Shlomo Benizri is not Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and nor is he Nissim Ze'ev.
Benizri is Shas' most skilled and experienced speaker and was probably fully aware of the earthquake he would cause when he approached the microphone during a Knesset plenum session and, knowing he was in full view of the television cameras, quoted passages from the Gemara concerning body organs so shaken during male homosexual sex they even cause shocks in the Syrian-African fault line.
Benizri's words were not taken out of context, nor were they a slip of the tongue.
Benizri could have accurately guessed how many radio and television producers would try to book him on their shows and have him debate the link between gays and tectonic plates. It's hard not to reach the conclusion that he wanted to raise a storm and he got what he wanted.
For most of his latest tenure, Benizri, who is being tried on corruption charges, has kept a low profile. He has focused most of his parliamentary activity in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and made few controversial statements. Why did he decide that the time had come to make a stand? Does he believe it would be beneficial for his trial to present himself as a victim? Or did he deem his witticism too good to keep to himself? Only Benizri knows.
Benizri's defense can be described as: "It wasn't me, it was the Gemara!" He was referring to a discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud about the causes of earthquakes and which, in one passage, makes a link between gay sex, God's wrath and earthquakes.
In which case, Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) wittily replied: "Then change the Gemara." Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that the "only organ that shook the Knesset was Benizri's unrestrained tongue."
If somebody is planning to appeal to the Knesset Ethics Committee then they are wasting their time. MK Nissim Ze'ev compared "homos" to the bird flu in a Knesset committee last month. He also said that they are causing "the self-destruction of the State of Israel and the Jewish people." In response, the Association for Civil Rights complained to the committee.
This week, Haim Oron (Meretz), the committee's chairman, replied to the complaint, stating that "all the committee members believe that MK Nissim Ze'ev's statement is on the very verge of crossing the committee's delineated borderlines," causing one to wonder what exactly it would take to cross the committee's lines.
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