There's so, so much more to add about this, but it's a good start.
The forerunner of what would become David Ben Gurion’s Labour party, the Mapai, together with the Jewish Agency and the Haganah (which morphed into the IDF, upon Ben Gurion announcing the State of Israel’s Independence in 1948) were using intimidation, economic sanctions, media propaganda and even violent tactics against any people it viewed as ‘the enemy’ even before the State was founded.
In 1924, the so-called ‘ultra’ orthodox public figure and poet, Jacob de Haan was assassinated by gunmen in the heart of Jerusalem. The usual public cover-up ensued at the time, but many decades later, most historians came to believe that De Haan had been murdered by the Haganah, on the orders of Izhak Ben-Zvi - who later became the second President of Israel.
At that point, Moshe Beilinson, a leading figure in the Israeli Labour Party and a prominent journalist wrote: “Let not the banner of the movement be stained, neither with the blood of the innocent nor with the blood of the guilty; otherwise, our movement will find itself in a very bad way, because blood leads to more blood. Blood is always avenged. Once we start moving in that direction, we can never know where it will end.”
Sadly, the country’s secular leadership believed in maintaining their control of the country at all costs, even if that meant using the sorts of tactics normally reserved for the mafia and the worst type of despotic regimes. After the murder of De Haan, the secular Israeli leaders continued to hone their tools of the trade, until they’d turned it into a fine art:
First, they’d use the State owned and funded media to put across whatever propaganda was deemed necessary to soften the masses up and turn the public against whichever particular ‘enemy’ happened to be in the government’s sites at that point. Then, they’d move in for the kill, which could include punitive economic sanctions, arrest and even kidnap, and if they could get away with it, murdering the opposition in cold blood.
At the beginning of the State of Israel, the country’s public religious figures were few and far between, and with the notable exception of De Haan, the state-owned media and secular elites were far more worried about the threat posed by people like Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menacham Begin.
Ben Gurion publically likened Jabotinsky to Hitler (!), and waged a vicious war against him and his political allies in the Israeli media that slanderously portrayed them as violent-prone murderers on a par with the Nazis. (In 1933, Davar, the Labour Union’s official paper at that time had a headline screaming: “Cast off the filthy clothes, Hitler’s uniform,” because the Beitar uniform was brown...)
Later that same year, one of the Labour Party’s up-and-coming figures, Dr Chaim Arlozorov, was shot and killed while taking a late-night stroll by the beachfront in Tel Aviv with his wife. Despite the fact that two Arabs from Jaffa, Abdul Majd al -Hindi and Issa Darwish al-Abraz publicly boasted of murdering him, Mapai and the Hagana immediately pinned the murder on their political opponents in the Beitar movement, and used their newspapers and radio broadcasts to whip up murderous hatred against this new ‘enemy’.
At the time that Rav Berland was born there in 1937, ‘Red Haifa’, was known as the capital of the Mapai’s activities, and the city had a group of blue-shirted, violent, government-sponsored bullies called the ‘Order Brigade’ who would go around beating up anyone who publicly challenged the Labour Party’s workers’ union, the Histadrut. Their activities were so disturbing that Ben Gurion’s good friend, Berl Katznelson, quit the Labour Party’s central committee, to protest its disturbing slide into using violence to achieve its political ends.
In his resignation letter, Katznelson wrote: “There can be no compromise between my outlook and the slippery slope our movement is descending, without brakes.”
In another theme from that time that has carried over into our era, the ruling Jewish secular elites were also much more interesting in garnering honour and kudos from the nations of the world than fighting for or protecting Jewish life.
In June 1938, an Irgun fighter called Shlomo Ben-Yosef was sentenced to death by the British authorities for an abortive ambush that didn’t hurt anyone. Ben Gurion refused to appeal to the British for clemency on behalf of his fellow Jew, stating that no self-respecting government could do such a thing. Ben-Yosef went to the gallows.
A few decades later, one Israeli government after another refused to ask the Americans for clemency for Jonathan Pollard, kept in prison for decades after being convicted of spying for Israel, presumably for the same sort of reasons.
Later, the Labour party’s policy of appeasement to the British and cowardice vis-à-vis the Arabs, who were daily raising the stakes and murdering and attacking more and more Jews, steadily drove more and more of the nation’s frustrated young Jews into the active resistance embodied by the Irgun and the Lehi underground resistance organisations. (Ben Gurion famously claimed that he and his colleagues were pursuing a more grown-up 'diplomatic' solution to Israel's problems. Again, plus ca change.)
