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Former PM Ehud Olmert Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced Tuesday morning to serve six years in prison. The judge also imposed a fine of NIS 1 million ($289,000.)  He ordered authorities to seize NIS 500,000 in funds the former prime minister has collected from various sources, including numerous speaking engagements in the United States.

Olmert was ordered to begin serving his prison sentence on September 1, pending appeal.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rosen handed down the sentence in what has become known as the famed “Holyland trial” after Olmert was convicted on two charges of bribery.

The former prime minister was convicted of taking bribes from contractors who built the Holyland residential complex near the Malha Mall in Jerusalem.

The rezoning and other “adjustments” that came in exchange for bribes continued through the 1990s and into the next decade. These were the years in which Olmert served as mayor of the capital city and minister of industry, trade and infrastructure. Both were pivotal posts from which to smooth the way for the developers of the Holyland project.

Olmert was also recently questioned on suspicion of witness tampering and obstruction of justice, according to Israel’s Channel 2 television. The allegations are based on recordings given to police by former Olmert aide Shula Zaken, his closest aide, also convicted in the wide-ranging Holyland scandal. Zaken gave police the recordings as part of her plea bargain with the prosecution.

The Holyland trial has dragged on for years, tainting Olmert’s term as prime minister and shadowing the country’s years beyond while bringing down numerous aides and colleagues.

Before pronouncing sentence, the judge pointed out that Olmert is an “intelligent, brilliant people person” and called him an “avid Zionist.” He praised him for donating to bereaved families and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.

But he then sharply reprimanded the former state leader, saying “The crime of bribery pollutes public service, destroys governments…” and called it “one of the worst crimes.”

Rosen said Olmert was guilty of moral turpitude — a term that means the ex-politican will be forced to wait at least seven years before re-entering the field. The judge added that those who take bribes are equivalent to “traitors” in their betrayal of the public trust.

To punish that betrayal, the judge revoked the 10 percent of Olmert’s mayoral pension.

Olmert has been convicted previously charges of corruption. In 2012, he was pronounced guilty of taking bribes in a Jerusalem case.

That trial earned the former mayor and subsequent minister and prime minister a light sentence of community service only. The judge in the case said in his decision that Olmert’s state leadership as prime minister had afforded him the right to leniency.

Not so today, however.  Judge Rosen said in his decision that the higher the post of the public servant, the harsher the punishment for bribery should be.

“Those who belong to the social and economic elite of the nation should not be held to the same standard as those in common society,” Rosen said. He added in explanation that his hands were tied by law in meting out the punishment, and that he was enjoined by those legal guidelines to set a minimum sentence without discretion.

Olmert issued a statement prior to sentencing saying that he was innocent and protesting an expected sentence that included prison time.

“This is a sad day on which a severe and unjust verdict is to be handed down to an innocent man,” Olmert said in his statement.

He has 45 days to appeal in Supreme Court – which he plans to do,, said Olmert spokesperson Amir Dan. He added that he hopes “the real picture will emerge and the verdict will change completely.”

To the eternal shame of the State of Israel, this is the first time in the history of the nation that a prime minister has been convicted of a felony and sent to prison. Likewise, former president Moshe Katsav is currently serving time in prison for having raped and sexually assaulted his female employees.

Olmert will appeal the conviction and sentence in the Supreme Court, spokesperson Amir Dan said. His attorney Eli Zohar is expected to file a request for a stay of sentence in the meantime.

Disgraced

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Here’s Rabbi Motti Elon walking away from the Magistrate Court in Jerusalem, December 18, 2013, after hearing his verdict. Elon, former head of Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem, was convicted of sexually assaulting two of his former students, in 2003 and 2005, and sentenced with 6 months of community service, 6 months suspended sentence and a payment of a little under $3,000 to his victims.

Alone he walks into the snow covered street, with his delusions of grandeur, a living lesson about hubris and pride.

He told reporters that he’s happy do do community service, since he’d been doing just that—community service—for 40 years.

In his own head, he’s done nothing wrong. A martyr, persecuted by a repressive system.

I bless him that while he endows his new flock with cleaner toilets, it will dawn on him one day that at some point his path had led him over the cliff.

Russian Human Rights Council to Review Jewish Teacher’s Graft Sentence

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The Kremlin’s human rights council is reviewing a prison sentence meted out to Ilya Farber, a Jewish schoolteacher convicted of corruption.

The regional court of Ostashkov, north of Moscow, sentenced Farber last week to seven years in jail after convicting him of receiving $13,000 in bribes from a construction company. The company was seeking permission to renovate a culture club in a village where Farber settled in 2010 and began teaching art to children.

