Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Forward to Nuremburg: Israel’s Quest for Racial Purity Dominates the Refugee Question

Israel: A State where ‘Death to the Arabs’ Mavet la’aravim is the National Slogan

Despite all the racist stereotypes, the crime rate among foreigners in Israel was 2.04% in 2010 compared with 4.99% among Israelis. Photograph: AP 
When Miri Regev a Likud MK stated that ‘"the Sudanese are a cancer in our body." she sparked off a pogrom against refugees in South Tel Aviv.  Later she apologised to cancer victims, for having compared them to refugees!  She also apologised for comparing the refugees to human beings.
Today Miri Regev is Israel’s Culture Minister!

Fence erected between Egypt and Israel to keep out refugees
The attitude of Regev is no different from that of her government.  Refugees are called ‘infiltrators’ not refugees in order to compare them with Palestinians who tried to return to Israel after being expelled in 1948.  Not one Syrian has been given refugee status despite the country being Israel’s neighbour.  As Professor Gideon Kunda explained:

 “Infiltrator” is a very loaded word, and it was not chosen by accident. It’s part of our collective memory, going back to the early period of the state, to Ma’aleh Akrabim [a 1954 attack on a bus in the Negev in which 11 Israelis were shot dead by cross-border marauders] and to Palestinians who tried to return to their land.  'It's No Accident That African Refugees Are Called Infiltrators'  

Large numbers of African refugees, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, began arriving in Israel in the second half of the 2000s and accelerated from between 2010-2012.   There were an estimated 60,000 refugees at one time though the numbers today are thought to be no more than 46,000.  Large numbers have been ‘persuaded’ via a bribe of some $3,000 to ‘self-deport’ and via long periods of detention at Holot.  As The Times of Israel reportsIsrael has recognized fewer than 1% as asylum claims, and since 2009, less than 0.15% — the lowest rate in the Western world.’   Although most refugees from Eritrea and Sudan are recognised internationally as refugees, in Israel virtually none are given refugee status.

In every country in Europe there is anti-refugee feeling.  But in Israel it is qualitatively different as opposition to refugees isn’t about competition for jobs, social or other economic issues.  It’s about race and ethnicity.  Israel is a Jewish state and the refugees aren’t Jewish.  They dilute the Jewishness of the Jewish State.  As Netanyahu remarked:[Israel PM: illegal African immigrants threaten identity of Jewish state, Guardian, May 20 2021]

"If we don't stop their entry, the problem that currently stands at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state... This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity."

This is an objection on explicitly racist grounds.  Israel is prepared to take any Jewish immigrant from any country.  Sometimes, as with the Iraq Jews in the 1950’s and the Soviet Jews in the 1970’s/1980’s it is prepared to force them to come, even against their own wishes, but in the case of non-Jewish African refugees they are a threat to ‘national identity’, that is Jewish national identity because Israel’s Arab population are themselves barely tolerated guests.  And of course they are a threat to ‘national security’ because a threat to ‘national identity’ is an existential threat and therefore a security threat.

Israeli Labour Party
The Israeli Labour Party has been no better than Netanyahu and Likud.  Indeed they have tried to outflank them from the Right.  As David Sheen wrote, in May 2012, their leader, Isaac Herzog wrote an opinion piece, challenging arguments by human rights groups that Eritreans in Israel deserved protection as refugees.  In March 2015, Herzog repeated this refrain on the eve of the Israeli national elections, saying, “We need to negotiate with Eritrea on the return of the Eritreans back to Eritrea.”   We should bear this in mind when the Jewish Labour Movement boasts that the Israeli Labour Party is its ‘sister party’ in Israel. 

Refugee Killed Because He Approached Jewish Girls as Arabs hunted down in Jerusalem by Lehava’s Jewish neo-Nazis 

Below is the horrific case of a refugee who, after being thrown into Israel’s Holot detention camp in the Negev desert for a year, was eventually released, making his way to Petah Tikvah.  One evening he made an approach to 3 Israeli Jewish women which they rejected.  He wasn’t violent or threatening but the idea of a non-Jewish African man approaching Jewish women was enough for his attackers who took nearly an hour to beat him to death.  Not only did no one intervene to put a stop to this but those who were around sympathised with the attackers.

