Israel Cracks Down on Lehava, a Group Tied to Anti-Arab Acts

Israel Cracks Down on Lehava, a Group Tied to Anti-Arab Acts

Ten members of a far-right Jewish organization were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of incitement and calls for acts of violence motivated by racism, the Israeli police said. The arrests came against a background of heightened Jewish-Arab tensions in Israel and Israeli-Palestinian hostility.

The police crackdown came a day after three activists from the group, Lehava, long known for provocative anti-Arab activities, were charged in a November arson attack against a Jewish-Arab bilingual school in Jerusalem. There are growing calls in Israel for the group to be outlawed.

The police have described Lehava, Hebrew for “flame” and an acronym for Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land, as acting against mixed Jewish-Arab couples in the spirit of Meir Kahane, an American-born rabbi whose Kach party was banned in Israel two decades ago on the grounds that it was racist and undemocratic. Rabbi Kahane was shot to death in a Manhattan hotel in 1990.
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Itamar Ben-Gvir, a lawyer representing the 10 suspects, called the arrests a “disgrace,” saying the police had capitulated to pressure from leftist politicians “even though it is clear to them that this is a legal organization that operates openly against assimilation.”

Mr. Ben-Gvir, who is a prominent ultranationalist activist, also represents the three men charged with arson: a 22-year-old man from Jerusalem and two brothers, ages 20 and 18, from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit in the West Bank. Mr. Ben-Gvir said they confessed after their interrogators from the Shin Bet internal security agency threatened them.

The nighttime arson attack at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school prompted condemnation across the Israeli political spectrum. Two empty classrooms were set on fire. Graffiti sprayed on an outside wall included the slogans “Death to Arabs,” “No coexistence with cancer,” “Kahane was right,” and “Stop assimilation.”

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