JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Imagine if you were walking down the Bat Yam promenade, enjoying a visit to the seaside. The promenade is filled with people and there is almost no social distancing, masks and other precautions. Many of the people there do not live within 1000 meters and are therefore not permitted to violate Israel’s lockdown in order to go there. However the likelihood of a policeman enforcing the regulations there is almost nil.
Bat Yam promenade, Jan. 23rd 2021
Now let’s imagine another scenario: A demonstration calling for the immediate suspension of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Same conditions: No social distancing, no masks, crowds of people together coming from distant places. However there are no restrictions on demonstrations in Israel, and therefore they can look like this:
Maybe this could be legal. What about a party for police officials celebrating one of their colleagues receiving a higher rank? In theory the police are supposed to uphold the law better than any other citizen. In practice however things are sometimes different:
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 23, 2021
It is against this backdrop that the recent events in Bnei Brak need to be judged. The Chareidim are fully aware that coronavirus is spreading like wildfire in their neighborhoods. They need only to look at the billboards which are unfortunately too often emblazoned with familiar names of prominent people who have succumbed to the virus. However the virus is definitely present in other sectors and despite this they are not accorded the treatment meted out to the Chareidi populace if even a small segment of it violates the health regulations.
The selective and indiscriminate enforcement is clearly the result of the media diatribe against Chareidim, in which most major networks scapegoat the entire Chareidi sector as flaunting rules. This egregious generalization has led even law-abiding Chareidim to feel ostracized when standing in supermarkets or in offices, and this is what enabled policemen to terrorize innocent people in the Thursday night rampage in Bnei Brak. However it is not just the enforcement which is the problem but rather the selective, discriminatory nature of the police’s response to violations.
As publicist Menachem Gesheid put it, “The law of Bnei Brak is akin to the law of Tel Aviv. No citizen at 88 Ibn Gvirol St. was ever publicly or physically attacked because another citizen at Ibn Gvirol 44 had violated the law. Nobody ever thought of connecting between them. Only in Bnei Brak are all citizens lumped together in one group. There is no justification for such actions.”
The police in a democracy walk a fine line between maintaining public order and violating basic laws of human rights in order to accomplish their goals. When police unleash unfettered violence against law-abiding citizens to avenge their wounded pride after colleagues were attacked, they are violating human rights but it does not accomplish their goals in any way, since alienating those citizens just increases the inclination to defy rules and regulations. Thus, by employing force indiscriminately, wrongly and illegally, police are endangering the underpinnings of democracy itself.
The collision course between the Chareidi public and police has intensified as a result of the Bnei Brak events, with the Vizhnitz Rebbe announcing Shabbos that all schools would open immediately and Public Security minister Amir Ohana responding that they would receive large fines for opening. Other Chareidi groups like Satmar have also remained unmoved by police attempts to close down their Talmud Torahs, as the following clip taken after three police raids on the Satmar school demonstrates. However the real issue of selective enforcement needs to be seriously addressed by the police if they wish to regain any respect from the Chareidi public.
ת״ת סאטמר בי-ם הבוקר אחרי 3 נסיונות סגירה של המשטרה ומתן קנסות
ילדים, מי היה כאן בחיידר? "המשטרה הציונית"
מה הם רוצים מאיתנו? "שלא נלמד תורה ח"ו".
מה צעקתם כשהם נכנסו? "מי לה' אלי"
אתם מצייתים לציונים? "לא, חס ושלום"
למי אתם מצייתים? "להשם"
אתם מפחדים מהם? לא.
ממי כן? "מהשם״ pic.twitter.com/vhCSW5IkAX
— ישראל כהן (@Israelcohen911) January 22, 2021