THE MINARET of a mosque is seen in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev furiously denounced the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties United Torah Judaism and Shas on Tuesday for what he alleged was a deal with the Joint List of Arab parties to block the muezzin bill in return for support for the haredi enlistment law.
Yogev, together with Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, have introduced and advanced the legislation, which would ban religious institutions from using loudspeakers and is primarily designed to prevent mosques from broadcasting the Islamic call to prayer over loudspeakers, in particular, during the early hours of the morning.
Some Jewish communities close to Arab neighborhoods in mixed cities such as Jerusalem have long complained that the call to prayer over loudspeakers in the very early hours of the morning wakes them up and have campaigned to curb their use.
The bill passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset in March last year and was brought for a hearing in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday.
Before the hearing however, senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni announced that his party and Shas were opposed to the law claiming it would be ineffectual and create anger and incitement towards Israel.
During a hearing of the Knesset Finance Committee, which Gafni chairs, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi requested a motion to the agenda, and appealed to Gafni for help.
“I appeal to you MK Gafni regarding the understandings we had between us, the understanding that you showed to that which is close to our hearts,” said Tibi.
Gafni said in response that “after me and MK Tibi discussed it, I am of the opinion that [it] cannot be advanced,” adding that this was the position of UTJ and Shas.
“This is a law that just creates anger and doesn’t do anything,” pointing out that there is already a law to prevent undue noise at night and the early hours of the morning and said that the police simply do not enforce it.
Yogev alleged in response that Gafni had struck a deal with the Arab parties for them to support the haredi enlistment bill currently under debate in the government, in return for haredi opposition to the muezzin bill.
Although the haredi parties do not see the enlistment law as particularly agreeable, the financial sanctions stipulated in it are relatively soft and would not come into effect for another two years. UTJ sources have even said that there could be efforts to amend in the next government before the financial sanctions come into effect.
Currently, three UTJ MKs, including Gafni, are willing to advance the enlistment law, and three are opposed. Shas is also reportedly willing to let the bill pass.
It should be noted however that even with only three UTJ MKs in favor, the government would not need the support of the Arab parties to pass the law.
Nevertheless, Yogev fumed that the haredi parties were “selling out” the country for their own interests.
“In order to continue shirking IDF service, in exchange for Arab support for the enlistment law and the defeat of the amendment to the Noises [muezzin] Law, the haredim will sell [out] the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, the haredim will sell [out] the sleep of citizens of the State of Israel, all in order to evade enlistment,” stormed Yogev.
“No one is exempt from enlistment to the Israel Defense Forces. It is a great mitzva [commandment] just like no one is exempt from Torah study in the Jewish people,” he continued, vowing to advance the law regardless.
During the committee hearing, Ilatov insisted that the law was “balanced and measured” and would enable “hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs together, to sleep in quiet.”
He added that many Western countries, and those in the Arab world, have regulated the use of loudspeakers in mosques and that this has not aroused allegations that freedom of religion is being limited.
“There is no reason that the situation in Israel should be different,” he argued.
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