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Tag: Shlomo Benizri

Hate Crime in Tel Aviv

It pains us to write this, but it seems Israel was the victim of a hate crime last night. A shooter, dressed in black and armed with a pistol, burst into a center for gay youth and opened fire. He killed 2, critically injured another 2 who are now fighting for their lives, while the rest of the injured are in hospitals near central Tel Aviv. It appears it was well planned, the alleged murderer perpetrating the attack on what was supposed to be a secret meeting point for gay youth looking for mutual communal support, and quickly escaping. The shooter is still at large.

Nir Katz

The dead are Nir Katz, 26, (left) and Liz Troubishi, 17. The meeting place was for 14-21-year-olds looking for a safe house, hang out and listen to music. Many of the injured are scared of being identified, and are worried they’ll be revealed as homosexuals before they are ready to come out to their relatives. Meanwhile, the attack is being condemned widely by all sides of the political spectrum, being termed a terror attack by the Likud’s Silvan Shalom, and Netanyahu vowing to bring the perpetrator to justice. Shas also came out with a statement condemning the attack.

Nitzan Horovitz

Nevertheless, there are those that have made their share of counter incitement to these sickening murders. Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who is a homosexual, had this to say: “I very much hope this is not the result of comments made by public figures and Knesset members. They need to understand that some people will take action.”

He was referring to a comment made last year by former Shas MK Shlomo Benizri – recently sentenced to four years in jail for corruption – who proposed that the Knesset find a way to prohibit homosexuality, and save the State trouble in dealing with earthquakes, intimating that the homosexual act is a cause for the natural disasters.

Shlomo Benizri

Notwithstanding the fact that Benizri’s comment was idiotic and embarrassing for religious Judaism, to equate it with incitement to murder is just as idiotic and embarrassing. Incitement to murder is what you hear in places like Gaza and Jenin, where Sheiks go up publicly to give a sermon eplicitly about how everyone should kill as many Jews as people and liberate Palestine, or distribute videos about how to construct a suicide bomb vest, or praising suicide terrorist murderers That’s incitement to murder. Making a distasteful, offensive comment is not. To blame Benizri’s comment for these murders is like blaming the movie The Matrix for the Columbine High massacre of 1999. If I were MK Horovitz, I would, especially now, do my best to conduct a dialogue with Shas about this whole thing instead of yelling at them. The same goes vice versa. It’s easy for both sides to yell at each other, especially now. It’s not so easy to start talking.

But that’s the only way Israeli society will be able to heal itself after this unique terror attack. May God comfort the mourners.

Ganavim Get Sentenced: Hirschson & Benizri To Do Time

“We have to clean and sweep not under but over the carpet”, says retired Supreme Court Judge Miriam Ben-Porat on the decisions that sent Hirschson and Benizri into incarceration. Former Tel Aviv District Attorney objects: The punishment for the former Treasury Minister is too lenient, and does not get the message across.

Avraham Hirschson - 5 + Years In The Big HouseIn one day, two former Israeli government ministers are being sent to jail: Avraham Hirschson was handed down a sentence of five years and five months. Shlomo Benizri received a harsher sentence of 4 years in prison. In a conversation with Ynet, legislators fighting against corruption approve of the sentence, but there are some who claim that it should have been stiffer. Former State Comptroller, retired Supreme Court Judge Miriam Ben-Porat wonders: “Who knows how many more Hirschsons there are?

Ben Porat expressed satisfaction with the legal decisions:

“It’s good that punishment is meted out and we show that everyone is equal. Someone with a senior position should have to pay even more. Hirschson was trusted with Treasury funds and engaged in transactions for the entire country. He should have been purer than pure. It is unfortunate, he gave at least an outward impression of a man who cares, who fights for Holocaust survivors”.

She states that corruption “should be cleaned and swept – not under but over the carpet, and that’s what we’re doing now. It is difficult to know how many did not receive the punishments they deserve, because you can only conduct legal proceedings when there is evidence. Just bringing someone to trial is already a deterrent. There is still a great deal of work to be done, but matters are being dealt with as they should – with the necessary severity – and I welcome that, states Ben-Porat.

Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom referred at length to the corruption issues in Hirschson’s verdict and expressed surprise that “the same image of a good man and benefactor could turn into the image of someone who steals public funds together with his subordinates to support “the good life” he and they have become accustomed to as a lifestyle. Was it just drunken power that changed the accused’s view of the the world? Or was it unlimited greed combined with the atmosphere of neglect that took over the organization whose actions no one any longer oversaw?”

