Thursday, 24 October 2013

Bet Shemesh - We Were Robbed

200 fake IDs seized in Beit Shemesh to use in voter fraud.


I was at a wedding on Monday night, and sat with some fine, educated and well informed people from Efrat.

I started to discuss the next day's municipal election in Bet Shemesh.

"Are the elections tomorrow?" he asked me. It transpired that neither he nor his wife were even aware of Municipal Domesday, which was happening the following day...

In many small town elections, a main contention might be whether to have a swimming pool, or a tennis court. Should certain streets be turned into pedestrian-only zones...and other such day-to-day important mundanities.

Here in Bet Shemesh the contentious issues seemed to mainly resolve around G-d and godliness.

That's rather a Biggy, and therefore, rather than being a gentlemanly contest between parties for seats on the town council, it resembled jihad.

Try as the non-Chareidi candidate, Eli Cohen, might, to address regular municipal issues, such as parks, cleanliness, safety, education, cultural events and transport....the ever-present issue was really that Eli Cohen's chosen lifestyle is sephardi traditional, whereas the incumbent mayor,Moshe Abutbol, is sephardi ultra-orthodox.

Beit Shemesh has a history of religious flare-ups and civil disturbance, ever since thousands of ultra-orthodox families started to move into the traditional sephardi town, about twenty years ago.

Today, the town of 80,000 residents is split evenly between ultra-orthodox residents, and "miscellaneous others" (National Religious, traditional sephardim, secular, Ethiopians, Russians..).

The ultra-orthodox campaign used highly charged language and tactics - blessings and curses (and lies) dispensed by rabbis from pulpits, holocaust imagery in political adverts, slurs of "Nazis!" hurled at anyone non-chareidi in the streets, production & use of fraudulent rabbinical approbations, criminal use of fraudulent ID cards, cheating during the voting process, stone-throwing at a political opponent, illegal use of educational facilities and institutions, illegal use of child labour, importing and paying national religiously dressed school-kids to appear to support the chareidi candidate, as well as the more humdrum pathological smearing and lying about the competition and provable facts.

Perhaps the most startling chareidi innovation of this election was the 'permit/heter' issued to Abutbol supporters to desecrate the holy shabbos - such as by tearing down 'enemy' banners and materials after candle-lighting on Friday nights.

These and many other outrageous behaviours were not occasional aberrations, but were an intrinsic part of the ultra-orthodox campaign.

The message to me was clear - in a Holy War, all tactics are permissible.

Indeed, in the main rabbinical approbation (Kol Korei) of the campaign, signed by over 20 leading chareidi rabbonim, both national and local, which was republished ad-nauseam, stated that supporting Abutbol and the "Chen" Agudat Yisrael party, was a mitzva (commandment) and that not voting, or voting for someone else, or another list, was an aveira (sin against the Torah).

Ominously, the document's call to action instructed the public to use "all means possible" to influence people to vote for Abutbol +  Chen list. Although this may have been seen as purely rhetorical - it was clearly interpreted as a carte blanche to engage in criminal and unethical activities for The Greater Cause.

The end results of this filthy campaign, published today (following the soldiers' vote count) showed an Abutbol victory by around 1000 votes (out of 50,000 registered voters).

[Around 500 were accounted for by the maverick 'spoiler' non-chareidi Meir Balayish - the third no-hope candidate in the mayoral race].

The 1000 votes can surely be explained by the criminal/illegal elements - for example, around 250 ID's were discovered by police as a voting scam (8 people arrested, so far); countless others were also presumably used. Thousands of voters were coerced, blackmailed, misled and intimidated into voting Abutbol.

I am willing to be part of a losing team - particularly one which loses by fighting cleanly and with integrity.  Indeed, as a member of the National Religious camp I have got used to this role - as a group, we endeavour to play straight, and this often puts us at a disadvantage in the cynical rough-and-tumble of the the 'real world'.

However, I am not willing to be a victim of a crime.

Eli Cohen supporters, and other citizens who do not approve of the behaviour they witnessed, in the streets, in the communal institutions and in the voting stations - have appealed to the Supreme Court to over-rule the election results.

There is therefore an urgent call for people (like you and me!) to step forward to give testimony, provide photos, videos and other evidence of law-breaking and unethical behaviour. Contact this email address with your first-hand (no hearsay!) information: elicohenmayor@gmail.com

There is a very real chance for the Bet Shemesh election results to be over-ruled. Re-running local elections is actually part of the Israel system - used throughout the country when no one candidate has received more than 40% of the votes. These re-elections are planned for 5th November.

Beit Shemesh should also be required to re-run the election, this time under close supervision by the national government and law enforcement forces.

Moshe Abutbul and his campaign hustlers resorted to the lowest behaviours, in the Highest of Names.

I simply don't buy it that G-d wants us to win elections by lawlessness, corruption and systematic dishonesty.

At this point, I am rather envious of my friends in Efrat.

