Grumpy Old Man: There oughta be a law

The recent kidnapping hoax has spurred Knesset members to action. However, they also should consider a bill making stupidity a crime.

April 8, 2015 10:41
Niv Asraf

Niv Asraf, the Beersheba man accused of staging his own kidnapping last week. (photo credit: MEIR EVEN HAIM)

Mere days after being sworn in as MKs last week for the 20th Knesset, two lawmakers were already hard at work.

Bayit Yehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky said he wanted to impose a fine of over NIS 14,000 on hoaxers who call emergency services, and another, at more than NIS 75,000, for those who do so specifically to disrupt the provision of such services.

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It’s similar to a bill he promoted after last June’s kidnapping and murder of three Jewish youths hitchhiking in the West Bank. One managed to call the emergency police number, but Internal Affairs investigators blamed a glut of hoax calls for leading the officer in charge to ignore the teen’s whispered pleas for help.

On the other side of the aisle, Zionist Union MK Revital Swid wants the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to convene to discuss the issue of putting hoaxers on trial and punishing them severely.

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“We should not make light of the ‘abduction’ that didn’t happen,” said Swid, a lawyer by profession.

IT’S HARD not to make light of Niv Asraf and Eran Nagauker for their bumbling, if criminal, hoax the day before Passover.

First, when he went “missing,” the media played up Asraf, 22, as a lovesick young man trying to woo back a girlfriend who had broken off their relationship. “Why only when we lose something do we realize how important it was to us?” he is said to have written on his Facebook page, perhaps even shedding a tear.

The next day, Nagauker, 21, called the emergency police number saying he and Asraf had suffered a flat tire near Hebron, and that his friend had disappeared after walking off in search of tools. Apparently, with the fallout from last June in mind, the authorities sprang into action and launched a fullscale search-and-rescue operation. Yet when police reached the car, there was not a flat tire in sight.

Still, the operation went on, ultimately involving thousands of soldiers and police officers, as well as helicopters and drones, all coordinated by specially established emergency command centers.

Coming the day before Passover, thousands of troops already home for the holiday were put on immediate alert; I heard the deep frustration in some of their voices when my son contacted his soldiers to tell them to remain close to home – exactly when they would have preferred to be out with friends letting off weeks of accumulated steam.

Later, when speaking with investigators, Nagauker’s testimony is said to have wavered, and it wasn’t long before a well-equipped Asraf was found – safe and sound, happily camping out in a wadi below Kiryat Arba, the settlement just east of Hebron.

In the wake of the search, much angry emphasis was placed on the costs, estimated to have run into the millions, as well as the fact that thousands of people, together with a lot of equipment, had been pulled away from their routines.

Warranting less attention was what it cost local Palestinians, who either were piled up at emergency roadblocks or had their homes turned upside down in a scenario reminiscent of what happened immediately after June’s triple kidnapping and murder.

“Thousands of Palestinians were under a torturous siege,” Joint List MK Basel Ghattas complained – and with full justification. “They went through interrogations, questioning and searches because a young Jew decided to play games.”

Fellow Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi is said to have tweeted: “It is refreshing that no one in the Israeli press has asked me to condemn the non-kidnapping.”

Capping the lunacy was a choice tidbit uttered by a sister of Asraf after he was found. While her mortified parents were busy issuing profuse apologies to a disgusted nation, all she could say was that her brother deserved a good lickin’ for having gone missing the day before Passover.

“Because of him,” she whined, “I didn’t get my eyebrows done!” And Asraf himself? Perhaps preferring not to sound like a lovesick wuss pining for an ex, he has now stated that he was running from the mob over gambling debts, certainly a more manly explanation for his actions.

IF ANY OF our MKs really want to leave a legacy, they’ll also need to legislate a bill outlawing stupidity.

There can be mitigating factors. In causing a death, for example, we have such terms as negligent, wrongful and malicious. Courts also differentiate between manslaughter and murder, and even murder of the premeditated type.

For stupidity, though, our robed officials needn’t go so far. Two categories would suffice: youthful stupidity and brazen stupidity.

Charges of youthful stupidity would have been perfect that fine spring day when I, a 17-year-old, announced to my parents that I was going to try a new way up the face of a local cliff, and that I’d be home later to clean up. I made it to the top, but the real stupidity began when, instead of going home, I stayed out through the afternoon and well into the night, arriving to a police cruiser in the driveway and two highly irate parents in the kitchen.

It wasn’t until I got to Israel and learned enough Hebrew that I could fully savor the term tipeshesrei, which takes the word for stupid and merges it with the common suffix for the numbers 11 to 19, denoting the general age bracket for dumb behavior. (It seems that in Israel, the kids start early.) It’s usually employed along with a shrug.

The punishment for youthful stupidity should have the offender bingewatch all 74 episodes of the cult favorite 1,000 Ways to Die, a spin-off of the Darwin Awards, a not-so-tongue-in-cheek hat-tip posthumously presented to idiots “who have made the supreme sacrifice to keep their genes out of our pool.”

Brazen stupidity, on the other hand, which is what we get from those beyond the tipeshesrei age bracket, is a much more serious matter. In fact, our lawmakers could look around the plenum and see it being committed just about any day the Knesset is in session.

One perp who comes to mind is ex-Likud MK Yehiel Hazan, who in 2003 voted twice for the same bill, using his own electronic key as well as that of an absent lawmaker. Once caught, he was caught again – this time on closed-circuit TV – trying to tamper with the devices in question. A judge convicted him of fraud, giving him a suspended jail term and four months of community service. The court transcripts, unfortunately, say nothing about stupidity.

Though he never ran again, Hazan failed to remove himself from the political gene pool, giving us his son, Oren, who recently squeaked into the Knesset at the tail end of the Likud slate.

The young Hazan’s qualifications? He chaired the local student union while in college. Oh yes, he also is reported to have managed a casino in Bulgaria.

So keep those cameras going. There might not be any dice rolling in the hallways between votes, but even our hallowed Knesset can be a crime scene for the odd (or perhaps not so odd) case of brazen stupidity.

And yes, dear MKs, please enact that law. The punishment? Force them to watch an endless loop of Hazan Sr. tampering with those voting devices.

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