Gantz supports ‘terrorist’ designation for aggressive anti-Arab organizations

Members of far-right groups Lehava and La Familia hurled epithets and fought against Arabs in the capital during Jerusalem Day celebrations.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Defense Minister Benny Gantz supported the idea of designating two far-right Jewish organizations as terrorist groups after their members got into physical and verbal confrontations with Arabs on Jerusalem Day Sunday.

“As defense minister, I believe that the time has come to consider ‘terrorist organization’ designations for groups like La Familia and Lehava,” Gantz said at a Blue and White party faction meeting in the Knesset Monday. “I know that the subject has been brought up with security organizations, and I trust the heads of the organizations to make that consideration in the cleanest and best way possible.”

La Familia is technically a fan club of Jerusalem’s Beitar soccer team. The team’s ownership disavowed it years ago, as its members’ racist chants at opposing Arab players and general hooliganism, especially before and after games against Israeli Arab teams, cost the team both financially and socially.

Lehava is a religious Jewish group that works against Muslim-Jewish intermarriage. Its head, Bentzi Gopstein, has been taken to court several times over the last several years on charges such as incitement to violence, racism and even terrorism due to his vehement anti-Arab rhetoric.

Dozens of supporters of both organizations were seen shouting epithets such as “Death to Arabs” and brawling with Arab, both in and outside the Old City during the Flag March, in which tens of thousands of mostly young, national-religious men and women waved the Israeli flag as they sang and danced their way to the Western Wall plaza.

Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev of the far-left Meretz party said such a move was long overdue, although he acknowledged that groups represented only a small minority of Israelis.

“I asked the attorney-general even before I became a minister to test the possibility of outlawing La Familia and Lehava,” he said. “This is a noisy and difficult handful [of people]…. There is no doubt that they harm the state of Israel’s security, Israel’s internal security, damage our broad common denominator, and they should be outlawed. ”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized what he called “the extremist minority” who had tried to turn a “day of joy” into a “day of hate,” saying that “Jerusalem deserves better, Israeli society deserves better.”

“The Israeli flag does not belong to them,” he added. “We won’t let them steal Zionism and love of the land from us. These people aren’t patriots, they are worthless thugs…. We didn’t celebrate this 55 years ago when the city was reunified.”

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Gopstein reacted angrily to Gantz’s remarks.

“‘Defense’ Minister Gantz hosts the Holocaust denier and terror supporter Abu Mazen in his home,” he said in a statement, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “And he doesn’t do anything to the Arabs who are inciting day after day on the Temple Mount. But he does fight the Lehava organization, which acts for the good of the people of Israel. We survived Pharoah, we’ll survive Gantz.”