It was not until an article in Ha’aretz nearly two weeks later that they got around to arresting two Jewish youths.  It is unlikely that they will face a murder charge because their offence was ‘spontaneous’.  Of course if it had been the opposite way around then it would have been called ‘terrorism’, police raids would have ensued, loud headlines and no doubt Tom Watson MP would pontificate about terror in Israeli streets.    See The Legal Attacks by Government on Refugees
The article on Lehava by Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in Nazareth, is equally horrific.   Lehava, an openly fascist organisation whose leaders derive from the Jewish Nazi Kach party, which was banned in Israel in the 1980’s openly organise groups of young thugs to attack any Arab in a ‘Jewish’ area.
Protestors outside Eritrea's Embassy in Tel Aviv  holding posters showing Eritrean refugees, who were forced by Israel to leave, being executed by ISIS in Libya
Lehava’s purpose is to ‘dissuade’ Arabs from having any social or sexual relations with Jewish women.  This stuff is out of Nuremburg but it is also at one with the idea of a Jewish state.  Lehava isn’t just a fringe fascist group like Britain First.  It is based in the settlements, it has hundreds of young supporters but more than that, it has political support in the government.
It was Tzipi Hotoveli, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel who invited Lehava into the Knesset to explain how to prevent the appalling vista of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews.  As the Guardian noted

In her capacity as chairwoman of the Status of Women Committee in the Knesset in 2011, she invited the racist group Lehava to explain how they prevent romantic contacts between Jews and Arabs. Responding to criticism, Hotovely said it was "important to examine procedures for preventing mixed marriages, and Lehava members are the right people for that"
The Hemla hostel in Jerusalem, a safe house for 'troubled' Haredi girls.
One of the consequences of this invitation to the Knesset was that the ‘charitable’ wing of Lehava, Hemla (Mercy) has received government funding totalling about half of its income.  As Ha’aretz observed: [A Strange Kind of Mercy]:  ‘The right-wing organization Lehava is noted for its vehement anti-assimilation views, and many of its members are disciples of Meir Kahane. Yet Hemla (Mercy), a group closely linked to Lehava, receives state funding for its rehabilitation work with Jewish women.’  And who are these women who need rehabilitating?  Jewish women who have had affairs with Arab men. 

Although not spoken of, there is an unwritten consensus across the Zionist spectrum that relationships between Arab males and Jewish women (miscegenation an ugly word used in the Deep South of America) should be prevented.  An obsession with inter-racial sexual relations has been a characteristic of all movements for national purity – whether it is the KKK, the Nazis, Apartheid South Africa or Zionism.  Israel unlike South Africa does not enact Immorality Laws, it relies on moral and social pressures to prevent such liaisons. 

An opinion poll on YNet found that over half the Jewish population believed that marriage to an Arab was ‘national treason’.  Many religions historically, whether Jewish or Catholic, have frowned upon inter-marriage.  This is religious chauvinism not racism but when that becomes the policy of a state then that is racism.  It becomes a quest for racial purity. 
Dorit Rabinyan - author of Borderlife - banned for endangering Israeli 'national identity'
When Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan wrote ‘Borderlife’ about the relationship between a relationship between a Palestinian man and a Jewish woman, it was banned from Israel’s high school syllabus.  As Education Ministry official Dalia Fenig explained:

“Adolescent youth tend to romanticise and don’t have, in many cases, the systematic point of view that includes considerations about preserving the identity of the nation and the significance of assimilation,”

Imagine a book in Britain depicting a relationship between Black and White people being banned because youth were impressionable and wouldn’t understand ‘considerations about preserving the identity of the nation’ there would be uproar.  It is only the National Front and fringe fascists who believe that ‘the nation’ doesn’t include Black people.  Yet in Israel it is a majority Jewish and Zionist viewpoint that ‘the nation’ does not include Palestinians, because Israel is the state of the Jewish nation, not the Palestinian or Arab nation.
Israeli fascist groups like Lehava march to the drumbeat of ‘Death to the Arabs’ and the equally lovely ‘A Jew has a soul, an Arab is a son of a whore’.  Lehava, which organises gangs of thugs to attack Arabs in the street and who hand out ‘kosher’ certificates to employers who refuse to employ Arabs, feed into an already existing national consensus.   It is a consensus whereby 90% of Israel’s Jewish population don’t even recognise the concept of a non-Jewish African refugee.  A consensus whereby nearly 80% of Jews take it for granted that Jews in a Jewish state are entitled to preferential treatment over Arabs.  Israel’s Religiously Divided Society

