Israel should consider ‘terror’ tag for extremist groups, defence minister says

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)

The National  /  May 31, 2022

Benny Gantz calls for action after thousands of nationalists march in Jerusalem.

Israel should consider placing two right-wing extremist groups accused of violence towards Palestinians and chanting “death to the Arabs” on its “terror” list, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday.

“I believe it is time to examine defining groups like La Familia and Lehava as terror groups, and I know the issue is being presented to security forces,” Mr Gantz said during a faction meeting of his Blue and White party.

Thousands of flag-waving Israelis on Sunday marched through Jerusalem’s Old City during a nationalist procession marking Israel’s 1967 capture of East Jerusalem.

Some marchers chanted “death to the Arabs”, as a number of Palestinians hurled projectiles from the rooftops.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ordered police to show “zero tolerance” towards Jewish extremists who planned to “incite” tensions, singling out La Familia.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid described Lehava and La Familia as a “disgrace” who weren’t “worthy of holding the Israeli flag”.

La Familia is a group of fans of Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, notorious for their anti-Arab racism and violence.

Lehava is an extremist right-wing group that fights against fraternization between Jews and non-Jews that could lead to intermarriage. It is affiliated with the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahana, whose Kach group is outlawed in Israel.

To designate an organization as a terror group, one of Israel’s security organizations — the Shin Bet internal security agency, police, army or Mossad — must issue a request to the Defence Ministry and receive the consent of the attorney general.

Following the defence minister’s approval, the group will receive a three-month temporary designation, during which it can appeal against the decision to the ministry as well as to a special judiciary panel.

If no appeal overturns the decision, the group will then be formally declared a terrorist organization.

Israeli officials have from time to time previously raised the issue of designating La Familia and Lehava as terror groups, but never gone through with the process.