’s investigation into the death of Al Jazeera Journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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