19 comments:

  1. Are there any precedents for re-running an election due to provable but unquantifiable allegations of fraud?

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  2. David - I find it rather strange that you mention no wrong doing no the part of the Cohen campaign. If anything it was even worse. Individuals who supported Abutbul on facebook were insulted, abused, and in some cases even their businesses and livelihood threatened. The Cohen campaign also falsified statistics to create the false impression that the city was mismanaged. But even worse - Naftali Bennett, and Eli Cohen made statements telling people that Bet Shemesh would cease to exist if they didn't vote for Cohen. Abutbul was demonized as being a criminal, without proper evidence whatsoever. Gross misrepresentation in imagery, and bullying were just some of the ways the Cohen camp gained support. But perhaps the worst still - I received a post stating that organizations like Magen would shut down if Cohen did not win. Couple that to the Lemaan Achai association and you have a campaign that used some of the lowest tactics available to gain votes. You have no right to claim they have moral high ground.

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    1. Ariel, oops I mean Really,

      You and others keep on bringing up the low down side to the Cohen campaign, threats to person and parnassa and yet can't bring a shred of proof.

      Please produce all of these pieces of material so that the truth can come out.

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  3. Dear Really

    I am not aware of these (new to me) allegations about the "even worse" Eli Cohen campaign.

    The one allegation that did come to my attention was regarding a rumour that Moshe Montag had threatened to "close down Lema'an Achai".

    At the time, I thought this sounded a peculiar/unlikely thing for Montag to say. The iriya can only 'close down' an organization by withdrawing funding. However, the bet Shemesh Iriya (unfortunately) doesn't fund any of Lema'an Achai's activities!! So it's a threat without teeth.

    The reported comment was subsequently amended to be referring to Lema'an Achai's building site, which is indeed vulnerable to actions by the Iriya, and so makes more sense.

    The best response to that rumour is for Lema'an Achai supporters to step forward now with generous pledges and donations to get the Lema'an Achai Center built!!

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  4. Go for it, Beit Shemesh! If you don't have a re-run, Beit Shemesh will end up as dysfunctional as Bnei Braq of the 1980s with Meah Shearim of the 1950s taking over the whole town. Once people move into Beit Shemesh Gimmel there will be no turning back.

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  5. David - from your response it's easy to see that you actually have no idea what went on here the past two weeks. I would suggest you research the matter further before publishing such a one sided post.

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    1. For "the past two weeks" I have been mainly in Ramat Beit Shemesh, but also went door-to-door in old Beit Shemesh.
      I have probably spoken with 1000 people.
      I have not heard your allegations against Eli Cohen's campaign prior to your posting.
      Really - perhaps you should look up from Chadash, and get out and about too?

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  6. Cohen screwed himself. After the way he ousted Bloch, you don't know how many of her hardcore supporters really voted inside that election booth. This isn't stated as fact but rather common sense. If I was a major Bloch supporter, I would not have voted for anyone. Not Abutbol, not Belyaish and certainly not Cohen.

    As for the results and potential fraud:

    Abutbol didn't win by "around 1000" votes. He won by 1,800 more votes than Cohen which doesn't seem like a big difference but relative to the number of voters, "around 1000" and 1,800 is a HUGE difference. Even with 1,000 or even 1,500 votes being fraudulent, Cohen STILL loses.

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    1. You don't know how many Bloch supported were angry with Cohen. But having said that, the general consensus publicly was that while they were annoyed, they were going to unite behind Cohen to avoid another five years of the incumbent.

      Regarding the fraud: I don't know the numbers, but taking your assumption of 1800 difference between the candidates, if I were a judge in the Supreme Court and I found that 1500 votes for the incumbent were fraudulent, I'd assume there was at least a possibility of more and call for a new vote.

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    2. Final results, published by the Ministry of Interior, show a difference of 924 votes between Abutbol and Cohen.

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  7. You sound like a sore loser and someone who is not seeing reality.

    The Eli Cohen campaign and certainly the feeling in the street (and signs) was clearly based on hate and a mission as a last chance to save the city from the Haredim. This is clear sinat chinam. They also had false accusations, put up signs in illegal locations, tore down signs, littered the streets, had noisy car processions ....

    You write: "as a member of the National Religious camp I have got used to this role - as a group, we endeavour to play straight"
    I don't think Aliza Bloch and her followers would say that they play straight. Seems like the national religious camp DO have their share of stab in the back and cheap politics.

    I openly admit that the Abutbol followers had their share of hateful campaigning. And I strongly deplore that. But for a guy that thinks he represents "tzedek" you have to see all sides. "Tzedek" is not just based on attacking the flaws of the charedim. Everyone should preferably fix themselves and their own camp first, and minimally be honest and equally see the problems on both sides.

    May we all learn to live together, respect each other and build shalom and reut.

