Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Border Police officers during a protest against the closure in Jerusalem, July 12, 2020.

{Reposted from the Emes Ve-Emunah blog}

There is no comparison. It is in fact insulting to compare how religious extremists are treated by the police in Israel with the way blacks have been treated for decades by the few racist cops one will invariably find in police departments all across America. And yet it’s all too easy to make that comparison it seems. As reported in Life in Israel, here is what Bet Shemesh City Councilman Yisrael SIlverstein (UTJ) was quoted  saying:
The attitude here to Haredim is like the attitude of the police in the USA to blacks. We have become the shmattas (rags) of the police.

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While it’s true that some of the police in Israel have treated religious looking extremist protesters with prejudice, it’s not like they are all innocent of any wrongdoing. Not unless calling the police Nazis is considered innocent.

This does not excuse unfair treatment by the police of any one of them. The police are supposed to be professionals and not let being taunted get to them. But the police are human too. When provoked they might respond reflexively in an all too human way. Doesn’t make it right. Just makes it so.

Bearing this in mind, there was yet another incident in the two hotbeds of religious extremism: Ramat Bet Shemesh (bet) and the religiously extremist sections of Jerusalem.

I have not referred to those neighborhoods as Charedi because, frankly, I don’t think they qualify. They are nothing like the Charedim I know. Instead they are ignorant extremists raised in isolation indoctrinated to see the outside world as both immoral and  hostile… and to be despised.

That they are meticulously observant in ritual practice, does not by itself make them part of our community. These are outliers who live in a bubble of their own making and should not be confused with the vast majority of mainstream Charedim. Who would never behave the way the residents of those 2 neighborhoods do.

Those that might defend these communities by saying that the violent protesters are just a small group of extremists that the majority of them reject… I’m not buying it. These are their activists. They are the ones that stand up for the values of their community. The rest of the community may (and I emphasize ‘may’) not approve of the tactics. But they approve of their goals and share their complaints.

I think it is time for the rest of the Orthodox Jewish world to recognize and acknowledge that. To consider them the outliers they are. And not simply the more fervent among us because of the way they live their lives or the way they look. They need to be rejected no less than those on the extreme religious Left as a movement outside the pale of Orthodoxy.

The issue this time is one that actually involves keeping the residents of those communities safe and healthy. By preventing the spread of COVID-19. There was a huge spike in people testing positive in those neighborhoods. (17% testing positive versus 5% for the rest of the city.) From the Jewish Press:

Clashes broke out on Sunday evening between Haredi demonstrators and police at the intersection of Jeremiah and Shamgar streets in Jerusalem. The Haredim protested police violence, and the selective enforcement of closures against the Haredi public.The demonstrators, residents of the Haredi neighborhoods that are under closure, broke through police checkpoints in a second evening in a row of confrontations. Hundreds of residents of the neighborhoods that are under quarantine in Jerusalem demonstrated on Saturday night in the exact same place.The demonstrators protested at the spot where, on Saturday night, a policeman punched a Haredi man who asked him why he was not wearing a facemask. The Department of Police Investigations (DIP) has decided to suspend the policeman pending an investigation.The protesters, residents of the neighborhoods of Romema, Kiryat Belz and Sanz, confronted the police, threw eggs at them and hollered “Nazis” at them.There was a concurrent demonstration in Ramat Beit Shemesh Sunday night, at Rashi Street at the corner of Hazon Ish, with the residents protesting the closure of the neighborhood the police violence.Police removed protesters from the streets and arrested ten of them on charges of breaking the public order.

  1. I get that they were upset at a cop that retaliated after being taunted by a protester. (As noted – he has been suspended pending an investigation.)

In a vacuum, this might be an understandable response. But based on the history of the way this community responds to the laws they don’t like, I see this as just another excuse to cause violence and mayhem and blame it on the state and police brutality – because of a policy they don’t like .

In case there is any question about that, here is what happened the next night when the police were ordered not to use excessive force and refrained from doing so:

Seeing that the cops had changed their behavior from the night before, some protesters at the scene—after two hours of no violent response from the police—began to provoke them by setting garbage can fires and taunting the police officers forces.

It is ridiculous to claim that the ‘state and Israel Police seem to have crossed all possible boundaries’ because the police were doing their jobs or because one cop that was provoked to throw a punch at someone that taunted him. That is just an excuse to continue their extremist behavior in order to get their way. And in this case, getting their way may get them – as well as others – very sick. Something they are too ignorant to understand as noted by the following comment one of them made:

“The closure of the Hassidic neighborhoods is clearly unjustified, and is based on the fact that there are many who are not tested – this is a sheer anti-Semitic claim”

They are sick and tired of being treated that way?! Maybe they should look in the mirror and realize that it is their own damn fault!  And that it is they who are antisemitic. Against a Jewish government whose only ‘sin’ in this case was only to protect them and the rest of the country.

*Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the Jewish Press

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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.