Group calls for harassment against haredi soldiers to end

A campaign of harassment and shaming has been waged by radical ultra-Orthodox groups against haredi IDF soldiers and their recruiters.

Haredi soldier (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Haredi soldier
 The nonprofit organization the Movement for Quality Government in Israel has called on the police and the State Attorney’s Office to open an investigation into the ongoing campaign of incitement against haredi (ultra-Orthodox) soldiers emanating from radical sectors of the haredi community.
Over the last five years, elements within the so-called Jerusalem Faction, a breakaway political grouping from the mainstream haredi community, have created a campaign of ongoing incitement against haredi soldiers and those involved in recruiting them.
The campaign has involved delegitimizing the concept of a haredi individual serving in the IDF, portraying soldiers and officers as pigs, garbage and in other unflattering ways in a series of posters and fliers, harassing haredi officers and officials involved in haredi enlistment and most recently creating a database of individual haredi soldiers to share, allowing others to personally shame them in public.
The organization noted on Monday that it had appealed to former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein and the police in 2015 to open an investigation, but was told that the State Attorney’s Office was dealing with the matter.
Last July, the State Attorney’s Office told the group that several hearings had been convened by the police on the issue and a working group established to help develop a strategy to eradicate the phenomenon of incitement, while the police had taken various actions on the ground to protect haredi soldiers and personnel.
However, the organization said on Monday that the most recent project in the wave of incitement, the “shaming” campaign, was proof that the authorities are failing to eliminate the problem.
“The problem of the incitement that we have raised has not stopped in the intervening period [since 2015], and has possibly even got worse,” the organization said in a statement to the press. “Every month, we witness an increase in this negative phenomenon and its enlargement in different communities. Until now, it seemed that this campaign was the action of individuals who had themselves been incited by public haredi leaders. But it now appears that this wild incitement has become organized.”
The group noted that the haredi press has reported on fund-raising campaigns within the haredi community to continue the incitement. The organization affirmed the right of protest and freedom of expression, but said that this could take place “within the boundaries of freedom of expression and democracy,” and that such boundaries appear to have been breached over this issue some time ago.
“The legitimate rules of the struggle have been abandoned in favor of wild and open incitement against law-abiding citizens who are coming to fulfill their duty and bear the burden of IDF enlistment,” the statement said. “We must repeat our call once again and request that law enforcement agencies deal with the issue immediately and end this dangerous phenomenon, which threatens Israeli society and the well-being of members of the haredi public who decided to exercise their right and duty to enlist for military service.”
The Jerusalem Faction, led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, has also been behind a series of riots and violent protests in recent months against enlistment.
These activities have attracted the attention Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is examining ways of defunding yeshivas associated with this group.