MK Gafni: 'My words were taken out of context'

Haredi MK Moshe Gafni denies that he is training special force of non-Jewish inspectors to crack down on businesses opening on Shabbat.

Tzvi Lev ,

Moshe Gafni
Moshe Gafni
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

UTJ MK Moshe Gafni denied that he was training a force of non-Jewish inspectors who would be entrusted with enforcing the new Supermarket Law forbidding businesses from opening on Shabbat.

On Monday, Hadashot News published a recording in which Gafni can be heard telling listeners of his plans to create a special team comprising of non-Jewish Israelis to forcibly shutter businesses on Shabbat. The report caused angry reactions, with MKs both within the coalition and the opposition accusing Gafni of damaging the delicate status quo that exists on religious issues.

Gafni contended on Thursday to Army Radio that his words had been taken out of context and that no such team of inspectors was being trained. "My speech was intended for the haredi public," said Gafni. "Laws relating to Shabbat in Israel are dealt with by the Interior Minister, not me," he added.

"Those who will deal with enforcing the Supermarket Law are the local municipalities, not the government," continued Gafni. "There are no inspectors enforcing the Supermarket Law. A haredi reporter recorded what I said and gave it to the media because the haredi public doesn't consider it news-only the secular public does. Even my jokes are news headlines," said Gafni sarcastically.

In the recording, Gafni can be heard elaborating on various steps the haredi parties were taking on religion and state issues. "We’re not only preserving the status quo, we’re also making progress on the subject of Sabbath observance," said Gafni. "Today, there is no moshav without a synagogue; there are places with ritual baths where no haredi Jew has ever walked."

The Netanyahu government recently passed the Supermarket Law, which grants the Interior Minister the powers to block bylaws passed by municipal authorities that allow grocery stores and mini-markets to open on Shabbat.

However, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri recently admitted that the law is unenforceable. "I cannot and do not intend to enforce this law. Every citizen or resident should deal with this law in his city. If none of the residents of Givatayim are bothered about the supermarkets, then fine. I don’t intend to interfere," said Deri last Wednesday.

"The interior minister has no powers of enforcement. I cannot close down shops on Shabbat,” continued Deri, who denied that the Supermarket Law amounted to religious coercion.

"We did not initiate any religious legislation. Write this down five times. I really don’t need this law because I know that religious and legislative coercion does not achieve anything. I did not initiate, and neither did the Haredi parties, the Supermarkets Law," alleged Deri.