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Former Shas leader goes to jail
By NAOMI SEGAL
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
September 5, 2000
man who galvanized Israel’s working-class Sephardi community
into a political force is serving a three-year jail sentence
for taking bribes.
Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri was surrounded by tens of
thousands of supporters when he reported to a prison detention
Deri (center, hand on chest), former leader of the Sephardi Shas
Party, with Rabbi Uri Zohar, left, and David
Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,
right, listens as a shofar is blown shortly before
Deri entered a prison near Tel Aviv on Sunday.
Sephardi Jews believe Deri, who began serving his
three-year jail sentence for bribery, is being
scapegoated because of his Sephardi background.
a solidarity rally organized at the entrance to the Nitzan
detention facility in central Israel, Deri told an estimated
crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 supporters that he accepts the jail
sentence with love.
tell you I will soon enter these walls with a happy heart
because I accept with happiness the will of the Holy One,
blessed be he,” Deri told the crowd.
was ordered by Israel’s Supreme Court last week to begin
serving a three-year jail sentence for accepting $60,000 in
bribes. The court had rejected his appeal of the conviction
and a request to begin serving after the High Holidays, which
begin at the end of September.
has insisted he’s innocent, claiming his conviction was
ethnically motivated. In remarks on Shas radio stations the
previous night, Deri reiterated his charge that he is the
victim of persecution by the Ashkenazi, left-wing
ruling group had one sacred objective—to put Aryeh Deri in
jail,” Deri said.
also claimed that “80 percent of the judges” and
prosecutors are supporters of the left-wing Meretz Party.
message was carried by Shas supporters at the solidarity
rally, who waved signs reading “Free Deri” and “The
Revolution Will Not Be Stopped.” In the skies above them, a
counterdemonstration took place in the form of a motorized
paraglider that flew over the rally, the words “Number One
Thief” written on the sail.
were on alert for possible violence by Shas supporters. With
the exception of some incidents of rock-throwing at police and
journalists, the activists apparently heeded an appeal from
leaders of the fervently Orthodox party to act with restraint.
incarceration was a focal point for social tensions that have
simmered throughout the summer. Reflecting the ongoing
religious-secular rift in Israeli society, the conflict
recently heated up over remarks made by Shas leaders about the
Holocaust and attacks on the legal system.
in turn sparked a secular outcry, including a call by some
intellectuals for creation of a Shas-free, secular “New
Jerusalem on Sunday, members of kibbutz youth movements held a
pro-democracy vigil outside the Supreme Court building.
tensions also take place against the backdrop of Israeli
coalition politics and the faltering peace process.
pulled out of the government in July in protest over the Camp
David summit, as well as what it termed as Prime Minister Ehud
Barak’s “humiliating” treatment of the party.
of Shas counter that Barak had heeded most of the party’s
demands. They also note that as the third-largest faction in
the Knesset with 17 members, Shas cannot try to present itself
as a downtrodden political entity.
commentators have suggested that when two other right-wing
parties pulled out of the government, Shas preferred not to
risk the political uncertainty of remaining aligned with Barak
and peace concessions that would be hard to sell to hawkish
the latest move connected with this issue, the Israeli Cabinet
on Sunday approved the dismantling of the Ministry of
Religious Affairs and the distribution of its power to various
government ministries and local authorities.
Religious Affairs Minister Yossi Beilin, who has proposed the
idea, said it was intended to separate politics from religious
incarceration raises questions over the political future of
Shas, which is divided by internal power struggles between
those loyal to Deri and those to party’s current leader, Eli
Deri, the jailed leader’s sister-in-law, told Israel Army
Radio on Sunday that it was clear Deri would return to some
position of leadership after he completes his sentence. “I
don’t know what kind of position, but it is clear to me he
will hold a leadership position, perhaps even greater than any
he has held before,” she said.
Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.