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US sanctions target anti-Christian activist and Ben Gvir-ally Benzi Gopstein

Gopstein was convicted of anti-Arab racism in January

Lehava chairman Benzi Gopstein arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court for a court hearing on June 8, 2020. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Among the targets of the latest U.S. sanctions targeting Israeli settler activists and related entities is the nation's most prolific anti-Christian and anti-Messianic activist, Benzi Gopstein.

A close ally of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, Gopstein is the founder and leader of Lehava, an organization that aims to prevent marriages between Jews and non-Jews, and “whose members have engaged in destabilizing violence affecting the West Bank,” according to the U.S. State Department.

“Under Gopstein’s leadership, Lehava and its members have been involved in acts or threats of violence against Palestinians, often targeting sensitive or volatile areas.”

The European Union and U.S. sanctions that hit Gopstein also targeted several other Israeli settlement activists and two organizations, and are aimed at the ”political orbit” of some of the government’s more extreme members, instead of direct sanctions against ministers such as Ben Gvir or Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a U.S. official told The Times of Israel.

The sanctioned activists and organizations, including entities owned by them, will not be able to access their U.S. property or interests. American citizens and residents who interact with them financially will also be liable to sanctions.

“We are deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in the West Bank in recent days and call on Israel to take all appropriate measures to prevent attacks by violent extremist settlers and hold those responsible accountable. The United States will not hesitate to take additional steps to promote accountability if necessary,” the State Department said.

Lehava, an acronym in Hebrew for the organization’s full name – "For the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land" (LiMniat Hitbolelut B'eretz HaKodesh), is a far-right, Jewish supremacist group, whose goal is the elimination of any non-Jewish presence from the land of Israel.

The organization, under the leadership of Gopstein, follows the teachings of Meir Kahane, whose Kach political party was banned from Israeli politics for racism in 1988.

In 1994, the U.S. State Department declared Kach to be a terrorist organization due to its association with violent acts aimed at achieving a “religiously homogenous state.”

In January, Gopstein was convicted of inciting anti-Arab racism in comments he made in 2014

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.

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

Gopstein himself condoned the burning of churches in Israel in 2015 – calling them places of “idol worship" – and has ties to the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party, led by Ben Gvir, who served as a defense attorney for the four Lehava youth arrested and charged with anti-Arab violence in 2014.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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