State Attorney bans haredi protests outside IDF officers' homes
The ban comes following an aggressive campaign by haredi extremists against Orthodox men who enlist in the IDF.
By JEREMY SHARONUpdated: JUNE 1, 2017 00:34
State Attorney Shai Nitzan and his deputy, Raz Nazri, informed Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich on Monday that protests by extremist haredi activists outside the private houses of IDF personnel may be banned.The announcement comes against a background of a vitriolic and often violent campaign by radicals from the haredi community against haredi men who enlist in the IDF and IDF personnel involved in attracting recruits from the haredi community.Extremists have in particular staged numerous protests outside the private residences of army personnel heading haredi recruitment, who have as a result suffered from harassment, intimidation, and even death threats.According to Nitzan, there is no reason under the statutes dealing with freedom of assembly to allow protests outside private residences of public servants, when protesters could instead demonstrate outside their place of work.They told Alsheich therefore that demonstration permits should not be given for protests outside the houses of haredi IDF soldiers and recruiters, and that any protesters gathering outside private residences should be dispersed by the police.The letter referenced three men in particular whose homes have seen numerous demonstrations: Maj. Yaakov Raashi in Beit Shemesh, the head of haredi recruitment in the IDF; Rabbi Menachem Katz in Bnei Brak; and Kiryat Gat Mayor Rabbi Moshe Havlin. The latter, together with his wife, were physically assaulted by extremists who broke into their home.The state attorney noted that these protests sometimes see dozens and even hundreds of demonstrators gathering outside these officials’ residences without a demonstration permit, sometimes in the middle of the night, and frequently involving shouting and cursing.During one protest, Katz and his family were essentially imprisoned in their Bnei Brak home for four hours while the protest continued.Nazri mentioned the high priority and “strategic importance” the government has placed on increasing haredi enlistment to the IDF, saying that putting an end to such protests is a critical task in fighting the delegitimization campaign waged by extremists against haredi men serving in the army.“We are aware of the operational difficulties which are likely to be created by dispersing protests, but nevertheless, set against the high price of these protests for these public servants in terms of their right to privacy, and that of their families and neighbors, and the influence of such protests on haredi enlistment and their continued service in the IDF, and bearing in mind the public interest of this issue, we request that you make every effort to prevent and disperse these protests as quickly as possible,” wrote Nitzan to Alsheich.For the last four years, extremist elements within the haredi community have waged a campaign of incitement and delegitimization against haredi men serving in the IDF, out of a belief that the state is trying to eradicate the religious identity of the haredi community by secularizing them in the army.The campaign includes mass demonstrations; acts of civil disobedience such as blocking major traffic arteries and road junctions; protests outside the homes of senior haredi IDF personnel; physical and verbal assaults against haredi men in IDF uniforms; and a savage campaign of incitement in fliers, posters, pamphlets and other forms of written media against the notion of haredim in the army.There are numerous such incidents every week. Just on Tuesday afternoon, before the Shavuot festival began, extremists in Jerusalem’s haredi Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood attempted to assault haredi men in uniform. The assailants threw bottles and other items at police, cursed them and massed around them.Seven suspects, including two minors, were arrested in an operation on Tuesday by undercover policemen.“The Israel Police will not allow anyone to harm or do injury to anyone in uniform,” the police said in a statement to the press. “In dealing with this phenomenon, the police in Jerusalem and the area is carrying out pro-active operations which have led to the arrest of suspects and the prevention of additional assaults,” adding that such operations would continue as long as necessary.