'Police can't stamp out radicalism among haredim'

Police commanders reject attempts to portray exclusion of women as problem law enforcement can fully solve.

December 28, 2011 21:20
1 minute read.
Haredi men in Jerusalem

Haredi orthodox Jewish men protest 311 (R). (photo credit: Ammar Awad / Reuters)

When police are called in to deal with a problem, it usually means that preventative measures have not been tried to nip the developing issue in the bud.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the eruption of extremist conduct by hard-line elements of the Haredi population.

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Senior police commanders privately reject attempts to portray the public exclusion of women, and the abuse viciously meted out to anyone who falls short of the extremists' expectations, as problems that law enforcement can fully solve.

While police are certainly able to apprehend a large number of suspects for verbally assaulting members of the public, and  can challenge instances of illegal gender apartheid, they can never stamp the issues out, because of the deep rooted social and religious factors that simmer beneath the phenomenon.

This includes the acceptance by successive governments of the notion that the Haredi community can exist in a largely parallel world apart from the rest of society, with its own education system and internal justice system, a fact which has allowed self-appointed puritanical enforcers to terrorize fellow Haredim.

It was only a matter of time before the militants spilled out of their own community and into wider Israeli public sphere.

Israel's police force of 28,000 officers is chronically understaffed. It faces the unique challenge of having to fight ordinary crime, as well as quelling nationalistic-religious unrest and taking on counter-terrorism roles.

In addition to these vital missions, it must now also respond to offenses that stem from a complex social breakdown.

Only other authorities,  led by the government, can collectively get to the roots of Haredi extremism, and prevent tensions from posing an even greater threat to internal Israeli cohesion.

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