Invitation Rescinded for Leader of Racist Group to Speak at Knesset

Bentzi Gopstein, the head of a racist, right-wing Israeli group called Lehava, known for its anti-Arab activities, had his invitation to a Knesset hearing on sexual harassment rescinded on Sunday. MK Miki Zohar (Likud) canceled his invitation to Gopstein, the chairman of Lehava, after coming under pressure from opposition Knesset members.

Bentzi Gopstein (first from right) during an anti-Palestinian demonstration

Bentzi Gopstein (first from right) during an anti-Palestinian demonstration (Photo: Activestills)

Zohar, who is the chairman of the Knesset’s Committee on Distributive Justice, had invited Gopstein to present data he said he collected on the alleged “harassment of Jewish women by Arab men in Israeli cities with mixed Jewish-Arab populations”.

When Gopstein and representatives of Lehava and Yad L’Achim, both organizations that work to prevent romantic relationships between Arabs and Jews were invited, Hadash MKs called on the Knesset speaker and its legal adviser to cancel the hearing. Last week Gopstein was summoned to a pretrial hearing for charges he faces on incitement to violence, racist incitement and incitement to terror, as well as obstruction of justice.

Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said that the Committee for Distributive Justice was going beyond its mandate. She claimed that the committee was encroaching on the territory of the Committee on the Status of Women by choosing to deal with sexual harassment. “Gopstein wasn’t the only problem with the hearing,” said Touma-Sliman, who chairs the Committee on the Status of Women. “The problem is Lehava and Yad L’Achim and a long list of participants with a history of racist comments and activities. The hearing undermines the authority of the Committee on the Status of Women, which is responsible for the issue of sexual harassment, while it will also be a platform for incitement and the cynical exploitation of the pain of women who are victims of sexual harassment.”

Touma-Sliman added that in a hearing conducted by the Committee on the Status of Women, police representatives said that the numbers presented recently by a Knesset member on sexual harassment in mixed cities from the government’s ruling coalition were inflated. She said the data showed that there had actually been a drop in such cases in mixed cities.

Gopstein was a follower of the late American-Israeli Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was considered the founder of racist far-right Jewish politics in Israel and advocated deporting Arabs en masse from Israel. Lehava, an acronym that stands for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land, is fiercely fascist and racist.