Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Small World

Barak at Am Kshe Oref has two recent posts about an altercation between UTJ MK Yaakov Cohen and a Justice Ministry Attorney. Now I feel sad, no one told me about Israel's version of the Sumner caning.

It seems MK Cohen, angry about cuts to the Haredi education budget the Attorney had made, compared him to the Nazis:

MK Cohen told De Hartog he was "worse than the Germans; they wanted to destroy the body, while you want to destroy our soul." At which point de Hartog threatened to slap him. Cohen did, and De Hartog knocked Cohen out of his chair. As I said previously, GOOD FOR DE HARTOG! Cohen crossed a line one simply does not cross.

Here's what I didn't know: De Hartog is frum. He is a Religious Zionist.

He's also a hesder yeshiva graduate and apparently the son of Holocaust survivors. Hmm.

The attorney said he was not qualifying his apology, but felt people should understand the circumstances of his action.

"[MK Cohen] said this to a man, part of whose family perished in Aushwitz and whose father suffered the horrors of the Holocaust for four consecutive years," De Hartog told Israel Radio.

"This is what a member of the Knesset - and a rabbi - said to a Jew."

...During a Knesset Education Committee meeting, Cohen harshly criticized the attorney's decision to block budget appropriations for Haredi schools on the grounds that they have an independent curriculum that doesn't cover the core subjects required for state funding.

Cohen told De Hartog that he was "more evil and terrible than the Nazis," at which point the attorney struck him.

Cohen was taken to the Knesset clinic where he was treated for high blood pressure and was later taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital for further examinations. Knesset guards detained De Hartog and summoned the police.

De Hartog later announced that he was taking a leave of absence.

Arutz Sheva has more:

The argument heated up when De-Hartuch called Cohen an "animal," and Cohen retorted by saying, "You're worse than the Germans; they wanted to destroy the body, while you want to destroy our soul." De-Hartuch said, "I'll smack you," the MK then said, "I'm waiting for that," and De-Hartuch delivered.

MK Cohen fell to the floor, and was treated by medics on the site for bruises and high blood pressure. He was then taken to the hospital, upon the recommendation of the Knesset's doctor, where his condition was said to be stable.

The Knesset secretariat later decided to ban De-Hartuch from the Knesset forever...

Well, that was pleasant.

Maybe MK Cohen should have backed off a little. But then he wouldn't have gotten in the news and really, what other chances was he going to have? Between MK Gafni holding the reigns on the budget and MK Porush holding the reigning title of "scariest beard in Knesset", it's got to be kind of lonely being MK Cohen right now. All he's got going for him is being a lowly Rosh Yeshiva. Sometimes you've got to take it on yourself to make some publicity for the good of the band, er... political party.

Now here's the interesting bit. Guess who the Attorney in question was? Why it's none other than our old pal, Amnon de Hartoch! I guess the Dei'ah article wasn't just about taking a random crap on Ha'aretz, it was a TOPICAL hit job. Also, apparently Hartog's banning from the Knesset was at UTJ's urging. The rabbis reacted to the news with predictable dignity and grace:

Both Shas and UTJ condemned Hartog for his actions.

In addition, studies were suspended at the schools of the Gur Hasidic sect, which Cohen represents; students chanted Psalms to "avert the decrees" against Hasidism.

For United Torah Judaism, the shock of the incident had a silver lining:- the removal from the Knesset of Hartog, who has long been tagged as the ultra-Orthodox's Public Enemy No. 1.

Yesterday's incident was the climax of a long-running, overt conflict between them and the person responsible for approving the criteria for budget allocations. When Hartog raised his hand against Cohen, it left UTJ with the upper hand.

"Hartog attempted to expel the Haredim from Israeli society as if we were Darfur refugees, to keep us from receiving the bare minimum. The slap demonstrates the hate he has accumulated, merely because we tell him to his face what we think about his tricky tactics," MK Avraham Ravitz (UTJ) said.

"The master doesn't like it when the Jewboy tells him to his face what he thinks about him."

Hang on, so now Ravitz is suggesting that haredim are the government's house-slaves?

All this rhetoric seems par for the course per the Jerusalem Post's background reporting:

As inexcusable as the physical assault of an MK by a government official is, for Dehartuch this was the culmination of years of vicious vilification he has been forced to undergo from the ultra-Orthodox media and politicians for simply doing his job.

The "Germans" slur on Tuesday might have been a new low point, but in the past he has been compared to just about every other historical enemy of the Jewish people, including Pharaoh, Haman and Antiokhus. He has been accused of having a pathological hatred of Judaism and of pursuing an ideological against the haredi community.
Some interesting stuff. Stupid, sad, a wee pathetic, but certainly interesting. (Incidentally, guys- please work on the standardized spelling. Hartoch, Hartog, Hartuch, Dehartuch? Take some pity on me and my poor Google.)

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