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  8. David, You make a lot of accusations with no proof. As of this minute, the police never said the fraudelent ids uncovered were used for voting purposes. Did you hire the mosad to uncover secret info that the police isnt privy to? If not, how can u say the campaign was involved. That is pure motzei shemra.
    Illegal use of educational instituitions? 2 board members of a school express to their parents that they owe hakarat hatov to the present admin and you call that illegal. The only illegal thing about that was the parents who called misrad hachinuch to report the instituition. I cna guarantee you that if th eschool would have said vote Eli Cohen, those same parents would not have reported the school. Sore losers!
    As for Rabbis at pulpits, I was in a few dati leumi shuls before elections and the poster telling people to vote for eli cohen and which was signed by Dati leumi Rabbis was proudly displayed. Hmmn. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander.
    You say 1000's of voters were coerced, blackmailed or misled. Pretty strong allegations. Where's the proof. No one blackmailed me. I saw both candidates and made a choice. When u go into the polling booth, there is no vaad hatzniyut watching which ballot goes in.
    Please dont pretend that the campaign was about parks and cleaner streets. The Eli Cohen campaign made it very clear from the beginning.Only Eli Cohen can beat the Hareidim. Bennet said it clearly-This is a national fight for the zionist parties. At the rally last week, a certain sign said: "I am a zionist, you are a weirdo". Hmmn, sounds like clean streets and parks are what he was upset about.....
    Talking about fraudelent, I saw the Tov signs had R. Leventhals picture based in the center of the photo. That led me to believe he was the head of the party. I just found out he wasnt. It was a trick to try to entice anglos to vote tov. Thats called trickery in my book.
    The reason Lemain achai is dragged in to all this is because you and now R. Leventhal get involved in open politicking which then exposes the charity to peoples critisicism of you or him to spill over to their lack of support of it. Maybe you should keep leman achai out of the poilitical spotlight or turn it over to someone who is apolitically active?
    By the way, when I was in the matnas on election day, awaiting my turn to cast my vote, most of the people in line were voting for eli cohen and made their point loud and obnoxiously. They were making jokes about Abutbols campaign, etc.. I call that illegal as you cant campaign for a candidate in or around an election spot. They were intimidating me a and a few other people(I didnt let them know who I was voting for as not to be attacked or harassed as they were angry about their positions.
    I also saw outside the matnas, a knitted kippa wearer (Eli Cohen shirt on)yelling at another knitted kippa wearer who was wearing an abutbol shirt. He told him to go home and that he didnt live here and had no right to tell people who to vote for if he didnt live in Bet Shemesh. Hmmn, no right to come to bet shemesh to express his views. Sounds very anti-democratic to me.....................

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    1. Anonymous - It would really require a new article to address all the half- and un-truths in your comment.

      Given the scope of comments - I'll just respond to your first point.

      Your claim that one would need to have inside Mossad (they're the international Israeli intelligence service - not the internal one, BTW) information to have worked out that the 250 ID's found in RBS on the election day was in any way connected to the election...

      I don't claim to have any privileged information.

      I suggest you google "Beit Shemesh election fraud IDs", and you'll find plenty of reports in all the national press about the stolen IDs found in a police bust in Beit Shemesh, which were part of a major election rigging operation.

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  9. Disappointed by the mix of truth, unproven allegations, generalizations, and out-of.contexts. if there is such a thing as a kosher-style restaurant, this represents truth-style blogging. One example' "throwing stones at political opppnents." I only ever heard of the late-nite stone throw at avrohom l. The fact that it happened once, in a situation in which some young worker became frustrated at a personal level over someone taking photos of him, and that we dont even know which side he took politically, and the fact that the action was not planned by anyone, nor seemingly politically motivated, does not stop you from using terminology that paints a picture of widespread stonethrowong at every corner by folks with abubtbul t.shirts. ditto for so much else of what you wrote. Pity you didn't focus on lemaan achai, because you have lost support from at least one person .

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    1. Use of words like thousands and countless without justification further adds to the truth-style nature of your hate-filled posting. Countless? Really?

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    2. The exact number of fraudulent votes is unknown and, probably, unknowable.
      What is a fact is there was a pattern of criminality and illegality - there are reports from several balloting stations that voting slips were taken away, were defaced, that voters' identities were stolen and of course the undergoing police and now criminal court case involving hundreds of ID's.
      "Countless" is therefore an adjective which is quite literally true. As for thousands - yes, indeed, the cases seem to represent various scams, involving "thousands" of votes. If there are more accurate numbers available to you, please let me (and, more importantly, the police) know!

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    3. Hi Mark L - thank you for your feedback.
      In light of your observation, I have changed the stone throwing incident to the singular.
      I concede the point!
      As for (apparently)trying to shut me up about election fraud in Beit Shemesh, by bringing Lema'an Achai into the discussion - sorry "Mark" - I suggest your support for Lema'an Achai's help for the needy of this city should not be contingent on having local election fraud covered up. "Ma Hakesher?"

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  10. To connect Lema'an Achai to politics is a low and dubious tactic.

    Rabbi Leventhal would have made a good public servant. So what if he happens to run Lema'an Achai.

    All of the CHEN people are very active with local tzedaka organizations as well (and this was used in their descriptions). Why wouldn't you criticize that as well?

    It has also become well known that other community tzedaka heads were involved in all aspects of the Abutbol campaign. Should those tzedakos be "punished"?

    The bottom line is that there is a serious double standard. Those who can't separate helping others and their political views should take a long, hard look in the mirror.

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  11. Eli Cohen's "clean" campaign.....
    http://electionsbetshemesh.wordpress.com/

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