In the pursuit of justice

By
August 7, 2018 22:31
Ofer Berkovich

Ofer Berkovich. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Last week, in reading out his final verdict as a Supreme Court judge before retirement, Justice Uri Shoham acquitted Elisha Haibatov of murder. Haibatov had already spent 12 years of his life sentence in prison, but the court had found the police investigation to be flawed. Haibatov had made a confession under psychological duress and use of drugs. He is not the first person in Israel to be wrongfully arrested and to spend long periods in prison or under house arrest while investigations are continuing.

During his years in prison, Haibatov had consistently protested his innocence.

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The judges of the Supreme Court may have known of the forthcoming acquittal before Shoham’s last day on the bench, but they did not free Haibatov immediately after the decision was reached. They waited for the more “festive” occasion. Is that true justice?

Soon after the announcement of the acquittal, Prof. Boaz Sangero, the founder of the criminal law and criminology department at the Ramat Gan College of Law and Business, was interviewed on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet by Liat Regev, whom he told that there are approximately 2,000 innocent people languishing in Israeli prisons because either psychological or physical force or both were used to extract a confession from them, or because the investigation has not been completed.

One of the more glaring examples that came up in the conversation was that of the late Amos Baranes. On rethinking the case the late justice Haim Cohn, the great civil rights activist who had passed sentence on Baranes for a murder that Baranes claimed he did not commit, set out to prove his innocence and to campaign for a new trial. The State Prosecutor retracted the rape and murder indictment against Baranes, after Baranes had served eight years in prison. Also mentioned in the conversation was Roman Zadorov, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of schoolgirl Tair Rada, even though independent experts who have examined the evidence say that he could not possibly be the killer. Rada’s mother also believes that Zadorov is not the killer. According to Kan 11 investigative reporter Moti Gilad, State Attorney Shai Nitzan, who is winding up his term this year, has a huge backlog of cases in which many people who are being investigated are literally living in limbo.

Sangero, who is a stern critic of Israel’s criminal justice system, has spoken out both orally and in print against methods used to secure false convictions, and says that injustice will continue unless the system is drastically reformed.

■ VETERAN JOURNALIST Dan Margalit, who has arguably worked for more media outlets than almost anyone else in Israel, tweeted on Sunday that he was doing his last Erev Hadash (New Evening) interview on Channel 23 that night, and that this would be the demise of the 36-year-old program that started during the First Lebanon War in June 1982.

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Initially, it was a means of televised greetings to families from soldiers at the front, but over time it developed into a news-oriented interview program, with Margalit as the regular host. The program was produced by Educational Television and initially aired daily on Channel 1 and later on Channels 2 and 23. Educational Television as an independent entity will cease to exist in mid-August and will be integrated into the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, where its content will be revamped, and some of its programs, such as Erev Hadash, will no longer be broadcast.

Rather than deal with current issues, Margalit chose to be nostalgic for the final broadcast and interviewed Yaakov Lorberboim, the long-term first director of ETV, which two years ago celebrated its 50th anniversary. Margalit was also the longtime host of the now defunct Popolitica, which began on Channel 1 in 1993. It was initially hosted by Nissim Mishal, who at the time was the channel’s political reporter, but Margalit took over with a regular panel that included Tommy Lapid, Amnon Dankner and Yisrael Eichler. All three panelists were journalists. Lapid and Eichler moved from journalism into politics. Lapid died in 2008 and Dankner in 2013.

Popolitica set the tone for similar programs on most of Israel’s television channels. Of the veteran journalists, Margalit, who turned 80 this year, is one of the best preserved. He looks younger than his age and still has a fairly full head of hair, whereas much younger television personalities have ever receding hairlines which have changed their appearance.

■ NOT FOR the first time has there been a demand for the removal of Eldad Koblentz from the director generalship of the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, which operates under the Kan call sign. This time, angry journalists prefer to believe the contents of an article in the weekend supplement of Haaretz, rather than a subsequent email by Koblentz in which he says that the article does not reflect the corporation that he knows, nor his management concepts or values. “Above all, it does not reflect the daily reality as we experience it,” he wrote.

The article by Gidi Weitz and Hilo Glazer not only points to inept and insensitive management but also to Koblentz’s alleged superiority complex which comes to the fore in meetings with staff. In his email, Koblentz admits to having made mistakes during the hiring process of staff, but notes that many of the errors have been corrected, and those that haven’t will be corrected.

