Israeli extremist leader calls on students to torch churches

Jerusalem, Aug 7 (IANS/EFE) Benzi Gopstein, the leader of extremist anti-assimilation group Lehava, said in a meeting with rabbinical students that Christian houses of worship should be destroyed.

“Churches should be burned”, Gopstein said on Wednesday before an audience of hundreds at a Jewish religious school, according to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Rabbi Moshe Klein, who attended the lecture, questioned Gopstein’s stance and argued that the current world requires a rejection of such an approach, while journalist Beny Ravinovich was also surprised with what Benzi Gopstein had to say.

After a tug of war, Gopstein said he was willing to do 50 years in prison for what he believed, and claimed not to be inciting violence, but simply explaining the thoughts that belonged to a Spanish Jew, Rabbi Rambam Maimonides.

The Lehava organisation subscribes to ideas that denounce assimilation between Jewish and non-Jewish people, and also condemn homosexuality.

For its part, the Israel Religious Action Centre, or IRAC, the legal wing of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, expressed concern about Gopstein’s remarks, and the centre previously demanded that he be questioned by the authorities for his controversial views.

IRAC leader Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that if Gopstein was not promptly charged for his statements, Israeli society would be justified to say publicly that the legal system allows for incitement, racism and violence, according to Haaretz daily newspaper on Thursday.

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