This is why the Israeli state is reluctant to ban Lehava as a terrorist organisation whereas it has no compunction in banning the Northern Islamic Movement, which was a political and welfare association  that had massive support amongst Israeli Palestinians and which had led the political/religious struggle against Zionist attempts to take over the Temple Mount and the area of the Golden Dome in Jerusalem.
Dareen Tatour - gaoled Palestinian poet
It is the same reason that Israel gaoled Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour who posted a poem to social media [Dareen Tatour, Palestinian poet imprisoned by Israel for social media posts, shares her story].   According to +972 MagazineThe main clause of the indictment was based on a poem that she (or somebody else using her name) posted on Youtube under the title: “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum” (Resist my people, resist them).’  Whereas Jewish racists who post death threats and worse on social media are never troubled by the Israeli police, a Palestinian poet who calls for resistance is dragged from her home, at 3.30 in the morning, by a large group of policemen who have no warrant and is then held for 6 months in prison and 6 months under house arrest far from her home.  The much vaunted ‘independent’ Israeli court system is complicit in all of this, before an international campaign fronted by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and others forces Dareen’s gaolers back off and allow her to transfer to house arrest in her home town. 

December 5, 2016 By Richard Silverstein 

Bibikir Adham-Abdo, murdered in Petah Tikvah in brutal hate crime
Bibikir Adham-Abdo fled his native Darfur  nine years ago during the civil war.  During one especially savage battle, he lost several fingers.  Eventually, he made his way across the Sinai desert to Israel, where he found work in the resort hotels of Eilat.  Because he is a refugee with no legal status (which Israel refuses to offer), he was picked up by the Border Police and thrown into the Holot detention camp in the Negev desert.  He was released, but told he could not go back to Eilat or move to Tel Aviv.  That left other smaller cities, where he might find pockets of other refugees with whom he might some sense of community.  So he went to Petah Tikvah, a central Israel town near Tel Aviv.

19 year-old, Dennis Barshivetz, suspect in the murder of a Darfur refugee
Two weeks ago, Bibikir, age 40, joined his roommate for an evening of drinking and socializing downtown, where other young people and foreign workers congregate.  According to Ynet (Hebrew), three Israeli girls were sitting and chatting when Bibikir approached them.  They fled (he was inebriated according to the Haaretz account) from him screaming that he should get away from them. 

Suddenly, an Israeli Jewish youth appeared, approached Bibikir and yelled at him.  The victim then raised his hands in resignation and turned away.  With his back turned, the attacker kicked him and threw a bottle of beer at him.  He kicked him more till he fell on the ground.  The kicking continued. He beat him all over his upper body including his back and head as the victim lay defenseless on the sidewalk.
As the victim tried to get up, Barshevitz arrived on the scene and gave him such furious kicks that Bibikir fell back on the pavement and struck his head.  After the victim’s body began making frightening rumbling sounds showing physical distress, they fled.

Security cameras show them beating him mercilessly for almost an entire hour.  Whenever the victim attempted to raise his head, they beat him more.  Clearly, no one came to his aid.

At 2AM, emergency services found him mortally wounded and brought him to the hospital.  There he lingered for eight days before succumbing to his wounds.  Though the crime happened two weeks ago, until Haaretz published a story about it no one had even been arrested.  Curiously, two days later the two suspects were arrested.  One is 19 years old and the other a minor, age 16.

The State prosecutor is already damping down expectations of a murder conviction, arguing that the cold-blooded murder was actually a “spontaneous” act.  Since the coroner could not attribute with specificity which blow killed Bibikir, each suspect is blaming the other for the fatal one.  Haaretz quotes a Jewish resident of Petah Tikvah justifying the violence: “Look at the streets here.  It’s like Harlem!  A fifth column.”

Comments on Facebook have been even more disgusting and virulent:

No matter how racist or threatening, Jewish racism on Facebook never faces any legal sanctions - they are reserved exclusively for Palestinians
David Elimelech: “Now’s the time to exterminate all the refugees. They’re the ooze from the garbage.

Nechama NB: “…If they want Jewish girls they should die.  Or send them back to their jungle!  The Sudanese infiltrator is no refugee.”

Sara Malul: “One less, wonderful.  This is the way to send them packing back to from where they came.  Most are terrorists.  Sudanese are even worse than Arabs.”

Oved Sason: “[They’re] garbage created by Satan, these infiltrators.”

