The Tsanani show

The entrenched culture of leaks is wrong on every possible level.

 Tsanani 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Yossi Zeliger/Israel Hayom)
Tsanani 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yossi Zeliger/Israel Hayom)
There are only two plausible explanations for this week’s anti-climactic ending to the super-hyped case against entertainer Margalit Tsanani. Either the police and prosecution initially made a mountain out of a molehill (which is unconscionable) or they later made a molehill out of a mountain (which is cowardly).
Either way, they come out badly. They leave us with lots of unanswered questions and exacerbate our impression that there’s much amiss in their operations.
One fact is incontrovertible: There’s an intolerable discrepancy between the heavy accusations hurled at Tsanani when the story broke and the puny plea bargain now underwritten by the prosecution.
Were Tsanani the terrifying underworld figure of police insinuations last August, she should have had the book thrown at her. Instead, she’s likely to get off with a rap on the knuckles and a six-month community service sentence in return for pleading guilty to extorting her manager to collect large debts owed her.
Police jailed Tsanani and her son Assaf for two weeks and later held them under extended house arrest. Tantalizing leaks from Tsanani’s interrogations resonated incessantly in the electronic media and made banner headlines in the sensationalist press, which also featured photographs snapped surreptitiously during Tsanani’s incarceration, as well as her mug shot, with her inmate’s number emblazoned across it.
Now, however, gone from the indictment is the prosecution’s account of a sinister criminal conspiracy in which mob bosses manipulate Israel’s showbiz. Moreover, Tsanani’s muscleman, Michael Hazan, was sentenced to 10-months’ imprisonment while the alleged real power behind the scenes, Shalom Domrani, isn’t as much as mentioned in the charge sheet. Considering the tales lavishly spun by police, replete with transcripts of Tsanani’s and Domrani’s conversations, this cannot but be interpreted as a mammoth failure.
Tsanani was portrayed as a clear and present danger to the public when the police repeatedly sought to extend her remand. This begs the question of how truthful are police argumentations in court. Are they not exaggerated beyond the acceptable (if not outrightly false)? To what degree is it tolerable for the police to hide behind “confidential information” submitted to judges? Can it be that in cases the prosecution itself grossly inflates it would later opt for reduced charges? All the above should greatly discomfit the public and should result in pressure on our law enforcers to clean up their act.
Most of all we cannot afford indifference or complacency toward the symbiotic dynamics of media manipulation by the police and the scandal-mongering that feeds on that manipulation while amplifying it at one and the same time. The Tsanani case is hardly the first in which we witnessed the mutually beneficial media hullabaloo and police alacrity to abet and intensify the lurid commotion.
The uninhibited zeal to grab headlines and boost ratings can hurt anyone. Yet the greater a suspect’s fame, the greater incentive for glory-craving cops and sleaze-spreading reporters to collaborate.
Our police, Prisons Service and prosecution all play to the gallery and fall over themselves in their fervor to spill the beans. This peculiar style of police work and legal procedure – via deliberate, tendentious leaks – was always insufferable, regardless of the nature of the material involved and whom it favored or harmed.
Often we learn of what transpires during interrogations while suspects are still being grilled. Typically the leaks consist of little more than innuendo, but this can be devastating for defendants in a small society such as ours.
Even professional judges aren’t immune to publicity extravaganzas.
Finally, we still await the results of the promised investigation into how Tsanani’s mug shot was made public.
Significantly, the probe was only announced after the attorney-general expressed outrage. Nothing has been heard of the matter since.
The entrenched culture of leaks is wrong on every possible level. It violates the basic rights of citizens – be they ordinary folk or celebrities. But beyond that, the spectacle of police cliques – and at later stages prosecutors as well – joining forces with trusted media cronies exposes an unseemly reality of power plays and one-upmanship, where points are often scored at the expense of human beings and civic hygiene.