Haredi leadership furious over police behavior during enlistment demonstration

Video footage emerged of police personnel dragging haredi men by their peot, or sidelocks, shoving them to the ground seemingly unprovoked.

Israeli police breaking up an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, September 17, 2017.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli police breaking up an ultra-Orthodox protest in Jerusalem, September 17, 2017.
Senior haredi leaders have denounced the actions of police during an illegal demonstration by haredi extremists on Sunday and called for an internal investigation into the use of force by security personnel.
Video footage emerged of police officers dragging haredi men by their peyot, or sidelocks, shoving them to the ground seemingly unprovoked, and roughing up and beating protesters who were blocking roads in Jerusalem.
Two protesters were taken to Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem for wounds sustained during the riot.
One of the wounded, a 16-year-old, was hospitalized in moderate condition with a head wound and internal bleeding and is being kept in the hospital for observation.
The second protester, aged 17, was lightly injured.
The police said that seven police personnel were injured by stone throwing from the rioters.
The riots were conducted by the Toldot Avraham Yitzhak hassidic community and the radical Eda Haredi communal organization in protest at the arrest and detention of the grandson of the grand rabbi of Toldot Avraham Yitzhak for failing to report to an IDF enlistment office when called to do so.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni told Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Monday that the police violence could not be allowed to pass.
“This was unrestrained violence by policemen who are entrusted to protect the public order,” Gafni said, adding that Erdan had promised an investigation into the officers’ behavior.
UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman also condemned the police’s actions, saying they had used unnecessary force that endangered the lives of the protesters, and called on the police hierarchy to rein in such behavior.
And Haim Epstein, Jerusalem deputy mayor and head of the Jerusalem branch of the Bnei Torah haredi party that opposes all cooperation with the state on enlistment, said the police had used “unthinkable brutality” in dealing with the protesters.
“The police threw off all restraint and are curtailing democracy in Israel by putting down protests in this way,” he told The Jerusalem Post, arguing that such actions infringed on the right to protest.
Epstein went on to denounce the recent High Court of Justice decision which struck down the government’s 2015 law, passed at the behest of UTJ and Shas, allowing for unlimited military service exemptions for yeshiva students.
“This decision showed us that the High Court is not interested in compromise or in the quotas of yeshiva students who can get exemptions [as proposed under a previous law], it has a totally secular agenda and so we could concede everything, step by step, till nothing is left,” he said.
Bnei Torah actually opposed UTJ’s law even though it allowed for unlimited military service exemptions, on the grounds that the defense minister would still have ultimate authority over who can get an exemption.
Epstein said that the High Court ruling actually helped the position of Bnei Torah, since it demonstrated to the haredi community that the party was correct to oppose all cooperation over enlistment, as the court would never be satisfied until all haredi men are drafted.
“The High Court isn’t interested in compromise; this argument doesn’t hold water anymore,” he said.