Simcha Rothman won't be punished for confronting protester in NY

Knesset Ethics Committee says the lawmaker acted in self-defense when he grabbed the megaphone of a protester against judicial reform, but made it clear that public figures are subject to criticism

Sivan Hilaie |

Demonstrators follow Simcha Rothman during his visit to New York
(צילום: שני גרנות לובטון)

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Sunday rejected a complaint against the chairman of the Constitution Committee, lawmaker Simcha Rothman, saying he reacted violently when he grabbed a megaphone from a protester against judicial reform last month on the streets of New York. The complaint was brought by Labor Party lawmaker Naama Lazimi.
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The committee determined that no sanctions would be imposed against Rothman, who appeared before the committee and claimed that he acted in self-defense . The protester who was involved in the incident did not receive an invitation to testify before the committee.
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שמחה רוטמן חוטף את המגפון ממפגינה בניו יורק
שמחה רוטמן חוטף את המגפון ממפגינה בניו יורק
Simcha Rothman grabs away the megaphone of a protester in New York
(Photo: Shany Granot-Lubaton)
Immediately after the incident in New York, Lazimi appealed to the Knesset's Ethics Committee, claiming that Rothman had acted violently by grabbing away the megaphone, even though he was not under threat. The members of the committee said that it expects law enforcement agencies to preserve that the safety of the members of the Knesset, while allowing them to fulfill their duties. However, the committee also said that it "wishes to point out that holding a public position brings with it criticism and Knesset members are expected not to enter into a physical confrontation with protesters."
Lazimi said in response to the decision: "Member of Knesset Rothman used physical violence against a protester, an Israeli citizen studying in New York, who demonstrated against the coup d'état. This despite the fact that he was heavily secured, while representing Israel to the world. This is not befitting the behavior of a member of the Knesset and certainly not of the chairman of the Constitutional Committee who is now discussing Israel's democratic future."
She added that: "Despite the violent action, the ethics committee decided not to summon the victim to testify, and even determined that Rothman did not commit an ethical offense even though he was photographed and documented. This is an unfortunate and disappointing decision on the part of a committee that is supposed to preserve the honor of the Knesset and demand appropriate standards.
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ועדת החוקה, חוק ומשפט
ועדת החוקה, חוק ומשפט
Lawmaker Simcha Rothman during a committee meeting
(Photo Shilo Shalom)
The Knesset's ethics committee, headed by Shas lawmaker Yinon Azulai, is made up of an equal number of Knesset members from the opposition and the coalition. Against the background of the renewal of the legislation surrounding judicial reform in the Constitution Committee headed by Rothman, the opposition committee members were expected to apply sanctions against him, but they rejected Lazimi's proposal.
The protester from whom Rothman stole a megaphone filed a complaint against him with the New York Police. She told Ynet after the incident: "I have never been in a physical altercation in my life, and I was terrified after it happened. I was very afraid to file a complaint because of the character of the person, his role and who he is. I am Israeli and intend to return to Israel after finishing my studies here. He has a lot of power and can somehow twist this story and turn it against me."
According to the protester, "I simply read chants against him for what he was doing to the people of Israel, and he simply wanted it to stop – so he attacked me. By the way, he never took responsibility for it, but claimed that he was the victim and that I attacked him with shouts. It's quite pitiful., It's amazing that he doesn't know how to take responsibility for his actions, like a child. He could ask for forgiveness and admit that he was wrong."
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