Many in Russia believe Farber did not receive a fair trial, partly because of his Jewish origins, according to Matvey Chlenov, the deputy executive director of the Russian Jewish Congress. Several people have testified that they heard the prosecutor in Farber’s first trial telling the jury: “Is it possible for a person with the last name Farber to help a village for free?” – a statement interpreted as referring to the fact that Farber is Jewish.

The Russian Jewish Congress has collected $30,000 in donations to help support Farber’s three young sons as he prepares to appeal the sentence, Chlenov said.

Alexander Brod, head of the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council, told the news site Utro.ru that he initiated a review of the case because he found the sentence to be “too harsh.”

Farber was arrested in 2011 and convicted. But a higher court scrapped the first conviction because of irregularities, including the judge’s instruction to the jury to “not to pay attention to the words of the defendant.” The conviction last week came in a retrial.

Farber was convicted of taking two bribes of $9,100 and $4,000 from the construction company Gosstroi-1 in exchange for permission to renovate a village club. Prosecutors said he signed off on the completed renovations when in fact none had been made.

Farber was a director at the club.

Chlenov said, “It is obvious Farber acted naively and some locals set him up and dropped their corruption on him.”

A Prize for Murder

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Imagine that a man has kidnapped a girl at gunpoint. He is promised that if he frees her, he will be absolved of all guilt and permitted to go back home. Do you really think that such a person would be let off the hook just because of that promise?

Jamal Tirawi is a senior Fatah and Tanzim operative from Shechem (Nablus). He is the one who dispatched suicide terrorist Muhanan Ibrahim Salahat to My Coffee Shop in Tel Aviv in the spring of 2002. The attack resulted in the murder of Rachel Cherki and the wounding of another thirty victims. Yet the Military Court of Appeals at Camp Ofer decided this week to free Tirawi and annul the sentence of thirty years’ imprisonment he had received. The explanation given: Israel once indicated that it was removing hundreds of terrorists from its list of wanted criminals on the condition that they not engage in terrorist activities, and Israel is required to fulfill this promise. There is nothing of greater importance, reasoned the judges, than that the state fulfill its promises.

With this, the court adopted the position of Avigdor Feldman, the attorney who had defended the murderer. Feldman made no bones about the crimes committed by his client—he simply found a way around them. Meanwhile, the IDF Advocate General, representatives of the ISA, and the first panel of judges to hear the case asserted that the terrorist had returned to terrorism, thus violating the condition on which he had been removed from the list in the first place.

Embarrassingly, the terrorist was permitted to go free.

The victims of his crime were not even notified of his appeal. The very night after he was exonerated, the authorities brought Tirawi to the Balata neighborhood of Shechem and released him. He received an adoring welcome from thousands of young people, some carrying weapons. The message was clear: someone who murders Jews will regain his freedom sooner or later.

Where was IDF Central Command head General Nitzan Alon when all this happened? Part of his job is to approve rulings by the military courts under his command. Why didn’t he, or else the chief of staff, suspend the ruling so that the terrorists’ victims could file their own appeal and petition the Supreme Court to annul the ruling?

According to the legal advice obtained by Almagor from retired judges, including judges who worked in military law, the appeals court’s ruling was nothing short of scandalous. Aside from the fact that the court simply ignored the terrorist’s return to terrorism, the judges were interfering in an inherently political matter. A state has the right to announce a political or military course of action with regard to another country or entity, and then change course. This is outside of a court’s ambit. The Supreme Court has said precisely this in dozens of cases filed by Almagor and others against the release of terrorists. What is more, the Israeli policy was never issued publicly or officially, and it was part of an understanding reached with the PA, not the wanted criminals themselves.

Nevertheless, for the time being, the terrorist is home and the family of the woman he murdered is again in mourning.

Asleep at the Wheel

This week, on 9 May, Rabbi Moshe Levinger received the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism.

In 1967, Rabbi Levinger took responsibility. He led the public to settle Hevron, and from there proceeded to the remainder of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). It was not the state that did this. The settlement enterprise grew from the grassroots: it was the public that pushed and recruited the political echelon and the state.

The war on terrorism equally must not be left to military men and politicians.

Here are a few examples of successful campaigns against terrorism. Granted, whatever success is attained is scant comfort for the bereaved families, but as far as the murderers’ potential next victims are concerned, the difference is between life and death. The same goes for the many soldiers who endangered their lives to arrest and imprison the terrorists, and were spared from doing so again.

Michael Palmer, whose son Asher was murdered with his own son in a rock-throwing attack near Halhul, came from America to be present at the trial of those who had murdered his loved ones. He retained a lawyer and, along with a group of friends, attends every session held by the court. The judge, a man who had decided in the past that those who throw rocks do not necessarily do so out of intent to murder, determined this time that rocks are lethal weapons. So far the head murderer, Wa’al al-Arja, has received a life sentence.

Had the father not been present at the court, it is more than likely that a plea deal would have crept up over the course of the trial. By virtue of their constant presence, Palmer and his friends brought about an outright conviction.

