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Sep 16, 2013

Is Eli Cohen anti-haredi and running an anti-haredi campaign as accused by Moshe Abutbol?

one thing I noticed that has bothered me is that Moshe Abutbol and the Chadash newspaper consistently attack Eli Cohen as being anti-haredi and they accuse him of running an anti-haredi campaign, or that he will soon raise an anti-haredi campaign in order to rile people up.

Eli Cohen is no Messiah. Surely he has faults. Surely there must be issues that Abutbol and Chadash could attack him on, points in his plans for the city that maybe Abutbol thinks are wrong or bad for the city. One thing he is not, is anti-haredi. I have heard him numerous times talk about fair distribution of funds and he is quick to point out that everybody deserves an equal part of the pie, haredi need their classrooms to be proper classrooms, they need shuls and yeshivot, while the hilonim need their heichal hatarbut and matnas and other things, and each will get what each community needs. I have never heard him say a bad word about haredim. He talks about respect for religion, he talks about how Bet Shemesh opened its doors to the haredi community with warmth and nostalgia. Surely he has faults, but he is not anti-haredi.

That being said, with Abutbol's repeated claims that Cohen is anti-haredi and is running an anti-haredi campaign, I decided to revisit the matter and take another look. For the past 3 weeks I have been paying attention to all articles about Bet Shemesh elections, no matter from what source - I have been getting all the local newspapers, along with articles in the national press, both haredi and not-haredi, and reading every article.

Here is what I found:

In the non-haredi media, there has been not a word about haredim from the perspective of the Eli Cohen campaign. Not anything negative and not anything positive. he talks about the city, proper administration, his plans, his "5 mems", his political activities, etc. Nothing about the haredim, nothing about the need to stop them, nothign about them taking over, nothing about closing their schools and stopping their funding - all those claims are fictitious, because he never says any such things. The people making these claims might be good prophets and are predicting the future, despite the lack of any such statements, but they are not based on the reality painted in the non-haredi media.

In the haredi media, there have been regular articles and interviews claiming that Eli Cohen is anti-haredi. Most of the time any "proof" is included, it is using quotes from Naftali Bennet rather than from Eli Cohen. Moshe Abutbol also regularly claims that he is connected to the people and running a clean, quiet campaign while Eli Cohen is anti-haredi and is full of hatred. The haredi media attacks Eli Cohen as being anti-haredi, and they attack him for his anti-haredi campaign and his soon to be anti-haredi campaign. Open the past 3 weeks of Chadash and see for yourself. Mishpacha has stayed away from the details, and focuses more on the haredi parties. Kol Hai and Kol BeRama interviews are full of such attacks with regularity.

My conclusion is that the anti-haredi campaign is one that is being fictitiously made up by Moshe Abutbol and the haredi media in order to rile up things in his favor, to motivate haredim to not be complacent, and to try to prevent haredim from supporting Eli Cohen.

An example of this is this most-recent interview on Radio Kol Hai with Moshe Abutbol. Watch and listen for yourself. On the one hand I am not sure what he means when he calls himself a "street cat", and I am unimpressed when he denigrates degrees and management experience as if saying that is a fault - true it might not be necessary for public service, but it is not a fault. On the other hand, Kahn asks about whether the campaign will deteriorate to anti-haredi attacks. Abutbol says it definitely will, and the other side will rile things up to vote against the torani candidate... Funnily enough, shortly after that in the same interview Abutbol goes on to talk about haredi rabbonim supporting him and it being a chilul hashem to support a secular candidate - he himself becomes divisive about the issue, after he attacks Eli Cohen for being the one to turn it into an issue!

Eli Cohen has not made this election into an issue of haredim vs general. Eli Cohen has only spoken about the issues - how his opponent has failed on various aspects of city management, and what his plans are for the future of city management. Moshe Abutbol has.mostly spoken about haredi vs general, he has accused his opponent wrongly of doing just that, and only recently has he started talking about his plans for the future/

Again, surely Eli Cohen is not perfect, and surely his plans for the future are not perfect and could be debated. He is not anti-haredi. I have no problem is someone wants to vote Moshe Abutbol because that person likes him, thinks he has done a great job, thinks he will do a great job, or for any other reason that might make a person want to vote for him. Don't just vote for him though because he says Eli Cohen is anti-haredi.

