Sunday, July 14, 2013

Little noticed

It was reported in Israel, but probably not in the international press, that two Jewish teenagers and an adult were sentenced to prison terms on Monday in the Jerusalem District Court after being found guilty of attacking several Arabs in downtown Jerusalem last August and in particular of savagely beating an Arab teen, Jamal Julani, who was hospitalized with severe injuries. Because of a pre-existing heart condition, Julani's heart actually stopped beating, but he was resuscitated by the Magen David Adom and recovered. The assailants were part of a group of up to 40 youths who participated in the harrassment of Arabs. PM Netanyahu issued a statement deploring these attacks and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin visited Julani in hospital and apologized to him on behalf of the State of Israel. What does this mean? That Israel is a state of law, perhaps not perfect, but the human rights of all of its citizens are protected.

The Israeli Interior Ministry has launched a pilot program to establish a biometric database of all citizens, starting with Rishon Lezion. Cards will be issued to all its inhabitants containing their biometric data, that will be matched to the database for id and other purposes, such as banking etc. It is intended that this will eventually replace the current blue id cards (teudat zehut) that every Israeli citizen carries. The idea is that Israel is moving with the times and adopting a more extensive and technically advanced id system. However, many fear that this can result in the invasion of privacy of the individual by the state and could lead to security breaches, for example if members of the IDF have all their information computerized. How this will develop remains to be seen.

At their meeting last Sunday the Israeli Cabinet approved a bill to equalize the national service enlistment of haredi men . This was the bill proposed by the Peri Committee that was established as part of the campaign promise of Yesh Atid leader and Finance Minster Yair Lapid. This bill is a watered down version that defers the compulsory enlistment of haredim until 2017 and until the age of 21, not 18 as for other Jewish sectors of the population. Still the bill resulted in strong criticism from the religious parties, with many haredi groups threatening to fight its implementation. The threat is that when the time comes for actual enlistment we could see major protests and active resistance to being drafted. MK Litzman of Shas said that many Yeshiva students would rather go to jail than serve in the IDF. On Tuesday night a haredi soldier in IDF uniform was attacked by a large mob of haredim in Mea Shearim, and when the police arrived to rescue him they were met by a hail of stones. At least four arrests were made. Is this the shape of things to come?


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