In another instance, the mothers of the students murdered in Naharayim by a Jordanian soldier extemporized a memorial ceremony outside the Jordanian embassy, following the publication of a letter signed by a hundred Jordanian parliamentarians calling for the release of the murderer. The mothers met with the Jordanian ambassador and extracted a promise from him as a representative of Jordan that the murderer would not be released.

That was a sterling example of civil responsibility.

Alongside acts of murder and destruction, the terrorism machine runs a sophisticated civil support system including jurists, authors, artists, journalists, and more. There needs to be a parallel civilian movement to oppose them. Otherwise, there will continue to be reprises of what happened with Samir Issawi, a terrorist who was released in the Schalit Deal. That deal was conditioned on the terrorists’ not breaking any laws: otherwise they were to return to prison to serve out their sentences. Issawi resumed illegal activities, was caught, and went on a hunger strike. A group of authors appealed to Netanyahu for him, a leftist women’s group broke into the hospital where he was located, Haaretz lent its support, and Netanyahu surrendered. The public failed to wake up and do something. Netanyahu gave instructions to make a deal with the terrorists’ lawyers allowing him to be released early, and instead of ten years, he ended up with eight months!

At Almagor, bereaved parents and terror victims give of their time to fight a civil, political, legal, and media struggle against terrorism. They view themselves as soldiers without uniforms. Their battle cry is “Al magor!” “No fear!”

You don’t have to be a victim to fight terrorism. Join us. Together we’ll put an end to the decline of our national endurance in the face of terrorism.

Originally published in Mekor Rishon, May 10, 2013. Translated from Hebrew by David Greenberg.

Correction notice: This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that as of yet, only one of the alleged murderers has been sentenced. 

An American Tragedy in Steubenville

Monday, March 18th, 2013

A significant number of American values failures came together to create the tragedy in Stuebenville, where two teenage High School football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.

Foremost among them is the American tragedy of sexualizing teen girls at an age where they are not yet women. Madonna sexualized herself in her mid twenties. Brittney Spears brought the age down to about eighteen. Not young enough for you? Miley Cyrus reduced it further to sixteen. One wonders when our culture will feel that even sixteen is not a young enough age to sexually exploit girls.

Then there is the issue of sports as an emerging religion where those gifted to be athletes feel a sense of entitlement that often has them crossing lines to their own detriment. The idea that two High School football stars would think it acceptable to post pictures of a nude sixteen year old to their friends on social media shows how they thought the normal rules did not apply them. And this would be true even if there weren’t the far more serious conviction on rape. How sad that two young men have ruined their lives and done so much damage to a defenseless victim.

Next is the growing culture of alcohol abuse by minors. Alcohol played a central role in this unfolding tragedy with the essential argument on the part of the prosecution that the girl in question was so drunk there was no possible way she could give consent. One wonders why our youth are so inclined to heavy drink. Is it mere experimentation or is something deeper at work? Are they already, at so young an age, as unhappy as adults who have been battered by life and are therefore drinking negative emotions away? After all, no one in America really portrays the teen years as a bowl of cherries.

I passed my later teen years in an all-male environment in Yeshiva where the focus of my life was study. I certainly was a lot happier than the co-ed environment in which I was immersed in my early teen years where peer pressure, popularity among the girls, and a general self-consciousness made my life less enjoyable than it should have been.

Then there is the general tragedy of the absence of responsible parenting in America. The biggest question for me in this heartrending story was where were the parents? Where were they when the three teens left one party at 12:30 am to go to another? Where were they to monitor extreme drunkenness on the part of people not old enough to vote?

Many African-American young men are not raised with a father’s guiding hand. I was astonished, therefore, at the honesty displayed by Malik Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, when he said in a CNN interview that he had walked over to his son right after the guilty verdict and told him he loved him, essentially for the very first time. “I haven’t been involved in Malik’s life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents should be more involved in their child’s life… be a parent and not a friend.”

No one is better qualified to address this issue than President Obama who also grew up without his father and is by all accounts a very loving and involved parent himself. The President has addressed the subject only lightly, but it’s time that he make this an all-out campaign.

But the greatest tragedy made manifest in Steubenville is the attitude of teenage men toward girls. Immanuel Kant wrote that the definition of immorality is treating a fellow human being as a means rather than an end. The abomination of American slavery was that a white child was taught to see a black child as a walking bale of cotton. Slavery trained a white man to see a black woman as lacking the same spark of the divine that lent him his humanity. When he looked upon the woman, she was stripped of her own dreams, her own opinions, her own aspirations. She was nothing but an extension of the white slave owner’s drives and ambitions. Like a third arm she existed to simply to do his chores.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/an-american-tragedy-in-steubenville/2013/03/18/

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