Radical haredi newspaper heads to be indicted for blackmail

Police allege that Hapeles newspaper heads deliberately harassed businesses in an attempt to force them to advertise with them.

Tzvi Lev ,

Hapeles newspaper
Hapeles newspaper

The Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office has decided to indict eight workers from the Hapeles newspaper for conspiracy to commit a crime, harassment, and blackmail.

Hapeles is the mouthpiece of the extremist Jerusalem Faction, which is connected with Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach and has been locked in a power struggle with the mainstream haredi community ever since the death of Torah Sage Rabbi Sholom Elyashiv in 2012. The Jerusalem Faction considers Bnei Brak-based Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman - the spiritual leader of the non-hasidic Lithuanian haredi community to be an illegitimate leader and has rejected his authority, splitting the hierarchical haredi world.

According to police, Hapeles CEO Natan Grossman and employees Shmuel Elyashiv, Avraham Trager, Chaim Yavrov, Netanel Shtapfer, Shabtai Fein, Yisrael Israel Tropper and Moshe Berliman embarked on a deliberate harassment campaign against haredi business owners after major haredi rabbis banned advertising with Hapeles, causing the publication's revenues to drop.

Police described how Hapeles pressured businesses into advertising with them by harassing and threatening company officials with ultimatums, warning that the failure to do so would be seen as an insult to a large segment of the haredi population and would have serious consequences. The harassment of the targeted officials reportedly occurred on a daily basis.

The indictments come a day after the Israeli Advertising Agency decided to yank all taxpayer-funded ads from Hapeles in light of its virulent opposition to haredi IDF soldiers.

The move was approved by the Justice, Defense, and Internal Security Ministers, who decided that the government should not be supporting Hapeles when it has been running virulent incitement against haredi IDF soldiers for years.