Deri, Bennett say don't blame haredi society for attack on IDF soldier

Shas chairman first haredi MK to condemn attack; Netanyahu vows "harsh measures" against anyone attempting to "instill fear."

July 10, 2013 15:31
3 minute read.
Israeli policemen detain an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man.

police arrest haredi man 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The attack on an ultra- Orthodox soldier by a haredi mob on Tuesday continued to evoke strong political condemnation from several quarters in the aftermath of the incident.

Approximately 100 haredi men threatened and chased a haredi soldier in uniform.

The police managed to rescue the soldier before he was harmed but a low-level riot broke out when the mob confronted the police.

Religious Services Minister and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said the incident was extremely serious.

“Anyone who dares harm our soldiers will be severely punished, full stop,” said Bennett.

But the Bayit Yehudi leader also warned that blaming the entire haredi community would not be fair.

“It would be no less dangerous to attack haredi society as a whole, when it’s clear that we’re talking about a particularly radical group,” Bennett wrote on his Facebook page. “This generalization is dangerous, friends, we’ve gone too far.”

Shas chairman Arye Deri, who condemned the attack in a statement on Tuesday night – and is the only haredi politician to do so thus far – took to the airwaves to repeat his condemnation, but insisted it was carried out by delinquent youth and that the mainstream haredi society was being unfairly blamed for the incident.

“I condemn the phenomenon in the strongest terms full stop, without excuses of any kind,” said Deri in an interview with Army Radio on Wednesday morning. He also condemned the ongoing publicity campaign being conducted by extremist haredi elements against haredi soldiers.

Yet Deri added that recent political events could not be ignored in relation to attacks against haredi soldiers and protested the atmosphere that has arisen around the Peri bill, drawn up by the government to draft haredi men into military service.

“There is no doubt that none of us encourage this and everyone condemns such violence. But when you turn ideological issues such as academic studies, core curriculum studies, the army, into matters of coercion and cultural war, don’t be surprised if you start seeing a cultural war like unfortunately we’re seeing now.

“There is a process of understanding, integration and discussion which has been going on for years, yes very slowly, but it is continuing and catching on and succeeding. There has been growing integration in hitech, the workforce, and the army. Unfortunately some people come [to make] political profit of one type or another and who are turning it into a cultural war and a political battle and into who can be victorious over who.”

MK Omer Bar-Lev of Labor, the chairman of the Knesset subcommittee for Human Resources in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also denounced the incident but said that haredi integration into the army should be encouraged by increasing the number of IDF tracks for haredim and not through coercive measures.

“This dangerous social phenomenon [of attacks against haredi soldiers] needs to be stopped through a decision to encourage enlistment by increasing the opportunities and tracks for haredim and integrating [them] into society, but not through threats, coercion and demagoguery like the government is currently attempting to do,” Bar-Lev said in a statement to the media on Tuesday night.

He also called on the police and the IDF to assist haredi soldiers and to prosecute those arrested for the attack on Tuesday night.

So far, none of the MKs from the Ashkenazi haredi party United Torah Judaism have commented on the incident.

None of the main haredi daily newspapers had any mention of the attack although the incident was front and center in the haredi online press.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch addressed the incident in the Knesset on Wednesday morning and said the police would request that the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extend the remand of the four men arrested during the attack on Tuesday night, and that indictments would shortly be served.

Aharonovitch said that there had been five recent attacks against haredi soldiers in recent days and that there were dozens of similar incidents that are not formally reported.

“This is a serious and difficult phenomenon [but] we will act with zero tolerance,” the minister said. He added that he had spoken with Finance Minister Yair Lapid about the problem and that the Treasury would help the Jerusalem Police to increase its personnel.

Like Bennett and Deri, Aharonovitch argued that attacks are carried out by “a handful of lawbreakers and criminals who do not represent the haredi public.”

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