Add to this the incitement from Bibi Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders during last week’s raging forest fires, when they accused Palestinians of acts of arson.  Israel Arrests 22 Over Wildfires, as Arson Is Suspected.  Netanyahu was quoted as saying that “a considerable number” of the fires were set and described them as “terror,” a term usually given to militant attacks by Palestinians.  “There is a price to crime, and there is a price for terror and incitement, and we will exact it,”  Unfortunately in Israel there is no price to pay for racial incitement, especially when it comes from the Prime Minister. 

Though 30 people were arrested for arson, only one has been indicted. That person had no terrorist motive at all.  Most of the others have been released.  This is the state of current affairs in Israel.  A nation seething with hate, ready at a moment’s notice to blame the weak and vulnerable for the most savage crimes.  When in reality, it is Israeli hate which leads to the most savage crimes against the victims.

Jonathan Cook 4 December 2016

The far-right group stokes hatred and incites followers to violence against Palestinians, say analysts

Four youths in black T-shirts, bearing a distinctive yellow-flame insignia, approached “A” in July as he got out of a taxi in central Jerusalem to meet friends. They asked him the time. Suspicious of his accent, they confronted him directly: “Are you an Arab?”

The moment I said, ‘yes,’ one of them punched me in the eye. The others jumped on me and started hitting me all over my body. There were many people in the area, but no one took any notice or tried to help.”

“A” managed to break free and fled to a nearby restaurant, where a friend worked, and hid inside. “If I hadn’t been able to run away, they would have killed me,” he said.

His filmed testimony is one of several taken of Palestinians in Jerusalem who have been violently assaulted recently by far-right Jewish activists. Fearing reprisals, most of the victims agreed to testify only on condition that their real identities were not disclosed.

The attacks were carried out by an extremist group called Lehava, or Flame in Hebrew, an acronym for the Organisation for the Prevention of Miscegenation in the Holy Land. Run by a rabbi, Ben-Zion Gopstein, Lehava rejects any interaction between Jews and Palestinians.

Opposed to intermarriage

Founded in 2009, Lehava is distinguished from other far-right groups by its official focus on stopping miscegenation and intermarriage between Jews and Palestinians. In addition to the 300,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem, some 1.7 million of Israel’s citizens are Palestinian by origin, making them nearly a fifth of the population.

In 2014, some 200 Lehava supporters –protested outside the wedding of a Palestinian man and a female Jewish convert to Islam in the city of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv. Some carried placards with the slogan: “Miscegenation is a Holocaust”.

Jerusalem’s streets, meanwhile, are littered with fliers and stickers in Arabic warning, “Don’t even think about a Jewish girl” and in Hebrew stating, “Beware the goys [a derogatory term for non-Jews] – they will defile you”.

Lehava’s hardcore supporters number in the hundreds, according to the Religious Action Centre, the advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement, which filmed the testimonies. But it believes Gopstein can draw on the open support of thousands more.

David Sheen, an Israeli journalist who has reported on far-right groups for many years, told Al Jazeera: “Lehava’s aim is to rile up Jewish youth on the streets, to create a strike force that can help ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the main areas of Jerusalem.”

‘Rescuing’ Jewish women

Aviv Tartasky, a field researcher with Ir Amim, an Israeli group advocating fair treatment for Palestinians in Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera: “The idea of rescuing Jewish women from Arabs – bringing them back to Judaism – has wide support from Israelis, including from the left. The attitude among most Israeli Jews is that, even if we don’t support your methods, your violence, we approve of your goals.”

Gopstein, in a speech last year called for “action” to stop coexistence, calling it a “dangerous cancer”. Lehava leaders were all formerly active in Kach, an anti-Arab group that was outlawed in 1994 after one of its followers, Baruch Goldstein, murdered 29 Palestinians at worship in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque.
Rabbi Meir Kahane - the Judeo-Nazi who inspired Lehava's founders
Last month, Gopstein attended a memorial event in Jerusalem for Kach’s founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane. At the rally, he waved a cleaning rag with the face of Lucy Aharish, the only prominent TV presenter from Israel’s Palestinian minority, saying he would wash the floor with her. He added: “She compared me to Hamas. So we’ll make her nightmare come true.”

Gopstein, who lives in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement next to the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank, was a student of Kahane. He was arrested in 1990 on suspicion of murdering a Palestinian couple, in what appeared to be retaliation for Kahane’s assassination, but was later released.