As the Irgun became and more of a force to be reckoned with, Ben Gurion and his cronies hit on a new way to rid the country of these ‘enemies’: they’d inform on them to the British government. He announced: “Unless we assist the [British] authorities and receive their help in return, we will not be able to root out the plague.”
“The plague”, as Ben Gurion called it were simply loyal Jews, including many holocaust survivors, who were trying to fight for the Jewish people, and for a Jewish state. But because they weren’t part of the secular elite’s ruling clique, they were designated for persecution and destruction.
850 Jews were handed over by the Labour party, the Hagana, and their other informants to the British authorities, in a purge that wouldn’t have been at all out of place in Stalin’s Russia. Many of these Jews were first tortured by Ben Gurion’s people, before being handed over to the British who normally deported them to a special prison camp in Kenya. This only stopped when the Israeli public became disgusted with all the informing on their fellow Jews to the unfriendly and often murderously ruthless goyish authorities.
(As a side note, former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek was one of the biggest British informers at this time, something that the secular Israeli government and media successfully covered up for many long decades afterwards.)
In 1948, the ruling elites descended yet another rung, when they started openly kidnapping, torturing and even executing other Jews, simply because they belonged to a different political party, or had different ideas about how the country should be run.
Once again, the Haganah and the Israeli Government’s nascent ‘intelligence agency’ were the key players in this terrible saga, where masked man would routinely show up at ‘enemy’ homes (who were invariably members of the Irgun and Lehi underground resistance organisations), drag their Jewish prey off to interrogation houses, and then beat the daylights out of them, inject them with truth serum, and torture them in a variety of other ways including burning their skin and forcibly extracting their teeth.
On a few occasions, they even killed their Jewish captives, most notably on January 12, 1948, when they murdered a 21 year Irgun fighter named Yedidya Segal in Haifa. On June 22, 1948, the infamous order was given by David Ben Gurion to sink the Altalena, carrying much-needed weapons for the ongoing fight against the Arabs in Jerusalem, as is approached to dock on the beach in Tel Aviv, and to fire on its Irgun crew - even after they’d raised a white flag and were trying to swim to safety.
A few months later on June 30, 1948, the same people behind Yedidya Segal’s murder summarily executed Meir Tubiansky, a Haganah man of 20 years’ standing who they falsely suspected of treason. (A few days’ later, it was proven that Tubiansky was completely innocent, so Ben Gurion was forced to issue an apology to his widow.)
The people involved in these crimes either got off scot-free, as the whole matter was quickly covered up by the government, or if the pressure became too great, ‘mock trials’ were held to appease the public, with ridiculously lenient penalties. For example, Isser Be’eri, the head of the nascent military intelligence agency who’d ordered Tubiansky’s execution despite no evidence was given a token half a day in prison.
Even before the State had really been born, the habit of trying to ‘eliminate’ whoever Israel’s secular elites deemed to be an enemy, by any means possible, had become ingrained.
Fast forward a few years, and as the secular government in Israel started to view the religious world as an increasing threat to the way it wanted to govern the country, it’s ‘enemies’ shifted away from the former Irgun fighters that were now respectable members of the Knesset and Arabs like Palestinian terrorist-in-chief Yasser Arafat, towards religious Jews, ‘settlers’ and rabbis who believed in the primacy of the Torah.
Over the years, the secular elites in the Israeli government, army, media, and other positions of authority including the Israeli police and judiciary have only continued to hone their skills of first using the media to perform a character assassination of whichever ‘enemy’ is in their sites, before moving on to the ‘elimination’ stage.
When the threat is perceived to be so great and direct, then assassination still tops the bill when it comes to dealing with ‘the enemy’. But the usual route these days is to falsely accuse these ‘enemies of the State’ with whatever crime they can plausibly concoct (in concert with blackening their name in the media), and to then press for lengthy jail sentences in the harshest of conditions.
This is not the time or place to go into detailed expositions of each individual case, but the secular elites in Israel have used character assassination, libels, corrupt judicial practices, arrest and even violence to rid themselves of hundreds, if not thousands of ‘enemies’ down the years - all Jews, who’s main crime was that they didn’t subscribe to the ideals and beliefs cherished by these same secular elites.
Rav Berland is by no means the first person, or even the first holy rabbi, to have been designated an ‘enemy’ of the State of Israel. But one of the aims of him going into exile, and agreeing to the humiliation and terrible suffering of the past three and a half years is undoubtedly that he should break the spiritual force of the violent, morally-corrupt and even murderous secular elites in Israel.
For a hundred years already, these people and their ideological descendants have designated God, the Torah, and the people who kept the commandments as the ‘enemy’. We need a new paradigm in Israel, and it can't come soon enough.