Russian-speakers accuse Yisrael Beytenu of antisemitic campaign

In a post, Haifa Deputy Mayor Lazar Kaplun wrote that haredim “claim they are the master race. That reminds me of someone, only he had a mustache and they have beards.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman
Yisrael Beytenu’s campaign in Russian includes antisemitic messages, a group of immigrants from the former Soviet Union argued, launching a website to translate their messages into Hebrew.
Titled “Danger From Within Our Home,” a play on Yisrael Beytenu’s name, which means “Israel Our Home,” the site compares Yisrael Beytenu’s ads to “propaganda from the 1930s in one of the countries in Europe that we won’t mention” that “accuses [haredim] of conspiracies meant to steal the livelihood of immigrants from the former Soviet Union... All the propaganda is based on the greediness of the Jews.”
The site features videos posted by Yisrael Beytenu and comments from party officials in Russian that portray the ultra-Orthodox as interested only in money and living at the expense of others. Some of the ads featuring haredim take the tone of a horror film, through musical and visual cues.
One video, starring MK Alex Kushnir speaking in Russian, went viral last week with Hebrew subtitles. Kushnir tells his audience to imagine an adult living in your house who didn’t study, didn’t work, didn’t go to the army, “and really doesn’t know anything... and tells you how to live,” and then says “it happens to all of us.”
“Over a million representatives of the Orthodox community are living at our expense,” he said. “The state subsidizes them with our taxes, with our work.”
A Facebook post by the party in Russian says that a rabbi from the religious-Zionist pre-military preparatory institution Bnei David in Eli in the West Bank is training future IDF soldiers to believe that “Jews must be the masters and Arabs and other nations must be slaves. That could include immigrants from the former Soviet Union.”
Haifa Deputy Mayor Lazar Kaplun from Yisrael Beytenu wrote in a Facebook comment that “the Orthodox binge, drink and rape minors under God’s cover. Don’t confuse believers and the zombie radicals.”
In another post, he wrote that haredim “claim they are the master race. That reminds me of someone, only he had a mustache and they have beards.”
Another video shows haredim dancing with dollar bills raining on them.
A video with a more comedic tone portrays Blue and White leader Benny Gantz as the title character in Forrest Gump, who accidentally ended up in the middle of the political action. In it, UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman says “give me a million, give me a million!” and Arye Deri of Shas, whose given name means lion, is the MGM mascot Leo the Lion, surrounded by dollar signs.
The website was established by Natalia Rothenberg, a secular grandmother of five from Kfar Saba and a former refusenik.
“Unfortunately, there is antisemitism against Jews in Israel,” Rothenberg told Makor Rishon. “Yisrael Beytenu’s campaign awakens sleeping antisemites who live here in Israel. When they say haredim are parasites and destroying our society, the direct result is horrible antisemitic comments... When there is a Yisrael Beytenu video of haredim dancing while money falls on them, it creates irreversible social harm.”
In a video posted on the site, a woman named Tania Blum, whose Facebook page features posts in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “I’m from the 1970s’ [wave of] aliyah. It was very Zionist... People sat in prison” in the Soviet Union, because they wanted to come to Israel.
Yisrael Beytenu “came out against a campaign against haredim and religious people, and there is a surge of antisemitism in Russian” on social media, Blum said. “You wouldn’t believe what they write, like ‘if the haredim win, we’ll start pogroms,’ or ‘now we understand why people hated Jews around the world.’”
Kushnir said in response to the accusations that “whoever speaks out against religious coercion and haredi dealings is labeled antisemitic. This manipulation... is outrageous. I didn’t see anyone outraged by a video that compared me to Hitler.”
Haredim, he said “took ownership of Judaism and of the country. We don’t want to allow that to happen. We have nothing against religion or tradition and we have nothing against the haredi community, but we have a lot against the haredi leadership... which is holding the haredi public in a closed community that doesn’t give them any tools to integrate in Israeli society, not learning the core curriculum or enlisting in the IDF.”
The MK also accused the website’s founders of being politically motivated.
Yisrael Beytenu’s official response was that they have the same campaign in Hebrew and in Russian, while Likud and Blue and White have very different campaigns.
“This is an initiative of Likud supporters and activists, one of whom is a former youth activist in [Yisrael Beytenu] and since he was removed, he continues to libel Yisrael Beytenu,” the party stated.
Yisrael Beytenu also called for there to be more media coverage of haredi racism against Russian-speaking immigrants.