Before its banning, Kach openly supported the violent expulsion of Palestinians from the region under the slogan: “Arabs to the Arab states and Jews to Zion”. Like Lehava, one of its main activities was preventing mixing between Jews and Palestinians.

New version of Kach

Sheen said Lehava had created “an instantly recognisable brand that is all about racial purity. This is just a new version of Kach. They can’t use the same slogans without breaking the law, but the similarities are unmistakable.” He noted that both organisations used the same colours of black and yellow in their emblems – Kach’s was a fist, while Lehava uses a flame.

When Kach existed in the 1980s, it was seen as so racist that it was likened to the Nazis and boycotted by other parties in the parliament. It was seen as beyond the pale,” said Sheen. “Now it’s in the mainstream. It even has supporters in the Likud party [of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] who are happy to whitewash it.”

Blind eye from police 

As Lehava’s supporters have grown in numbers and confidence, large parts of Jerusalem’s city centre have rapidly become a no-go area for Palestinians after dark. The victims, as well as human rights groups and religious leaders, have complained that the Israeli police are turning a blind eye to the wave of intimidation and violence.

There are racist lynch mobs roaming the streets of Jerusalem, driven by a hatred of Arabs, and the police are showing no interest in investigating,”

Steven Beck, a spokesman for the Israel Religious Action Centre, told Al Jazeera. The centre, which promotes equality and social justice in Israel, video recorded the testimonies of Lehava’s victims as part of a campaign called “Lehava is Burning Jerusalem”. It warns: “Jewish terror is not created out of thin air. It is fueled by ideological incitement and hatred that is spread by extremist rabbis.”
“H”, who was assaulted twice this year, filed a complaint with the police after he was knifed in the back and shoulder by a Lehava gang. “Until now, no action has been taken,” he said. “The police are with them, covering for them.”

Another victim, Jamal Julani was left in a coma by a Lehava group in 2012, when he was 17. Investigators told him none of the security cameras were working in the area of the assault, even though it took place close to two banks. “How that’s possible? I don’t understand,” he said. “There are maybe 10 cameras there. How did none of them work?”

Like others, “H” said he had been left emotionally, as well as physically, scarred. Fearful of further attacks, he said: “Now, I’m scared to go out alone. Even if I try to fight back, everyone will shout, ‘Terrorist, terrorist’. If a policeman is passing by and sees the incident … I’ll be the one who gets shot.”

Calls for ban grow

The 300,000 Palestinians of East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after 1967 in violation of international law, have residency permits that entitle them to live and work in Israel. Many travel into Jerusalem’s city centre for the nightlife and shopping not available in their own deprived neighbourhoods, or to work in Jewish-owned restaurants and shops.

This is when many of the attacks occur, with Lehava claiming that the Palestinian men use the visits to consort with Jewish women.

Calls for proscribing Lehava have grown since three followers were found guilty last year of an arson attack on Jerusalem’s only binational school, for Jewish and Palestinian children. Walls were daubed with racist slogans, such as “End miscegenation” and “No coexistence with cancer”.

Early last year, Moshe Yaalon, then defence minister, was reported to be considering outlawing Lehava. By August, however, the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, said it had no evidence on which to recommend banning the group. The current defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, is considered unlikely to try to curb Lehava’s activities.

Meanwhile, Lehava has called for boycotts of city businesses that hire Palestinian workers. Critics say the group also intimidates landlords who rent to Palestinian families. Dan Biron, owner of the Birman restaurant in central Jerusalem, said Palestinians among his staff had been attacked on four separate occasions.

One time, he said, a mob came to his restaurant demanding that he hand over Palestinian workers. “Send them out so we can kill them,” he recalled. He stood his ground until they left. “There is anarchy in Jerusalem. The police do not enforce the law here,” he said. “There are serious criminals who wander around freely, criminals who beat up people, and the police do nothing.”

Christians attacked

The city’s Christians have found themselves increasingly targeted, too.

Last December, Gopstein called Christians “blood-sucking vampires” and demanded they be expelled from Israel. A few months earlier he told a meeting he supported torching churches to prevent “idol worship”. Church leaders suspect Lehava supporters are behind a recent wave of vandalism against Christian sites in Jerusalem and intimidation of priests and nuns.

