Dudu Topaz arrested for ordering attack on TV execs

dudu topaz 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
dudu topaz 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Dudu Topaz, one of Israel's leading television entertainers, was arrested Sunday and accused of ordering a team of goons to assault two senior TV network executives and an actor's agent. Three men, previously employed as security guards, were arrested on Saturday night and Sunday on suspicion of carrying out Topaz's orders. "We think Topaz did it because he was rejected by them [the victims]," a Tel Aviv police source told The Jerusalem Post. The source added that Topaz had floated a number of ideas in conversations with the victims, including the possibility that he would present a television show, only to be rejected by all of them. "He wanted to be on TV and work with them. They said no," the police source said. Shira Margalit, deputy directorgeneral of the Reshet television network, Avi Nir, director-general of the Keshet network, and actor's agent Boaz Ben-Zion were all victims of previously unexplained attacks by groups of men. In the most recent attack, earlier this month, 40-year-old Margalit required hospital treatment after being assaulted near her north Tel Aviv home. In November 2008, Nir was surrounded by a group of men near his north Tel Aviv home and severely beaten with truncheons. He was rushed to the hospital covered in blood with light to moderate injuries. In January 2009, Ben-Zion was punched in the face after exiting his home. He had received a threatening phone call minutes before the assault. Detectives are now attempting to understand whether the men they suspect were sent by Topaz to carry out the assaults had known one another prior to the crimes. The remand of two of the suspects was extended by the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court by five days. A third suspect, said to be Topaz's neighbor, was arrested on Sunday. Police reportedly used phone records to help link Topaz to the attacks. Last week, Topaz attempted to refute persistent rumors that he was behind the spate of assaults. After being arrested at his Tel Aviv home on Sunday, Topaz reportedly said, "Let them prove it." Speaking to Army Radio, Topaz's lawyer, Amir Zion, said, "I think Dudu is in complete shock." Topaz, born David Goldenberg in Haifa in 1946, studied acting in London after completing his IDF service. Upon his return to Israel, he took up theater roles in Haifa, and performed shows around the country. His first television appearance was to teach English for an educational program. Topaz is no stranger to controversy. He gained notoriety from comments he made during a Labor Party conference in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square (then called Malchei Yisrael Square) in 1981, when he said, "It's a pleasure to see the crowd here, and it's a pleasure to see that there are no chahchahim [a derogatory word alluding to Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern background] who ruin election gatherings. The Likud's chachchahim are at Metzudat Ze'ev [Likud Party headquarters]." Topaz's comments prompted then prime minister Menachem Begin to famously remark during a speech to Likud supporters, "Until yesterday I did not know the word chachchahim, until I heard the entertainer Dudu Topaz call Likud's people chachchahim." Some observers believe Begin used Topaz's comments to help solidify Sephardi support for the Likud. Topaz bounced back soon afterward with a satirical TV show, which depicted a range of Israeli characters and stand-up routines. A second successful satire show followed. In the early 1990s, Topaz hosted a weekend comedy and chat show on Channel 1. He then moved to the newly created Channel 2, breaking ratings records with his own TV show. In 1995, Topaz assaulted a Ma'ariv TV critic who wrote unfavorably about his program, removing the man's glasses and breaking them, while telling the critic, "You don't understand what you're seeing anyway." The critic filed a police complaint against him and also sued him. Topaz's dropped off the screen in 2004 after Channel 2 franchisee Keshet decided to remove him from its line-up. Another franchisee, Reshet, put Topaz back on the screen in 2005, before he moved to Channel 10 where he hosted another program. Topaz had two sexual harassment complaints filed against him in 2003. Police closed both cases due to a lack of evidence.