US sanctions far-right Israeli activist Bentzi Gopstein and 2 groups in latest round of West Bank penalties


((JEWISH REVIEW)) — The State Department on Friday announced sanctions against Ben Zion “Bentzi” Gopstein, a prominent far-right Israeli activist, for his “destabilizing” activities in the West Bank, along with two Israeli organizations that raised funds for sanctioned settlers.

The penalties were the third round of sanctions the State Department has levied against far-right Israelis in recent months, as the Biden administration attempts to exact a price for West Bank violence.

Gopstein is a leading figure on the far-right, helming the anti-Arab Lehava activist group. He is an ally to Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Lehava campaigns against intermarriage between Jews and Arabs and is known to protest outside their weddings.

The State Department said that, under Gopstein, Lehava’s members “have engaged in destabilizing violence affecting the West Bank.”

“Lehava and its members have been involved in acts or threats of violence against Palestinians, often targeting sensitive or volatile areas,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

The sanctions come as tensions remain high in the West Bank, with regular violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Since Oct. 7, hundreds of Palestinians, a mix of civilians and combatants, have been killed by Israeli forces. More than 10 Israelis have been killed in the territory in the same period. 

In recent days, the body of a 14-year-old Israeli who Israeli authorities say was killed in a terror attack was found in the West Bank. Subsequently, in a separate clash in the West Bank, Israeli settlers killed two Palestinians

Gopstein, 54, attempted to run for the Knesset in 2019 with Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit party, but was disqualified by the Israeli courts for incitement to racism. An Israeli court found Gopstein guilty of incitement to racism in January, including referring to Israeli Arabs as “a cancer.” 

The State Department also announced sanctions against two Israel-based groups, the Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich, for launching fundraising campaigns in support of sanctioned extremists.

The Mount Hebron Fund raised $140,000 for Yinon Levi and Shlom Asiraich generated $31,000 for David Chai Chasdai. The State Department sanctioned Levi and Chasdai in February for ties to violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the State Department said.

The sanctions mean Gopstein and the two groups are blocked from any assets they hold in the United States and from carrying out transactions with U.S. residents.

Gopstein is a resident of Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement on the outskirts of Hebron in the West Bank where Ben Gvir also lives.

The sanctions follow similar penalties against three settlers and two West Bank outposts in March, and sanctions against four people in February. The Biden administration also imposed visa restrictions on settlers found to be involved in attacks in December.

The administration says the penalties are appropriate at a time when it has levied sanctions against officials of Hamas, the terror group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7, launching the war in Gaza. The sanctions also block the settlers from entering the United States.