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The methods of harassment and persecution used by the ultra-Orthodox organization Yad L'Achim against innocent, law-abiding Israeli citizens goes beyond the limits of legitimate activity by a civilian body and borders on unlawful. The organization, which has deployed a dense net of activists across the country and the world, is proud of "rescuing" Jewish men, women and children from the "claws" of other faiths and belief systems using coercive and dubious tactics.

Particularly serious is the fact - revealed by Yuval Azoulay in the October 2 edition of the Hebrew-language Haaretz Magazine - that behind the threats, the spreading of harmful rumors and harassment are not only the thugs of Yad L'Achim, but top Interior Ministry officials.

The officials, including Amos Arbel, head of the Population Administration in Tel Aviv, received information on the private lives of individuals described as "members of a messianic cult." On the pretext of counteracting "missionaries" who had "acted against the Jewish people," these officials trampled on people's basic rights.

It's hard to believe - a government agency tasked with delivering public services to citizens (mainly granting permits) is persecuting people for their opinions and beliefs while leaning on an extremist, violent organization. The infuriating interrogation of the university student Barbara Ludwig for alleged missionary work and the fact that her personal file (which was supposed to be classified) was transferred to Yad L'Achim is a blatant violation of Israel's Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty.

The organization's shady links with the establishment are not new - for years, its activists have provided information to rabbinical courts seeking to stick their hands into sensitive cases at the Social Affairs Ministry. More than once the group has enjoyed the assistance of ultra-Orthodox politicians such as Menachem Porush, who as deputy social affairs minister in 1991 wrote to a court pleading for mercy toward the group's activists who had kidnapped an orphan from relatives who were "not religious enough." But the Interior Ministry employees' collaboration with the group outdoes even that abhorrent precedent.

The government must call its employees to order immediately, to explain to Interior Minister Eli Yishai that he is not responsible for maintaining the purity of the Jewish race according to the formula of ultra-Orthodox zealots, and that any collaboration with Yad L'Achim is, in effect, a grave instance of persecution.