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Israel's Shin Bet Security Service Deserves Thanks, Not Slurs

Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler
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Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman at the Knesset, 2017
Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman at the Knesset, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Nehemia Shtrasler
Nehemia Shtrasler

They are just tracking corona patients’ cell phones, to identify those in their vicinity during the two weeks prior to the diagnosis, and yet have been accused of the worst crimes.

Will Israel's cyber spies let Bibi use coronavirus to kill democracy?Credit: Haaretz

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What hasn’t been said about the government’s decision to ask the Shin Bet for information on corona patients’ movements? That it’s the end of democracy, that it’s trampling individual rights, that we’ll all be under surveillance, that it’s spying on innocent people and that the story will end with the Shin Bet ruling our life.

The critics apparently didn’t notice that we’re in the throes of an acute emergency, and the criticism should have been reversed: Why didn’t they do it sooner? Every day that passes means more sick people and risk of death. Every hour means more dismissals and more unemployment. This must be stopped with unusual measures, like using emergency regulations.

All it comes down to is tracking corona patients’ mobile phones, to identify those who were in their vicinity in the two weeks prior to the disease’s discovery. This will enable calling those who sat next to them on the train or stood beside them in the supermarket to be tested. It’s happening now, that’s why the number of identified patients in rising. We must thank Nadav Argaman, the Shin Bet chief. who took the burden upon himself out of a responsibility to human lives. The criticism against him and against the decision is sour and outrageous.

Anat Guetta, chair of the Israel Securities Authority (ISA), speaks during an interview with Reuters in Jerusalem, May 7, 2019Credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

A run on the funds

No-one regrets an interview they don’t give, but it looks like Anat Guetta, the Israel Securities Authority chairwoman, doesn’t know this law. This week she gave an interview intended to calm stock market investors. She wanted to slow down the pace of redemptions from the trust funds, but said, “In extreme situations, perhaps we’ll get to a stage of stopping the redemptions.” Wow! Is that how to calm things down? Is that how to prevent panic?

Once the authority chairwoman says there’s a possibility to stop stock market trade, it means she’s afraid of the funds’ collapse, and is causing, with her own words, a “run on the funds.” Even an investor who didn’t think of selling and who doesn’t need the money now will say to herself or himself: “I’ll sell today, before the funds collapse and the stock exchange closes, I don’t want to be the last sucker who tries to pull out and can’t.”

It’s like the bank supervisor saying there’s one bank in danger of going bankrupt. The very announcement will make account owners run to the banks to get their money out and the banks will collapse. That’s why no bank supervisor would talk like that. Instead there’s Guetta. Luckily the public doesn’t take her seriously.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, also head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, at a press conference in Jerusalem, March 11, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

A devout time bomb

Despite the rise in the number of sick people in the ultra-Orthodox community, people there don’t quite believe in corona yet. There’s fate, there’s God and there’s the Torah to protect us. So we saw the wedding in Beit Shemesh, 1,000 people dancing with delight. And that’s also what’s happening in Bnei Brak, despite the restrictions. Weddings are being held in houses, yards and streets, with large crowds and indifference to the coronavirus.

So it is in yeshivas as well. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky said Torah study must continue, and the yeshivas remain open. Afterward he was forced to agree that studies would be held in classrooms of 10 people. On Wednesday an order was issued to close the yeshivas and study rooms altogether. Will that really happen?

And there’s also a story appearing here for the first time – about men’s ritual baths. The Religious Affairs Ministry ordered them closed a few days ago for fear of corona infection. The order was obeyed for barely two days. Under pressure from the Hasidim, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman ordered them reopened, with a limit on the bathers’ number.

However, in Bnei Brak they don’t exactly adhere to the restrictions. This is a time bomb, which will hurt the ultra-Orthodox first, then all of Israel.

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