No stranger to “chareidi-baiting” himself, Yisrael Beytenu Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday that he was “shocked” at the level of hatred and incitement against chareidim in the wake of news stories about the high level of coronavirus infections in Bnei Brak. “I myself have given instructions to Yisrael Beytenu activists not to speak against chareidim since the coronavirus crisis began.”
In an interview with Maariv, Liberman said that “what I am reading now about chareidim on social media is shocking. If we in Yisrael Beytenu had said even one eighth of what is being said they would have hung us.” The “incitement” against chareidim, as Liberman termed it, is “unfair, the disease is not discriminating between anyone. Those who are singling out the chareidim are doing a terrible thing.”
During the elections for the 23rd Knesset, Liberman built his campaign on anti-chareidi rhetoric, claiming that the main reason he would not join a government headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was because he “sold out the country to chareidim,” who failed to pay taxes and serve in the army.
On Sunday, Netanyahu condemned incitement against chareidim, saying that criticism was being unfairly directed at the chareidi communities. “The community understands the danger and is acting appropriately,” Netanyahu said. “Coronavirus does not discriminate between secular and chareidi, between Arabs and Jews. We do not discriminate either. This is a war in which we are all united, and we will win.”
In an interview on Kan News Monday night, Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri was hectored by an interviewer, who insisted on knowing why a closure had not been implemented on chareidi cities other than Bnei Brak. Rabbi Deri answered that since the decision had been made – weeks ago – to impose a closure on the entire country for the Seder, it was decided that it would be better to wait for that event to impose the closure on chareidi cities as well.
The interviewer, dissatisfied with that response, said that it appeared that he and Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman had been pressuring Netanyahu not to impose closures on chareidi communities. Rabbi Deri pointed out that the idea for a closure on Bnei Brak had actually been his, but the interviewer kept repeating the point – until an obviously flapped Rabbi Deri burst out at the interviewer. “I’ve answered this question five times,” he said. “Apparently you have a hearing problem. I am happy to answer any other questions you have, but I will no discuss this with you any more. You’ve apparently made your mind up. This is not what I would call objective journalism.”