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Leader of Jewish Extremist Group Calls For 'Blood-Sucking' Christians to Be Violently Expelled from Holy Land

( [email protected] ) Dec 22, 2015 12:57 PM EST
The leader of the Jewish extremist group Lehava, which calls for the removal of non-Jews from Israel, has issued a statement asserting Christians should be violently expelled from the Holy Land.
Benzi Gopstein, leader of the Lehava Jewish extremist group. AP photo

The leader of the Jewish extremist group Lehava, which calls for the removal of non-Jews from Israel, has issued a statement asserting Christians should be violently expelled from the Holy Land.

In an op-ed branding Christians "blood-sucking vampires" published on a Haredi website in Israel, Benzi Gopstein charged that "Christmas has no place in the Holy Land. Let us remove the vampires before they once again drink our blood," he wrote. He also addressed the "lack of spiritual security" he's felt in Jerusalem of late because of "our deadly centuries-old enemy - the Christian church."

"The mission of those vampires and bloodsuckers remains. If Jews cannot be killed, they can be converted," he declared.

This is not the first time that Gopstein has engaged in threatening speech: In April, he expressed his support for arson attacks on Christian churches in the region, asserting that "idol worship" must be destroyed. He was also arrested along with 20 other Lehava members for suspected incitement to violence last year but has so far not been charged.

According to Israeli news channel i24, Lehava - whose name means "flame" but is also the Hebrew acronym for "preventing assimilation in the Holy Land," often holds open gatherings in Jerusalem's Zion Square, where members distribute literature warning of the dangers of relationships between Jewish women and Arab men.

Two weeks ago in Jerusalem, the group held a protest outside of the YMCA in Jerusalem, shouting at Palestinian Christian children and families as they were entering and leaving the annual Christmas-tree decoration party, according to the International Middle East Media Center.

Even more disturbing -- a 2011 investigation by the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz found that around half of the annual budget of the organization was funded directly by the Israeli government.

In response to Gopstein's remarks, the Israel Religious Action Center has called on Israeli legal authorities to launch a criminal investigation into what it deemed to be the Lehava leader's incitement to violence against another religious group, according to the Times of Israel.

"Bentzi Gopstein is capable of doing anything in order to incite against anyone not like him - Arab Muslims, Christians and others, while using blunt language and calling to violence," Orly Erez-Likhovski said in a statement posted on the group's Facebook page.

"Unfortunately, against this blatant incitement, accompanied by unruly violence, there's deafening silence by law enforcement," she said, calling on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein hold Lehava leaders and others who incite violence accountable.