And you do not need to take my word for it. You can meet Eli Cohen yourself, ask him all your questions, question him on his plans and what he will do or won't do for the haredi community and for Bet Shemesh in general, and decide for yourself. Find a chug bayit to go to, and see for yourself if he is anti-haredi or not. Contact me, and I can try to arrange a meeting, if you prefer to talk more privately with him. Go to one of his events where he is talking to tens or hundreds of his non-haredi supporters and hear him not say one bad word, and even a few positive ones, about the haredi community - I have heard him say such things to non-haredi crowds many times.


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  1. The bottom line is that Moshe Abutbol does not respect the intelligence of Bet Shemesh residents.

    Does he really think that the playgrounds NOW make him a good mayor? Or that cleaning up NOW will convince us to forget his inept past? Or that making this election into a Charedim vs Non charedim will make us vote for him out of fear?

    I hope that others like me see right through his silly games.

    If we don't, however, and he can truly pull the wool over the eyes of the "sheep" of this city...

    then we truly deserve the bleak future that another 5 years of Moshe Abutbol will bring.

  2. Any chance of getting this, or something similar, published in Chadash, Mishpacha, etc?

  3. Rafi - isn't it true that Eli's campaign from day one has been polling the "hareidi" vote versus the "non-haredi" vote - dividing the city and essentially messaging to the public that "we" don't need the "hareidim" to win. I remember ads on the back of buses with polling graphs with such a message.
    That seems to be mentioning Hareidim and quite divisively as well. It seems that Eli started and Abutbul is just continuing the conversation.

    1. first of all, let me say that I am not privy to the campaign strategy and all the inner workings of the campaign. anything I say is my own logic/conjecture.thoughts..

      2nd, I have not seen any polls, and I am told there havent been any, since the sekker finished. I am told that will change soon, but I am not privy to any new polls in the last 4 weeks or so.

      3rd, perhaps the answer is as someone said, that it was a mistake. but I see it differently (again, just my opinion), the sekker was specifically designed to be the Zionist camp, and not inclusive of the haredi camp. The theory, I think, was that even if Abutbol should get every single haredi vote, the non-haredi vote should go to a single candidate and that candidate should be determined by a sekker. Those ads were before the sekker trying to influence people to vote for him in the sekker, which had that goal in mind! specifically to show the difference between each candidate in how many votes he could gather against the haredi vote for Abutbol. So those polls, I think, were designed specifically to match the goals of the sekker.

  4. The focus of the negative campaign is primarily focused on the Hebrew speaking vote, (Chadash should be a good barometer of this), so I think you are preaching to the choir here. This should be published in Hebrew blogs, Chadrei Chareidim, etc.

    1. it should really be in Hebrew too, you are right. however it is not preaching to the choir. there is a significant "anglo" sector, at least in RBS A, that is aligned with Abutbol and locally only reads Chadash (the English side), and they can benefit from the ideas I presented...

  5. It seems clear to me that Eli Cohen's campaign's undertone is anti Haredi.
    His slogan "Bet Shemesh is returning to its residents" is appealing to those who want to take back the city from the non- residents who have captured it.
    And who must it be taken back from- obviously those dark Haredi forces who are not the true Bet Shemesh residents.
    Bet Shemesh is a primary front in the religious war in Israel. Supporting Eli Cohen is definitely siding against the Haredim- just like in the national elections supporting Habayit Hayehudi (with hindsight) was an anti- Haredi vote

  6. It is shame that you write anonymously. Eli has made it crystal clear that his plan is to return the city to the citizens - and that means all the citizens. He has been crystal clear that it is completely unacceptable that Haredi schools learn in sub-standard caravans charading as schools, that Haredi (or any neighbourhood) should suffer from chronic lack of hygiene and basic public health, a particular complaint in RBS. Unless you have a somewhat negative view of Tov, it is almost amusing to consider Eli as anti Haredi, otherwise why would Aharon Solomon et al be actively supporting him.
    This election is not about Haredi vs non-Haredi (even though Abutbol is desperate to make it so), and Eli is as much Anti-Haredi as I am the Queen of England.


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