Dozens of Lehava youths, led by Gopstein, rioted in September at a performance by a Palestinian Armenian choir at a music festival in a Jerusalem shopping mall. The singers were forced to leave after the youths shouted “Jew murderers!” and “Go to Syria!”.

The Vatican filed a complaint last year on behalf of local bishops to Israel’s attorney general, demanding that Gopstein be indicted for incitement to violence.

Wadie Abu Nassar, spokesman for the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, told how the Israeli authorities had not responded. “Gopstein is continuously saying racist and inciteful things in public, so one has to wonder why no measures have been taken against him. He seems immune.”  He added: “There is a clear backing among members of this government for far-right groups like Lehava.”

Government funding

Lehava has in the past received significant funding from the Israeli government – as much as $180,000 annually through a sister charity, Hemla. The latter runs a hostel in Jerusalem for the “rehabilitation” of Jewish women “saved” from marriages to Palestinians.

The Israeli media revealed last month that funding to Hemla has nearly doubled this year, to $350,000. Gopstein formally severed Lehava’s connections to Hemla two years ago. However, the registrar of non-governmental organisations is reported to have warned that secret ties between the two may have continued and has recommended an investigation.

There have also been suspicions of close ties between Israeli police and Lehava. They were fuelled in February when it emerged, following an investigation of Gopstein’s activities, that a Border Police officer had supplied the group with details of Jewish women dating Palestinian men.

Tartasky, of Ir Amim, told how: “The dominant culture in the police regards the Palestinians as not proper residents of the city. The police see their role as defending Jews from Palestinians, not the other way around.”

He said Jerusalem’s politicians also contributed to an impression that Palestinians had no place in the city. “The mayor [Nir Barkat] has not made a single statement against Lehava, even though they are inciting and carrying out regular attacks in the heart of his city. That has sent a clear message that Lehava has protection.”

That impression was underscored by statements from Barkat’s deputy, Meir Turgeman, in September, following the arrest of a Jerusalem resident, Mesbah Abu Sabih, on suspicion of killing two Israelis. Turgeman said he would “punish” the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem for their “animal behaviour … There are no carrots left, only sticks”.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, denied that the police were failing to take Lehava’s violence seriously. “There has been a significant rise in the number of patrols in the centre of Jerusalem to prevent such incidents,”. He added that the police were “dispersing” gangs of Lehava youth as soon as they were identified.

Hotline to stop mixed dating

The legal authorities have been accused of failing to rein in Lehava, too. Beck said the Religious Action Centre had submitted 25 complaints to the attorney general against Gopstein for incitement but had not received a response.

In April, a Jerusalem judge ruled that Gopstein had made an “honest mistake” in beating up two left-wing Jewish activists when they entered a West Bank settlement. Gopstein claimed he had believed they were Palestinians. Video footage showed Israeli police arresting the two victims rather than Gopstein.

One of Lehava’s public services is a hotline so that Israeli Jews can inform on family or friends who are dating non-Jews. Beck said: “Lehava has perpetuated a lie that thousands of Jewish women are being held against their will by Palestinians in abusive marriages. It stokes hatred and incites followers to violence.”

In reality, official figures show that only a tiny number of marriages between Israeli Jews and Palestinians occur. In 2011, the year for which official figures were released, there were only 19 such marriages. Nonetheless, the group has quickly pushed miscegenation on to the political agenda. Back in 2011, Gopstein was invited by Tzipi Hotovely, now the acting foreign minister, to advise a parliamentary committee set up to investigate the issue.

In 2013, similar numbers said they wanted Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship, expelled from the region.

Counter-protests launched

However, some Israeli Jews in Jerusalem have started to fight back against Lehava. Since 2014, a group named “Talking in the Square” has been organising counter-demonstrations in Zion Square, where Lehava stages a weekly rally.

One of their activists, Ossnat Sharon, said they tried to “keep an eye on [Lehava], curbing their attempts at violence as best we can.”

Palestinians were venturing into the city centre in bigger numbers, he said, because their own neighbourhoods had been cut off from nearby Ramallah and other Palestinian cities of the West Bank by Israel’s completion of its so-called separation barrier.

Better public transport links after Israel opened its light rail system have also contributed to the trend of Palestinians seeking work and entertainment in Jerusalem’s city centre. “Lehava’s growth indicates how uncomfortable some Israelis have become with seeing Palestinians in what they consider to be their city,” he said. “It has given them a sense of grievance and increased their extremism.”

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