The article paints a galling picture of broadcasters and editors who were among the crème de la crème of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and who in some cases had won prizes for their work, having to suffer the humiliation of going for a job interview at IBC and being evaluated in the most derogatory and insulting terms.

David Witzthum, a youthful 70, has been a journalist for more than 45 years. An expert on German politics, history and culture, he was sent to Bonn in 1982 to serve as the IBA’s bureau chief and radio and television correspondent for Europe. He subsequently served in several high-profile positions at Channel 1 (now Kan 11), was a regular writer for Yediot Aharonot and has taught at the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and other Israeli institutions of higher learning, as well as at universities abroad. He had intended to call it quits with the demise of the IBA, but for some odd reason had taken a chance on working with IBC. Oren Nahari, who is seven years younger than Witzthum but, like Witzthum, was born and raised in Haifa, is also an intellectual with an extraordinary broad range of knowledge. In their final phase at IBA, the two co-anchored a talk show in which, together with studio guests, they examined various issues from multiple angles. They didn’t speak above the heads of television viewers, and the program was a great vehicle for informal education.

The Haaretz reporters somehow got hold of the assessments made about job applicants, and Witzthum and Nahari were rated as “boring, archaic and old-fashioned.” Others didn’t think so. Witzthum, who is also a talented musician who knows a lot about music per se, was made a scholar in residence by a travel company that takes tour groups to Germany, primarily to operas and classical concerts, which Witzthum lectures about in detail but in a newsy fashion. Nahari was recruited by Walla, and several other former IBA journalists who were household names were snapped up by other media outlets, and in some cases were given better opportunities to realize their potential.

Of the former IBA journalists who now work for IBC, many complain about doing more work for less money. Anyone tuned in to Reshet Bet 24/7 will hear updates of various news events at midnight by journalists who were reporting at 7 a.m. Updates are the most recent developments with regard to any event or personality, so very often it’s just a matter of replaying a recording. But when it’s breaking news, the reporters are out there covering it.

Moreover, broadcasters can often be heard on air complaining about still being stuck in Modi’in, whereas the Broadcasting Law stipulates that they should be in Jerusalem. IBC acquired premises in Jerusalem well over a year ago, at which time the excuse for not moving from Modi’in was that there were certain fixtures that still had to be installed. Just how long does it take?

■ IT WILL be interesting to see whether Jerusalem Likud in the final analysis puts its weight behind mayoral candidate Ze’ev Elkin or another Likud member running as an independent, Avi Salman. Elkin, who was counting on haredi support in the October election, is likely to miss out now that haredi councilman Yossi Deitch is also running for mayor.

Before Elkin announced his intention, and before Deitch got the nod from his rabbinical bosses, it seemed that the race was essentially between Moshe Lion and Ofer Berkowitz. Lion is Orthodox, and Berkowitz is secular. Lion is Sephardi, and Berkowitz is Ashkenazi. These factors shouldn’t make any difference, but in some circles they do, although it is widely acknowledged that the ideal mayor is the person who can best serve the diverse needs and interests of Jerusalem, regardless of political affiliation or degree of religious observance.

Other than the haredi sector of the capital’s eligible voters, another group whose members are most unlikely to vote for either Elkin or Lion is the LGBT community. Neither Elkin nor Lion showed up at the Jerusalem pride parade, but Berkowitz did and Rachel Azaria made a brief appearance. Albeit a former city council member with experience in serving in both the coalition and the opposition, Azaria, though Modern Orthodox, is unlikely to score haredi votes, due to gender discrimination – though in a secret ballot, who knows? Surveys on who’s leading the race vary, depending on who commissioned them and what questions were asked. Elkin has said that if he is not elected, he will return to the Knesset. Lion, who moved from the Coastal Plain to Jerusalem for the previous election, narrowly lost out to Nir Barkat, but stayed on to serve in the city council.

■ SOME POLITICAL pundits are predicting that the Knesset will be dissolved in October soon after it reconvenes for the winter session and that an election is already on the horizon. Among the people campaigning in the Labor Party primaries will be Guy Beilin, the son of former justice minister Yossi Beilin.

