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Rabbis Slam IDF for Targeting Hareidi Soldiers in Punishment

Nahal Hareidi rabbis criticize 'drastic' jailing of soldiers in the Brigade for part in social protest, note rapid decline in enlistment.
By Ido Ben-Porat, Ari Yashar
First Publish: 7/4/2014, 7:55 AM

Nahal Hareidi Brigade soldiers
Nahal Hareidi Brigade soldiers
Flash 90

Rabbis of the Nahal Hareidi Foundation voiced their criticism Thursday after four soldiers of the Nahal Hareidi Brigade were jailed earlier in the day for calling to "eliminate the terrorists," part of an online protest following the murder of three Israeli teens.

Two of the four posted a picture on Facebook of themselves standing behind a sheet of paper with a message that said "Bibi, let us eliminate the terrorists," using the nickname for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. They were sentenced to ten days in jail, after the IDF on Wednesday threatened to use a "strong arm" punishing soldiers calling for revenge.

"There's no argument that the act the soldiers did is unacceptable, but at such a sensitive time for hareidi IDF enlist, after the IDF published figures on the rapid decline in hareidi enlistment, and amid hundreds of soldiers who posted similar statuses - it's not right to punish and publish specifically the hareidi soldiers," said the rabbis in a statement.

Indeed, Rabbi Avraham Baron, former Chairman for 25 years of the Hesder Yeshivas Association which combines IDF service and Torah study, last week called on the Supreme Court to cancel the Enlistment Law, citing the IDF figures and saying "no hareidim are enlisting."

In their statement, the Nahal Hareidi Foundation rabbis added that they "spoke about the incident with the soldiers and explained to them that it's unacceptable. Along with that, we intend to continue discussing with the soldiers about it in the framework of Torah classes that we give them, and in the framework of private discussions."

"However, we would expect from the IDF to exercise extra sensitivity with the hareidi soldiers. The Enlistment Law severely harmed the number of draftees and their morale. Taking additional drastic steps and publishing them - it may be the right act but it really is not beneficial," noted the rabbis.

"The state doesn't back the soldiers"

Shmuel (Zangi) Meidad, director of the Honenu legal aid organization, likewise criticized the arrest of the soldiers.

"The state of Israel is sending its soldiers to the front, but doesn't understand or doesn't want to understand their condition, and therefore judges and punishes them, and doesn't back them. It does this to ingratiate itself and to look good in the eyes of hostile foreign elements, some of which are outright anti-Semitic, and does all this at the expense of its soldiers," remarked Meidad.

The Honenu director added "this situation is a clear and present danger, it hinders our position against the enemy, and it must be changed immediately."

For her part, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has established a "hotline" at the Justice Ministry for public complaints about "incitement to racism" after the calls for revenge against the terrorists. The Ministry on Wednesday launched a criminal investigation against inciteful statements on the social networks.

Investigators have already reportedly started an investigation of two nationalist activists, one for a two-year-old post online saying Arab residents of Israel used to fear Jews, and now the opposite is true.

"The statements that these two activists were interrogated over are statements that a democratic country does not question people over,” said Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir who represents the two.

“In recent years, we filed innumerable complaints against leftists and anarchists who demanded that settlers be castrated, that nationalists be hurt and other incitement, but Attorney General Shai Nitzan shelved the complaints and claimed the right fredom of speech had been exercised. It is not surprising that specifically when there is an awakening of nationalists on the web, the Attorney General's people are quick to stifle others, and are conducting a witch hunt,” Ben-Gvir added.