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Israeli Police Arrest Neo-Nazi Gang


The arrest of a neo-Nazi gang in Israel has sparked shock and outrage. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the news has brought calls for Israel to tighten its immigration laws.

Israeli police say they arrested a gang of eight neo-Nazis responsible for a wave of attacks on Orthodox Jews, synagogues and gays. The suspects were identified as immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish. Police described the young men as skinheads wearing tattoos of Nazi symbols.

The arrests came as a shock in Israel, which was established as a refuge from the Holocaust.

Rabbi Avraham Dolberg heads a synagogue in the city of Petah Tikva that was allegedly desecrated by the gang.

The rabbi told Israel Radio he never thought he would see a synagogue and prayer books daubed with swastikas in the Jewish state. He said those images were reminiscent of the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany during World War II.

The Russian-born mother of one of the suspects, identified as Ina, denied that her son is a neo-Nazi.

"It is politics," she said, adding that there are no neo-Nazis in Israel. She said her son and his friends were targeted by police because they have tattoos, but she said there is no evidence they committed a crime.

The case has brought calls for stricter immigration controls. Under Israeli law, a person can claim citizenship if a parent or grandparent has Jewish roots. But critics say that has allowed many people from the former Soviet Union, with questionable ties to Judaism, to immigrate to Israel.

Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit told Israel Radio that the citizenship of the suspects should be revoked. He said there is no room for anti-Semitism in the Jewish state.