The Internal Affairs and Environment Committee held a debate on Tuesday on the activities of the ”Lehava” organization against residents of Jerusalem. The meeting was held at the request of MKs Michal Rozin (Meretz) and Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp). During the heated debate, the sitting deputy chair of the committee, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) removed MK Rozin from the committee`s meeting room three times. MKs Hasson, Esawi Frej (Meretz), and Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) were also escorted out of the room at some point.
The commotion was due to the presence of the CEO of the ”Lehava” organization, Bentzi Gopstein, and the absence of the state attorney`s representatives.
MK Rozin read out loud a list of violent attacks involving members of the organization and added: ”And you (Gopstein) sit here with that smile of yours. Children are spitting on people. Is that education to Judaism?” She also read a letter by Moshe Peretz, part owner of the Roladin coffee shop on Mamila St in Jerusalem. The letter described a violent attack by Lehava members on the workers of the establishment. The attack happened a month ago, and security forces vacated the Arabs employees rather than the rioters.
MK Hasson: ”You (MK Smotrich) are running this important debate. But if you weren`t an MK you would be sitting with him”. He then turned to Gopstein and said: ”You should be banned from entering this House. You represent what the most heinous regimes in history represented. I just came back from Berlin. I met members of the parliament who are today self-flagellating over actions not so different from those you are advocating.”
MK Abdullah Abu Maaruf (Joint Arab List) said to Gopstein: ”You are a Nazi. What do you care who is marrying who? You are a racist Nazi.” MK Rozin said that not only does Gopstein want to build extermination camps, he gets funding from the state.
The representative of the Ministry of Justice said that according to an agreement that was reached yesterday, the ministry`s representatives were supposed to submit a report to the committee. However, that was before they were informed that Gopstein would participate in the debate. MK Smotrich said: ”Did you expect that he would watch the debate on television?” He then asked ushers to remove Rozin from the debate after she had interrupted him.
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp): ”There should be a black flag hung atop the Knesset. It is shameful that the committee includes this racist man, who dedicated his life to harm the delicate fabric of life in our country. This man, and his organization, goes after homosexuals, Arabs, and anyone who`s different. Judaism is a religion that was persecuted throughout history; how is it possible that this man, whose entire life is a burning hate, is being legitimized?”
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz): ”I apologize for leaving, but I don`t want to hear this man. I`m no great democrat. I have no intention of taking part of this despicable display. You are the Zionist nightmare. Your agenda is death.”
MK Osama Sa`adi (Joint Arab List): ”It is shameful that a terrorist is to be found in the Knesset and sitting next to a representative of the Ministry of Justice and the police. He is a cancer to Israeli society. This is Jewish ISIS. I condemned attacks on civilians but I didn`t hear you (MK Smotrich) condemn Lehava at the opening of this debate. Not a word against it. I want to know who invited Gopstein. ”
Addressing the heated debate, Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said during the plenum session later in the day that the Knesset`s Legal Department and Sergeant-at-Arms found no legal reason to prevent Gopstein from participating in the meeting.
”There are many people who I would not want to see in the Knesset`s hallways because they are simply not worthy of being here, but there is no way of implementing this. I join those who are calling on law enforcement agencies to take the initiative and declare [Lehava] as what it deserves to be declared as. This will resolve the issue once and for all.”