Despite the vicissitudes of political life to which the offspring of politicians are witness and often subjected, some choose to follow in the footsteps of their parents. In the current Knesset, Yair Lapid is a second-generation politician, as was Isaac Herzog, till he resigned last week. Others in the current Knesset include Meir Porush, whose father, Menachem, was a longtime MK; Tzipi Livni, whose father, Eitan Livni, served in the 8th, 9th and 10th Knessets; siblings Orly Levy-Abecassis and Jackie Levy, whose father, David Levy, was a three-time foreign minister and the first Moroccan-born politician to serve in the post; Tzachi Hanegbi, whose mother, Geula Cohen, served five Knesset terms; Omer Bar-Lev, whose father, Haim Bar-Lev, served his country as IDF chief of staff, member of Knesset, government minister and ambassador to Russia; and of course Bennie Begin, the son of prime minister Menachem Begin.

There were several others before them, and not all followed politically in parental footsteps but joined other parties. Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg was a prime example of how politically distant father and son could be from each other. He entered the Knesset as a Labor Party MK, whereas his father, Yosef Burg, was a stalwart of the National Religious Party. Yossi Beilin, who entered the Knesset as a Labor MK, moved further left to Meretz, but that’s no impediment to his helping his son to learn the techniques of politics and to represent Labor.

■ CURRENT JUSTICE Minister Ayelet Shaked’s husband, Ofir, has been grounded. Shaked tweeted at the end of last week that after 26 years and more than 5,000 missions, he had piloted an F-16I Sufa (Storm) for the last time and has been released from the air force to make way for the younger generation and to leave them with work to do. She publicly saluted him and the Bat Fighter Squadron of the IAF. Though not religiously observant, Shaked likes to quote from holy writings, and in this case she has obviously taken a guideline from Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), in which Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your task to finish the work, but neither are you free to exempt yourself from it.”

■ CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to US Ambassador David Friedman, who is celebrating his 60th birthday. Friedman was born on August 8, 1958. It will be interesting to see how many birthday cakes he receives. There’s bound to be one from his Jerusalem staff, and possibly another from his Tel Aviv staff. Given the amount of time that he spends at the King David Hotel, another birthday cake could be forthcoming from there, and presumably there will also be one from his family and another from Beit El. Prior to his becoming a diplomat, Friedman headed the American Friends of Beit El. He also donated the Friedman Faculty House at the Raaya Girls High School situated in the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El, which bears his name and that of his wife, Tammy, on the façade as well as the names of their respective parents. Friedman continues to maintain a close relationship with former MK Ya’acov “Katzele” Katz, the executive director of Arutz Sheva and the Beit El Yeshiva institutions.

■ APROPOS MILESTONE birthdays, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein marked his 60th birthday on August 5, and his wife, Irina, marked her 40th birthday on July 2, but they’ve postponed their dual celebration to September 6, when together with some 800 guests they can not only toast each other but have a Rosh Hashanah toast at the same time. For some of the guests it will be a hit-and-run affair, because Slovak Ambassador Peter Hulenyi will on the same date be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Slovak Republic as well as Slovak Armed Forces Day, and several people will be on both guest lists.

■ WHAT DO actress Sharon Stone and Jerusalem Mayor Barkat have in common? The two will be honored at the fifth annual Algemeiner Gala Dinner in New York on September 13. For Barkat, who is not standing for reelection, this is by way of a farewell reception near the completion of his 10 years in office.

The event, which also honors philanthropists Richard and Monique Chera, is a platform for the publication of Algemeiner’s annual J100, which recognizes unique Jewish individuals who have made a significant and positive impact on Jewish communities in Israel and around the world. It also publishes an annual list of non-Jews who have had a positive influence on shaping the Jewish future.

Honorary chairman of the event will be French philosopher and media personality Bernard-Henri Lévy.

Founded in New York in 1972 by renowned journalist Gershon Jacobson, the Algemeiner Journal was originally published in Yiddish and was headed by Jacobson until his death in 2005. In 1989 it began publishing a four-page supplement in English. With the death of the founder, his eldest son, Simon, became the publisher and also established the Gershon Jacobson Jewish Continuity Foundation. In 2008, the Algemeiner was restructured as an English publication, and current editor David Efune was appointed. He is also the director of GJCF, which launched the publication’s website in 2011.

