Ultra-Orthodox leaders decry Lapid video as ‘anti-Semitic’; he rejects the claim

Yesh Atid leader tweets parody clip portraying Haredi politicians demanding ‘all the money in Israel’; some party colleagues distance themselves from it

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid addressing party activists in the coastal town of Shefayim, July 14, 2019. (Jane Peimer)
Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid addressing party activists in the coastal town of Shefayim, July 14, 2019. (Jane Peimer)

The Haredi community was up in arms Monday after Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid tweeted a satirical campaign video portraying senior ultra-Orthodox politicians as venal and corrupt, demanding large sums of money in exchange for pledging loyalty to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The clip, which poked fun at the Likud party for forcing its candidates in the upcoming elections to sign loyalty oaths, portrayed a fictional group chat in popular messaging service WhatsApp in which the leaders of several small parties are asked to swear to support the candidacy of “Benjamin Netanyahu, the first of his name, messenger of God, leader of the right and father of dragons.”

In the video, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri responds by saying, “You want me to sign? Give another trillion shekels for the yeshivas” while United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman says, “I want all the money in Israel.”

The clip also portrayed nationalist lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich demanding the annexation of the settlements and his party’s leader, Ayelet Shaked, demanding that Netanyahu weaken the High Court of Justice.

“Anti-Semitism — there is no other word,” Deri responded to the video on Twitter.

Litzman likewise called the ad anti-Semitic, declaring that it had crossed a “red line” and that it was reminiscent of “dark periods in which Jews were portrayed as greedy persecutors.”

Lapid responded quickly, stating that he was unwilling to accept criticism from someone who “protects pedophiles,” a reference to allegations that Litzman, the deputy health minister, had improperly protected sex offenders in at least 10 cases.

“I’m also not impressed that they scream ‘hate, hate’ every time someone criticizes them. There is real anti-Semitism in the world: Jews are shot in synagogues. This is not anti-Semitism. We will continue to fight for Israel as a Jewish, democratic, free and liberal state.” He said that what he described as the humorous clip was part of legitimate political campaigning.

Litzman also criticized Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, asserting that unless he repudiates the video he is “a full and direct partner in a hate crime committed against an entire sector in Israel.”

While Gantz’s spokesman declined to comment on the video, Blue and White number 3 Moshe Yaalon did say that it was “not my style nor that of Gantz,” adding that they were “not in favor of hate discourse.”

Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir likewise told Kol Barama radio that the video was “not my style and I wouldn’t have made it.”

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