Haredim lament blame for TA attack

haredi press coverage ranged from rejecting blame to ignoring shooting.

haredi papers 248.63 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredi papers 248.63 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Reactions in haredi news media outlets Sunday to the fatal shooting attack against Tel Aviv homosexuals varied from total denial to a focus on how the incident was being used to bash haredim. The Internet site 'Hadarei Haredim', which has a chat forum and reports internal haredi news, led Sunday morning with the headline "The Anti-Haredi Incitement Club: the police are still investigating but the club's community is already accusing - the murder is a result of haredi incitement." Kikar Hashabbat, another online haredi news site, led with an editorializing piece entitled, "Our blood has been cheapened: the incitement parade against the haredim has begun." The article continues: "Under a façade of love, the abnormal community in Israel spreads hatred and blackballs the entire haredi sector." In recent weeks, haredim here and abroad have been subject to considerable negative media exposure, and the reactions these stories have generated have put the haredi community on the defensive. The spate of bad news began with the conviction of a haredi woman from Beit Shemesh -known as the "Taliban mother" - for abusing her children. In addition, haredim have persistently, and sometimes violently, demonstrated in Jerusalem to protest the opening of a parking lot on Shabbat, while the story of a haredi woman accused of purposely starving her three-year-old son led to even more serious riots that included destruction of public property. Concurrently, in the US, several haredi rabbis and community leaders were arrested on charges of money laundering and trafficking in human organs. Some haredi leaders have reacted by blaming the secular news media and the secular Israel public for tendentiously singling out the haredi community for censure. Even some veteran secular journalists, such Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot, have admitted that the local press has gotten carried away with haredi-bashing. Against this background, the homosexual community's accusations against Shas MKs were seen as another attempt at negative stereotyping of haredim. Sources in the gay community have placed some of the blame for the attack on Shas, the Sephardi haredi party, whose members have made disparaging remarks about homosexuals in the past. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai and Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev, who have made headlines in recent years for their verbal attacks on homosexuals, were singled out for special criticism. In February 2006, Yishai called homosexuality a disease. "Up to a few years ago they would be exempt from military service. It is clearly a disease. I did not determine this, medical science did. It's a disease. The Torah talks about its severity, and I wish them a speedy recovery, I'm not hiding it," he said at the time. Yishai also expressed his hope that a medicine would be found to cure homosexuality. In June 2007, Ze'ev suggested setting up special teams of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers who would help homosexuals return to normal life, "just like drug rehabilitation." In January 2008, Ze'ev said homosexuals should be put in rehabilitation centers together with drug addicts and alcoholics. He said that homosexuality was a "plague that may destroy Jewish Israel," adding that this "plague" should be dealt with "just as the Health Ministry is dealing with bird flu." In its official response Sunday, Shas condemned Saturday night's attack. "Murder, understandably, is against the Torah way. Any attack is against the religion of Israel," the party said. Meanwhile, a senior editor at the haredi daily Hamodia said that his paper would totally ignore the incident. "We do not want our children asking questions about that community," said the editor, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity. "Our philosophy is to stay away from that entire issue," added the editor. "Someone who walks into a perfumer's store comes out smelling good. But someone who walks into a tanner's comes out smelling bad."