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Threat of Arrest Fails to Silence Israeli Extremist

Published: 08th August 2015 10:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th August 2015 10:27 AM   |  A+A-

Having publicly advocated the destruction of Israel's Christian churches, Benzi Gopstein might have good cause to fear for his liberty.

But if Mr Gopstein, the leader of Lehava - a group infamous for its virulent campaigns against relationships between Arab men and Jewish women - worries about arrest after Benjamin Netanyahu's government announced an unprecedented offensive against "Jewish terror", he was not showing it.

Instead, he brazenly urged the same government to expel Christian places of worship from the Holy Land.

Asked if the government should set fire to churches - as hard-line Jewish extremists have done in recent times - he replied: "Not burn. They need to take them out. We don't have a place for churches here. It's Jewish law. This is what God told us."

Mr Gopstein, 46, a religious settler from Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Hebron was addressing an explosive topic at a sensitive time.

The authorities, driven by revulsion over a fire-bomb attack blamed on far-Right settlers that killed a Palestinian child in the West Bank village of Duma last week, have disclosed plans to detain Jewish militants without trial, a measure long applied to Palestinian suspects.

Mordechai Meyer, 18, was ordered to be detained for six months for activities that were said to include suspected involvement in a fire that badly damaged the Church of Loaves and Fishes on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

Mr Gopstein said his organisation did not carry out church attacks, but he admitted he could be arrested soon, even though the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, has decided there are no grounds for outlawing his group.

"If they arrest me, I am ready. It's not the first time," he said.



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