At the comptroller’s office it is said that “today the Court clearly expressed the importance of the struggle against public corruption. The comptroller’s office, which has been spearheading the Hirschson scandal from its very first stages, will continue in the struggle against public corruption, and for morality in the country, not excluding those at the top of the pyramid and including all enforcement officials. The comptroller’s office has proclaimed its views more than once, that only a process of proper investigation, followed by legal trial and severe punishment – all immediately following commitment of the crime – will help to cleanse society from the corruption that has affected it.

Retired judge Dalia Dorner is satisfied by “the appropriate legal rulings”, and believes that “they deserve retribution, not in terms of revenge, but in terms of public denunciation of acts of this kind. Fraud and theft have been with us from biblical times, but when it involves public figures, the punishment should be severe. Denunciation is most important and therefore you must take into account that a light punishment may suggest that the crime wasn’t really that bad. God help us if we broadcast that kind of message”.

In the Hirschson case, prosecution demanded a sentence of at least 7 years incarceration for the Treasury minister, who was convicted of stealing milllions, but the judge ruled a lesser sentence. The State has not yet announced whether or not it will appeal. However, then senior prosecutor in the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s office, Adv. Miriam Rosenthal, claims that that are good reasons for this: “He did not express his regret, and the difference between his sentence and the others’ is too slight,” she stated to Ynet.

“The District Court gave heavy consideration to Hirschonson’s personal circumstances,” Rosenthal added. “The punishment is fairly lenient, particularly when the other defendants, who confessed in a plea bargaining and did not waste the Court’s time – and did not spend the funds as Hirschson did, received sentences of up to five years. An extra six months is a light addition.”

When he harshened Ben Izri’s sentence, one of the Supreme Court Judges, Edmond Levy, wrote: “The rising corruption among Israeli governing authorities necessitates the action of setting a higher price…to cope with this affliction and to deter others. Words of admonishment are no longer enough. It’s time to take action.”

Adv. Rosenthal agrees that the punishment in the Ben Izri case is meant to deter – as punishments up to now have not been sufficent. “Ben Izri is not a victim,” she stresses. Despite this, there wasn’t enough in Hirschson’s conviction to get a message across.

And what’s next? Rosenthal sees a link between the two cases only in their involving two public figures who have transgressed – because their crimes are different. Ben Izri accepted a bribe; Hirschson stole. “In my opinion, the prosecution will not link these two cases. If they appeal, it will be due to the comparison between those charged and convicted in a plea bargaining and a man who was convicted after he denied the charges and went through with a trial”.

Corruption Case Against Olmert Heating Up

No sooner had former Kadima government finance minister Avraham Hirschson been sentenced to 5 years and 5 months for theft of public funds (among other things) and former Shas Party Health, Labor and Welfare minister Shlomo Benizri lost his bribery appeal (and got sentenced for more than twice the original period of 18 months), millionaire investor Morris Talansky was back in Israel to testify in the continuing investigations against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is facing a number of charges, including being accused of taking more than $300,000 that Talansky was said to have contributed to Olmert’s mayoral campaign in Jerusalem.

talanskyOlmert’s legal problems are a bit different now than they were when Talanasky last appeared in Israel to answer questions concerning the monies he gave to the former prime minister; especially since Olmert is now a private citizen, and as such no longer has the immunity he had as Prime Minister. Talansky himself is under investigation in the USA under suspicion that he illegally transferred large sums of money to Israel under the guise of the money being “contributions”. Besides the noted sum that Talansky is said to have “contributed” to Olmert’s mayoral campaign, there is also the matter of a sum of $150,000 that he is said to have given to Olmert over a period o f years, and used by Olmert for his own personal benefit, including upgrading hotel rooms during trips abroad.

Talansky is under suspicion by American authorities of using his relationship with Olmert to transfer funds illegally to Israel. He noted to reporters that he had been warned against returning to Israel, but felt that he needed to set the record straight. One of the big questions concerning Talansky’s relationship with Olmert was whether Olmert obtained the funds under false pretenses, and whether part of it had been considered to be a bribe. For his part, Talansky only agreed to return to Israel to testify after an agreement had been reached with both Israeli and American authorities in order that his testimony would not incriminate him by returning to Israel.

With two of his former ministers already going “up river” will the former prime minister also be heading in that same direction? Or is he clever enough to find a way out with only a slight “slap on the wrist”. Corruption seems to be becoming more commonplace among government officials and politicians these days, and even former P.M. Ariel Sharon might have had so face similar counts (that led to his son Omri serving a short prison term for miss-use of campaign funds) had Sharon not suffered a severe stroke in January 2006 that has left him comatose and totally incapacitated.