Among the celebrity guests at last year’s gala was movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who had not yet been stripped of glory. The allegations of sexual abuse by Weinstein were published in The New York Times and The New Yorker in October 2017. Weinstein was involved in various humane issues and financially supported and even chaired organizations dealing with poverty, AIDS, diabetes and research into multiple sclerosis.

■ MANY OF the people who visit Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People are engaged in some form of personal research about their relatives or the places from which their forebears sprouted. Sometimes there are surprises because stories handed down as family legends either develop additional fascinating layers or prove to be so flawed as to create doubts as to how much truth remains in them.

This kind of research is going to be made easier and possibly more interesting as a result of a strategic partnership that has been forged between JewishGen.org and Beit Hatfutsot. Leaders in innovating and advancing online genealogy and identity exploration, the two partners will enable family tree collections held by both parties to be fully accessible to visitors to either website. Between them the two have almost 20,000 family trees, which, if only living generations are taken into account, comes to a very large number of people. Data will be accessible from late fall 2018, and new search platforms will dramatically increase the likelihood that users will find information they are seeking.

“Too often we see organizations cajoling for space and prominence, when they should be aligning. The treasures that JewishGen and The Museum of the Jewish People have each built up over the decades are invaluable and irreplaceable, and it’s a privilege to be able to make that connection through technology and partnership building,” said Beit Hatfutsot CEO Dan Tadmor.

JewishGen.org director Avraham Groll says that “JewishGen is committed to doing everything we can to provide the highest quality of access to records, information, and tools that researchers can utilize in their quest to connect with relatives, discover their unique family history and understand what it means to be part of the Jewish people. Our new partnership with The Museum of the Jewish People will help us achieve this goal, by eliminating the need to spend time or financial resources searching multiple facilities.

“For JewishGen, connecting with the Museum of the Jewish People comes during a stage of significant growth from both an archival and technological perspective, and as we set ambitious strategic priorities for the years to come, I believe that this new relationship will herald continued opportunities for our organizations to collaborate on behalf of the entirety of the Jewish people.”

Hopefully this accessibility merger may also help to prove the religious identities of people who need to prove to the Israeli rabbinate that they are indeed halachically Jewish. What a boon that would be, and what a tremendous savings in time, expenditure and frustration.

■ HAD PRIME Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not canceled his visit to Colombia for the inauguration on Tuesday of this week of President Ivan Duque, he would have met political figures and diplomats, including 10 presidents from 17 countries around the world. If Netanyahu had traveled to Colombia, Colombian Ambassador Carlos Morales would have in all probability traveled with him or ahead of him.

Instead, Morales and his wife, Betty, are on Thursday celebrating the inauguration with a concert by Colombian violinist Laura Hoyos, who is in Israel to participate in the annual Keshet Eilon musical master classes.

■ SEVERAL ISRAELIS with musical talents who have been to India have been entranced by Indian music and dance, which they have studied and incorporated into their own repertoires. Some of them have absorbed Indian culture to an amazing degree, but nothing is as authentic as the original.

Lovers of Indian music will next week have the opportunity to see and listen to Pandit Uday Bhawalkar, who will be performing in Israel from August 15 to 18. He will be performing at the 6th Raga Mela Festival. His visit has been arranged in cooperation with the Indian Embassy and the Indian Cultural Relations Association. One of the great exponents of Indian classical music, Uday is coming with his group of musicians and singers. He has appeared at many prestigious festivals in his home country and abroad. In addition to performing in various Israeli cities, he will also conduct a workshop in Tel Aviv.

■ AFTER READING in The Jerusalem Post last week about the remains of Theodor Herzl being flown to Israel in 1949, Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss tweeted: “The @Jerusalem_Post reminds us today that on this day in 1949 the remains of Theodor Herzl were flown from Vienna/Austria to Israel to be reburied on Mount Herzl.

It was Herzl’s wish for his remains to be ‘one day transferred to the land of Israel’ (Herzl died in 1904).”
Herzl was interred in the Oblinger Friedhof Cemetery in Vienna.
Weiss included a photograph of the tombstone, initially posted by Armin Bammer.
Another photograph subsequently posted by Philippe Narvel was taken in Edlach, a village in Reichenaun in Lower Austria, where Herzl was initially buried, having died there from cardiac sclerosis at 5 p.m. on July 3, 1904.

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