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Branding liberal converts a demographic threat, Haredi campaigns get second wind

12 9 31

This week’s High Court of Justice ruling on non-Orthodox conversions has, it seems, given new life to the flailing campaigns of the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Both parties are flagging in polls amid widespread anger among Haredi voters at the government’s handling of the pandemic, and especially at what many Haredi Israelis view as the government’s unfair singling out of their community for criticism over widespread social-distancing violations.

United Torah Judaism, which represents the Ashkenazi part of the Haredi community, has dropped in polls to six seats, down from seven and eight seats over the past three elections. Shas, UTJ’s Sephardi counterpart, has seen polls showing it at seven seats, down from the eight and nine it won in the last three races.

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The drop in the polls probably reflects more than a statistical blip. A poll earlier this week for the Kol Hai radio station found that just 49 percent of self-described Haredi Israelis intended to vote for UTJ, down from 66% a year ago. Nearly a third, 30% of those who defined themselves as “Hasidic” said they’d vote instead for the far-right socially-conservative Religious Zionism party.

That’s a single poll, a data point that can’t stand on its own as evidence of a dramatic shift. But coupled with the drop in the major mainstream polls, it begins to paint a worrying picture for the Haredi parties. United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni with Interior Minister Aryeh Deri at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on February 27, 2018. (Flash90)

Haredi MKs, at any rate, believe the drop is real.

So it was that UTJ opened a Whatsapp group for political reporters this week – a first for the internet-shy party – to put out a campaign video that claimed that Reform Jewish communities think dogs are Jews.

Not to be outdone, Shas then issued campaign posters and offered interviews by party leaders in which they claimed that the Reform movement planned to convert tens of thousands of migrant workers and asylum seekers, granting them citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return.

UTJ upped the ante on Thursday, with chairman MK Moshe Gafni doubling down on the dog video and connecting it to the asylum seekers.........

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