Hirshson Steals The Entire Cookie Jar

Avraham HirchsonI am getting the feeling that as we approach our 60th anniversary we are moving closer towards some sort of corruption climax. As an optimist I would like to think that we are cleaning house before the special birthday (this Wednesday night…). Today our Minister of Finance (Ex) was finally accused of theft – big time theft. In his capacity as Chairman of the Employees Organization he allegedly store 4 Million Shekel – 2.5 of which ended in his pocket. He is also charged with faking expenses and restaurants receipts for over 115,000 Shekels. Among the various charges (and there are a few) he is charged with money laundering, theft, embezzlement, forgery of corporate documents and breech of trust.

Since he is an Knesset Member (OY VEY !!!!) and he was caught not only with his hand in the cookie jar but with the entire cookie jar, he has the next 30 days to ask for immunity.

All this happened this morning while Shula Zaken, head of Olmert’s Office (EX again..) was interrogated for six hours as to her involvement in a corruption investigation that involves…..you guessed it – Olmert himself. So he was investigated last week and she was there today (not cooperating by the way……) and then Hirshson “stole” the headlines today.

Now last week, another oldie but goodie, member of Knesset Avigdor Liberman called a press conference where he complains about the horrible way he’s being treated by the Police and what a terrible witch hunt is being going through – over the last 12 years there has been an ongoing investigation. Police claims that he is not forthcoming and is not cooperating with the investigation.

Finally we have the “old news” that Shlomo Benizri of SHAS was sentenced to 18 months in the big house for accepting bribes. He was deputy Minister of Health, Minister of Health and Minister of Labour. Very impressive…. Anyway he was caught taking bribes, attempting to destry evidence and interfering with an investigation and lots of good stuff.

So you see – as we approach Wednesday’s celebrations we will hopefully have a little less crap in the Knesset 🙂

Political Rogue’s Gallery 2007-2008

Israeli politicians appear to be more and more under investigation for a variety of offenses these days. While some activities fall under what might be considered as misdemeanors, others are outright criminal; and should any of the perpetrators be tried and convicted, they could not only be out of politics forever but could face periods of time in prison too.

Corrupt Israeli PoliticansMany of the pictured individuals are either government cabinet or former cabinet officials, including Shas Party MK Shlomo Benizri, who may wind up following his former party boss Aryeh Deri, who spent 2 years in the slammer for a number of criminal activities, including bribery, and misappropriation of government funds for his own purposes. Benizri himself was recently convicted for charges dealing with corruption. Another prominent member, Kadima Party member and present chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, has been under indictment for a number of offenses, such as bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Some of these charges go back to when Hanegbi was Justice Minister under the Natanyahu government.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel Beitanu Party chairman and former cabinet minister in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government, has been under suspicion for years on a number of offenses, including some questionable business interests connected to a travel company that his daughter presently runs. Another (former) cabinet minister, Avraham Hirchson, served as Finance Minister until it was discovered that he was outright involved in taking government funds to help his son who had gotten himself in trouble over large gambling debts. Hirchson was a close crony to P.M. Olmert, who is said to be responsible for Hirchson receiving the said cabinet post. If convicted, Hirshson could face a lengthily prison term, as well as a substantial fine.

But perhaps the most noted member of this political “rogues gallery” is none other than Prime Minister Olmert himself. The Prime Minister, with the aid of his legal advisors and even Attorney General Meny Mazuz, has been able to steer his way through avirtual maize of “legal challenges” ranging from some property he purchased in Jerusalem using inside information, to violation of public trust concerning what is now being referred as the “Bank Leumi Affair”. Olmert has let off the hook by Mazuz in this incidence but many people outside his own political party are still talking about this affair which was often on the news in 2007. Olmert is also alleged to be involved in granting approved industry status to a company his law partner, Uri Messer, was involved with, saving the company more than $11 million in taxes.

One guy who got left out of this photo clip is former Likud and Kadima M.K. Omri Sharon, who was convicted of misuse of party funds when his father, Arik Shahon was running for election as Prime Minister in 2000/01. Omri was convicted and sentenced to 7 months in prison, which he began serving in February, 2008.

There are of course other political notables who have been involved recently in questionable activities; but the ones included here are some of the most prominent. All in all, the year 2007 was a very “interesting” year in so far as political hanky panky goes.

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