September 26, 2023

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party, was received with cheers by students at a high school in central Israel. ‘At 17, I said Baruch Goldstein was a hero… today I don’t think we should kill Arabs’.

Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir participated on Tuesday in an election panel at Blich High School in the central Israeli city of Ramat Gan, with dozens demonstrating in support and opposition of the Kahanist lawmaker outside the building.

Supporters of Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party carried signs outside the school reading: “Coexistence with the enemy – There’s no such thing,” and “Death to Terrorists.” Those opposing Ben-Gvir, including MK Gilad Kariv from the Labor party, carried signs saying: “Racism, not in our school” and “There is no democracy with occupation.”

Ben-Gvir, who was greeted with applause by the students in the hall, told the panel: “It’s true, at the age of 17 I said that Dr. [Baruch] Goldstein was a hero. Today, I am 46, a few years have passed since then, I’ve had children, became a lawyer. I don’t think that Dr. Goldstein is a hero. I don’t think we should kill Arabs, I don’t think we need to deport Arabs.”

In response to a question about his attitude toward the LGBT community, Ben-Gvir said: “I love them.” At the end of his comments, he called on the students to “pray that I’ll be a minister in the government and that I can protect them as soldiers and students, men and women.”

Ben-Gvir was also asked about the cost of living in Israel, and said that in the Bedouin towns of Hura and Lakiya they are giving out land for free. “I say, come and let’s give free land to discharged soldiers, to the women who did national service, to yeshiva students. Not in Ramat Gan, but in the Galilee and the Negev.” He also spoke about the incident in which he stole the symbol off the car of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and said he would not do it today.

The panel Ben-Gvir participated in is part of the high school’s long-time mock election project. Ahead of his visit, Ben-Gvir told the students who support him: “I’m coming especially to the high school, participate and prove to the left that you understand democracy better than they do.” As for the demonstration planned against his visit to the school, he called it an attempt to silence people. “The new method of the left is to escape from reality … My friends on the left, deal with it.”

Blich High School said that as part of the mock election, the students in 11th and 12th grade are exposed to the entire range of positions and parties running in the upcoming Knesset election, and Knesset members from the entire political spectrum come for that.

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