End religious incitement before it’s too late – editorial | #socialmedia

Over the past week, as the incoming government has taken shape, we have witnessed a vicious campaign of incitement directed against the coalition, especially at Naftali Bennett and his Yamina Party.

This has culminated in United Torah Judaism and Shas members bashing Bennett and calling him evil, claiming he should remove his kippah.

This kind of religious hate is sowing the seeds of division that could motivate misguided people to violence.

Israel’s internal security agency has already warned against rising incitement. In a statement on Saturday, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman said: “We have recently identified a serious rise and radicalization in violent and inciting discourse, specifically on social media.” He said that the discourse could lead certain people toward violence and illegal activity.

The incitement emanating from the haredi political sector has now reached a crescendo of hatred. MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said “the name of the evil shall rot.” He went on to claim the new incoming government is against the haredi community.

“We won’t allow in any way Judaism, or those things connected to the religious and haredi community for the continuation of religious life, to be harmed…. We won’t allow it. There will be a war on every detail. This evil man who is a partner to these agreements won’t be able to do anything.”

This is not a political discussion or disagreement; this is an attempt to use religion to target politicians. Its goal is to radicalize and alienate the Orthodox community to create a potential for strife and more division in society.

UTJ has declared war on the incoming government, calling to “cut off and banish” those in the coalition and vowing to “remove this evil government.”

Shas leader Arye Deri has made similar comments. “The Jewish state is in danger,” he said. “The State of Israel is changing its appearance and identity. The government headed by Bennett will destroy and ruin everything that we have preserved of the Jewish character and identity of the country, which enables life together over the last 73 years together.”

In the past, Shas and UTJ have sat in governments with Labor and center and left parties. So why are they now describing these parties as against Judaism, and appearing to threaten civil strife against the government?

It appears that over the last 10 years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there has been impunity for incitement and rising sectarian divisions. This has manifested itself in the rise of the extreme Right and also the tendency to enable the ultra-Orthodox to be a state within a state. During the pandemic, for instance, the government quietly signaled to Orthodox communities that they could open schools and violate COVID restrictions. At times, it seemed that secret deals were being made.

Unfortunately, our history teaches us where this could lead. Baseless hatred has divided the Jewish people in the past and led to the destruction of our holy institutions and the destruction of our country. Baseless hatred is what is being directed at Bennett.

The claim that the Jewish aspects of the State of Israel are in danger is false. The parties in the incoming government are Zionist and have as much devotion to the Jewish faith as past governments. Showing flexibility on civil marriage, egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall or other aspects is neither new nor a threat to Judaism.

Israel must take a step back from further division. There are reasonable voices in the Orthodox leadership. While its politicians may feel threatened by losing power and budgets, these moderate voices need to be empowered. We cannot have several states within a state, and we cannot have half the country claim the other half is against it every time power changes hands. To maintain democracy and peace, it is essential that we reconcile and stop the baseless hatred.

If Israel is to prosper in the coming years, we must step back from this baseless hatred being directed at politicians and encourage tolerance and religious diversity and reconciliation.

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