Education Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to members of the media at the Knesset, Jerusalem, 2018..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
An elaborate but anonymous campaign has been conducted in recent weeks against the Reform movement in Israel and leader of the New Right party Naftali Bennett, accusing the former of undermining the state’s Jewish values and the latter of assisting with such enterprises.
The campaign, ominously titled “The Takeover Plan,” has had more than 13,000 views. It includes a YouTube video with an image of US President Donald Trump and a poor audio impersonation of him warning of the dangers of both the Reform Movement and Bennett.
The campaign includes a website to direct warnings to the right-wing parties about the influence of the progressive, liberal movements and their alleged connection to left-wing parties, as well as a lengthy document highlighting Bennett’s support for liberal causes.
The document on Bennett highlights his support for the Western Wall agreement, his conciliatory stance towards the progressive Jewish movements, support for limited public transport on Shabbat, and his support for greater religious pluralism in Israel.
According to Shmuel Shattach, director of the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah liberal national-religious lobbying group, the campaign emanates from activists in the hard-line wing of the national-religious community and emulates their modus operandi of establishing pop-up, anonymous organizations without information about their source of funding for specific campaigns.
The focus on Bennett and the opposition to the Western Wall agreement, greater pluralism in religious life in Israel and changes to the Jewish conversion system are all indicative of the activism of the hard-line national-religious groups, and constitute an effort to undermine support for the New Right among the national religious community, Shattach said.
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah has appealed to the Central Elections Committee to uncover the organizations behind the anonymous campaign, noting that the material being disseminated contravenes Israel’s election laws, which prohibit NGOs from campaigning for or against a political party.
In the Takeover Plan YouTube video, a still photo of Trump standing at a podium is used while an impersonator reads out a “Special Message to the citizens of Israel” in Trump’s voice.
“There is a group of people who are trying to take control and change your country. It’s the Reform Judaism organizations,” intones the fake Trump.
“You know, I’ve had many problems with them here in the US. They’ve worked together with the Democrats and the liberals against my administration,” the message alleges, adding that Bennett “is actually a partner of the Reform organizations which is much more dangerous for you,” than the president’s forthcoming peace plan.
A website for the Takeover Plan campaign provides links which open a ready-made template to email or tweet to Likud, the Union of Right-Wing Parties, Shas or United Torah Judaism.
“The Reform organizations are cooperating with the left-wing parties against the rule of the Right,” reads the automated tweet.
“They are forcing the agenda of a minority upon us through money, political tricks, petitions to the High Court of Justice, and a laudatory press. Disavow them!” it reads, tagging prominent MKs and Knesset candidates from each party.
The automated email directed to the email addresses of the same MKs includes similar sentiments, along with the statement that the party for which the individual sending the automated message will vote in the upcoming elections is “directly connected” to that party’s actions in legislating “Jewish values” and their disavowal of the “Reform organizations” and their activities.
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah said that the divisive language and message of the campaign, along with its anonymous nature, was unfit for the election.
“We do not know who stands behind this campaign, but it appears that those who pretend to be the continuation of the path of Rabbi [Abraham Isaac Hacohen] Kook have lost their way – and from a Torah of loving Jews, they have turned themselves into haters of Jews,” Shattach wrote to the Central Elections Committee.
Kook (1865-1935) was one of the founders of the national-religious movement.
“The same organizations talk about how money buys everything while at the same time working with much larger amounts of money – while totally hiding their sources of funding – and through falsifications, such as the false representation of the US president speaking against the Reform movement,” wrote Shattach.
He also called on the Union of Right-Wing Parties to distance itself from the campaign.
The party declined a request for comment from The Jerusalem Post
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