Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Police patrol the Haredi neighborhood of Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, April 12, 2020.

United Torah Judaism has been on the warpath in recent days, with a coordinated offensive against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following his closure of the city of Bnei Brak and the closure that followed on the Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Oddly enough, Health Minister Yaacov Litzman also joined his party’s offensive, and Monday’s Hamodia, Agudah’s newspaper, quoted Litzman’s rebuke of the PM, who initiated and pushed for the closure in Jerusalem. Litzman said: “Clear and equal criteria must be set for all cities, regions and neighborhoods in Israel – regardless of the nature of the population.”


Litzman added that “the definitions whereby movement should be curtailed in the Haredi enclaves are mistaken and besmirch an entire community that obeys the law and the rabbis.”

Litzman’s comments were accompanied by op-ed articles against the Haredi closures, including more than one frontal attack on Netanyahu. Such as an op-ed by MK Israel Eichler of UTJ, in Hamodia, suggesting that the senior level of decision-makers (meaning you know who) are guilty of selective enforcement which inevitably leads to police violence against the mentally injured.

Police checkpoint in Bnei Brak, April 1, 2020. / Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

“There is no escaping the fact that improper motives are behind the closure on the Haredim,” Eichler wrote, pointing to other neighborhoods in Israel which are infected with the coronavirus and also meet the criterion of one patient per 1,000 residents, and yet no closure was imposed on them.

“When you look at the map of neighborhood that were turned into ghettos, a clear and frightening picture emerges: the criterion for imposing a closure is not related to the infection level alone. This can be seen in the Rehavia neighborhood, where individual blocks have been closed off, while the Ramot neighborhood and the entire city of Bnei Brak, which also have a different infection level from one block to another, were placed under total quarantine,” Eichler wrote.

Eichler added: “Any discrimination in imposing rules on the public or in the treatment of patients constitutes a hate crime. Media prejudices affect the crisis management strategy. This explains why Bnei Brak’s closure continues in its full severity, even though the infection level there is decreasing day by day, while Arab and secular cities where the level of infections is rising at an alarming rate are still open to all.”

“I say this again with great pain, what we have seen in recent weeks is overt anti-Semitism by some decision makers, who have turned the hidden coronavirus enemy into a visible enemy who looks Haredi,” Eichler wrote.

The Sunday and Monday attacks in Hamodia are not a mere coincidence, according to the website B’Hadrei Haredim, which suggests that the Agudah paper’s reports and op-eds which strongly criticize the PM, are meant to deliver a warning.

UTJ’s co-leader MK Moshe Gaffni called the discriminatory closures a scandal. “Why did they divide the streets of the Rehavia neighborhood and closed individual blocks, and the big Ramot neighborhood, which is already divided by neighborhoods, was turned into one complex? And there are many more examples,” Gafni said.

According to Gaffni, “The public’s trust is paramount in this fight, and that trust is sadly being eroded every day. It’s disturbing.”

On Saturday night, Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush of UTJ also attacked the conduct of the crisis’ decision makers, and was the first Haredi official to mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name.

“At the rate of the closure of many neighborhoods in a large number of cities, we should consider the idea of declaring martial law over the entire country,” Porush said, then added the rub: “We can surely find better military governors than Netanyahu.”


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