Tov party: Beit Shemesh mayor’s campaign using fear and violence to intimidate voters

Moderate haredi Tov Movement makes accusation following alleged stoning of a Tov city council candidate by worker of mayor.

By
October 10, 2013 23:14
3 minute read.
Tov candidate Rabbi Avraham Levanthal

Avraham Leventhal 370. (photo credit: Sam Sokol)

The moderate haredi Tov Movement accused Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol’s reelection campaign of using violence to intimidate voters following the alleged stoning of a Tov city council candidate by an Abutbol campaign worker.

According to Rabbi Avraham Levanthal, an American and No. 2 on Tov’s candidates list, he approached the worker, who “along with about a dozen others were placing Moshe Abutbol signs on public street lamps” on Wednesday evening, to ask if it was legal to do so. The worker, Levanthal claimed on Thursday, ignored him until he took a photograph, after which he demanded the candidate’s phone and insisted that he erase the picture “or else.”

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Levanthal responded that he would erase the photograph if the worker would take down the campaign posters. The worker “walked a few feet down, picked up rocks and began throwing them at me,” Levanthal said.

He managed to dodge the stones. Levanthal said that the worker’s supervisor told him to calm down and that the entire episode “has no connection to Moshe Abutbol.”

Levanthal asserted that religious hard-liners have been harassing his party, which represents some of the more moderate elements within the ultra- Orthodox community, since it began campaigning.

Tov banners are “being ripped off, even from private property. We put up hundreds of banners in Ramat Beit Shemesh and none of them are hanging any more,” he said.

Last month, the vandals glued shut the lock to party’s local campaign office, leading a spokesman to accuse the “local haredi political machine” in Beit Shemesh of incitement.

“A police complaint was placed against the Moshe Abutbol campaign,” Tov spokesman Shmuel Schnee told The Jerusalem Post. “There is absolutely no place for violence of any kind in a democratic election. It doesn’t matter if the mayor of Beit Shemesh knew about it, but the mayor of Beit Shemesh has to do something about it. He and his party have to take responsibility for what their activists do.”

Following Levanthal’s complaint, the Abutbol campaign announced that it had retained an attorney and was filing a lawsuit against opposition mayoral candidate Eli Cohen.

Cohen’s campaign, Abutbol campaign spokesman Hanoch Bressler alleged, destroyed expensive campaign signs worth a quarter-of-a-million shekels during its “systematic destruction of election signs in Beit Shemesh.”

Cohen has previously accused Abutbol of sending municipal workers to tear down his side’s posters and a man identified as a municipal employee by MK Dov Lipman, a city resident, was photographed taking down at least one Cohen banner.

Tov called on the mayor and his Shas party to condemn the alleged attack and to “ensure that all of their activists and all of their employees understand that violence is not acceptable.”

“We see this as an effort to silence the voices that are the true voices of Beit Shemesh residents,” Schnee said. “They are using fear, they are using social pressure and they are using violence to try to quiet people into just voting as they want.”

Cohen excoriated Abutbol’s campaign, saying that his supporters “are raising the level of violence in Beit Shemesh.”

Cohen demanded that the mayor rein in his rhetoric, which he claimed was “allowing the extremists to act with violence.”

As proof Cohen cited the phrase “To preserve a Jewish Beit Shemesh” from one of Abutbol’s flyers and said it implied that “whoever is not haredi is not a Jew.”

Abutbol denied that any rocks were thrown. Bressler told the Post that Levanthal “was trying to bother the [campaign] staff and interfere” with their work and was, in fact, the one who acted in an uncivil manner.

Despite requests that Levanthal leave them alone, he continued to “harass” them both verbally and by taking pictures, Bressler alleged. One of the “boys began to shout and here is where the story ends.”

Bressler called on Levanthal to stop “messing around with boys hanging signs” and to allow them their democratic right of free expression.

“If harassment against [our campaign workers] continues, they will file a complaint with the police today,” Bressler said.

Following Levanthal's complaint, the Abutbol campaign also announced that it has retained an attorney and is in the process of filing a lawsuit against Eli Cohen.

Cohen's campaign, Bressler alleged, destroyed expensive campaign signs worth a quarter of a million shekels during their "systematic destruction of election signs in Beit Shemesh."

Cohen has previously accused Abutbol of sending municipal workers to tear down his side's posters and a man identified as a municipal employee by MK Dov Lipman, a local resident, was photographed taking down at least one Cohen banner.


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