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Leader of extremist Israeli organization calls for torching churches

Aug. 6, 2015 6:01 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 7, 2015 11:09 A.M.)
Israeli settler Benzi Gopstein, the leader of the extreme right-wing movement Lehava, in court in Jerusalem in 2014 (AFP/File)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) --The leader of a Jewish extremist group in Israel allegedly called for arson attacks on churches in front of Israeli students, Israeli media reported on Thursday.

Benzi Gopstein, leader of anti-Arab group Lehava, allegedly called for the burning of churches at a panel held this week for Jewish yeshiva students, using ancient Halachic, or Jewish law, to condemn what he called Christian "idol worship."

When a journalist at the panel informed Gopstein that he was on camera and could be arrested for his comments, Gopstein said he is prepared to spend 50 years in jail for his remarks, according to a video of the panel released by the Haredi website Kikar Shabbat.

After the release of the video, Gopstein said he "stressed several times" that he was "not calling to take operative steps," instead he said that it is "the responsibility of the government, not of individuals" to abolish the Christian practice of idol worship.

The Israeli government has taken steps to crack down on Jewish extremism over the past week, after suspected Jewish extremists torched two West Bank homes, burning an 18-month-old infant alive and critically injuring the baby's mother, father and brother.

Three right-wing extremists were arrested on Tuesday in connection to the arson under an administrative detention order after Israel's security cabinet approved the use of the measure on Jewish Israelis. The arrests marked the first time a Jewish Israeli has ever been held under the policy of administrative detention.

There has been a long line of attacks on Christian and Muslim holy places in both Israel and the occupied West Bank in which the perpetrators were believed to be Jewish extremists.

Despite announcements by the Israeli government in May 2014 to crack down on violent attacks carried out by Israelis against Palestinians, prosecution rates of Jewish extremists remain remarkably low.

Jon / USA
Make his wishes come true, throw him in prison for 50 years.
06/08/2015 18:13
Joe Fattal / USA
And I quote "to condemn what he call Christian "idol worship". Well its better than worshiping ruins or left over ruins, or burried ruins in the ground or above the ground.
06/08/2015 18:15
Outlier / USA
Apparently Palestinians are not the only group with extremist idiots.
06/08/2015 19:15
Truth / USA
I like people with passion about their convictions, albeit wrong and misplaced. Christians are not his problem. Arabs are.
07/08/2015 22:53
ian / australia
The evil of people like settler honcho Benzi Gopstein is pretty fascinating. Also his defense that he wasn't inciting anyone to violence, just pointing out that, according to Halacha, burning churches would be pious observance of G-d's will. So the evil isn't his own, it's in Judaism.
09/08/2015 05:18
ian / australia (1)
"Apparently Palestinians are not the only group with extremist idiots." Palestinian "extremists", Outlier, advocate extreme forms of resistance against aggression. They're extreme but rational. JEWISH extremists, like Benzi Gopstein, firstly, ARE the aggressors and secondly, are off with the fairies
09/08/2015 05:37
ian / australia (2)
(contd.) and a particularly nasty lot of fairies they are.
09/08/2015 05:38
Fred / USA
If any Christian or Muslim said this about burning jewish synogogues, it woild be on the mainstream media in the US, and their would be condemnations all over. When Israelis call for the burning of churches or when they burn Palestinians alive, there is silence. Our media is so biased for Israel.
09/08/2015 06:04
ian / australia (1)
I agree with Joe. Judaism comes closer to "idol worship" than anything in Christianity, like the veneration of Torah scrolls as magical objects (buried when damaged or out of use) and physical entities like HaKotel (held to house the Shechinah) which is surely the ultimate cultic, stone "idol".
09/08/2015 08:16
ian / australia (2)
(contd.) No where in Christianity do people down before an inanimate object like Jews at the Western Wall. And I'd point out that "idol worship" is such a weird-sounding allegation because it's the ancient Talmudic one levelled at the upstart religion and, used today against modern Christians,
09/08/2015 08:17
ian / australia (3)
contd.) strangely detached from reality (also morality) like everything else about Benzi Gopstein.
09/08/2015 08:18
Uriel / Israel
Yeah, you can not like what Judaiam says, but it's not hateful to point out Christianity is considered idolatry according to Judaism and it has implications. A Jewish fireman could not put out a burning church unless people were inside...
09/08/2015 19:43
Outlier / USA
Sorry, Ian, but your rationale does not make Palestinians extremists any less extreme or any less stupid. And your name-calling does not help your rationale.
10/08/2015 20:33
ian / australia (1)
You're not really selling Judaism, Uriel. It's the basis for the arson attacks which killed Ali Dawabsha and his father (may the souls of the martyrs rest in perfect peace), the whole rapacious settler movement, Benzi Gopstein's scriptural nugget that torching churches to rid Eretz Yisrael
11/08/2015 23:49
ian / australia (2)
(contd.) of "idolatry" is, though criminal, a divine commandment and that, if it's Shabbat, religious firemen will do nothing to save them (if they're empty). Can you see, Uriel, how from the outside Judaism can seem a collection of eccentric, not very nice impulses and ideas?
11/08/2015 23:50
ian / australia (1)
No, Uriel, it's not hateful to point it out because it's true. Judaism DOES consider Christianity to be idolatry. It's the accusation in the Mishnah of "following false gods" condemning the upstart religion as paganism. But like many ancient rulings, when it's cited today it just seems eccentric
11/08/2015 23:53
ian / australia (2)
(contd.) because Christians never WORSHIPPED the statues and images in their churches. They are there as aids to contemplation of what they represent. Not for adoration. One suspects the rabbis knew that but in a turf war demonised the teachings of Jesus to prevent exposure to them. He was afterall
11/08/2015 23:57
ian / australia (3)
(contd.) a radical remonstrant (like Amos) and a REFORMER of Judaism ("not come to destroy, but to fulfil") who had called them serpents, vipers and hypocrites. And given the recent behaviour of people acting in their name and the satanic modern state they have created, was he far wrong?
11/08/2015 23:58
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