They don't understand that barring entry to an honest man like Hartog is an insult to the Knesset, not to Hartog. Many of us are responsible for the fact that he broke down, and we will all pay the price for the slap on the face.
No profound understanding of human nature is necessary to understand that the slap delivered by Amnon De Hartog - the Justice Ministry official who approves support for public institutions - to MK Yakov Cohen reflected serious distress. For 15 years Hartog has guarded the public coffers and has fought our battles. And when last year he endured an unremitting offensive led by MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, he remained alone. Hartog is a very gentle man. When he slapped Cohen on the face he found an unacceptable - and for him very uncharacteristic - way of making clear that this nightmare cannot continue.
The Knesset presidency barred Hartog from entering the building for the rest of his life. The truth is that had this punishment been imposed a day earlier, he would have considered it a prize. In recent months, his every visit to the Knesset could turn into a nightmare. Every time he appeared before a committee he could expect attacks by ultra-Orthodox MKs, and particularly Gafni. Gafni did not hesitate to insult him and accuse him of working for the benefit of national religious education, because his children study there.
Many people in the Knesset thought it was a scandal, but nobody did anything about it, especially not the heads of the committees that were supposed to restrain Gafni. Hartog's big mistake was that he did not refuse to come to the Knesset. The Ethics Committee discussed the subject last Monday, and like a trade union that protects its members, it didn't even reprimand Gafni. What they don't understand in the Knesset is that barring entry to an honest man like Hartog is an insult to the Knesset, not to Hartog.
The ultra-Orthodox press conducted a propaganda campaign against Hartog, and published pictures of him repeatedly. Hartog, a very religious man, lives in a mixed neighborhood with both Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox residents. There were synagogues in the neighborhood where they refused to pray with him. And let it be clear: When Hartog fought against ultra-Orthodox institutions, he did so from a halakhic standpoint, which found it incomprehensible that religious people could steal and receive money fraudulently.
It is not unusual that the ultra- Orthodox use Holocaust-related terms when attacking someone they see as their enemy. For Hartog these attacks hit a sensitive nerve. His father, a Holocaust survivor, died a few months ago. He didn't understand how one could say such things about someone whose parents survived the Holocaust. Every noble act by Hartog was interpreted negatively by the ultra-Orthodox. Two years ago he fought to have children in a Hadera ultra-Orthodox school removed from a building next to a high-tension wire. The ultra-Orthodox depicted this as a war against ultra- Orthodox education.
There are people who can say they sounded a warning. Haaretz reporter Yuval Yoaz, for example, published an article about Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, who abandoned Hartog. And an attorney, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, filed a complaint to the Ethics Committee against Gafni. But what about the approximately 100 MKs who are not ultra-Orthodox, many of whom witnessed the attack and remained silent? What about the attorney general's staff, who did not understand that in the end Hartog would break down? What about the organizations fighting for good government, which did not come to his defense? What about the rest of the press, which did not fulfill its role in defending the man who safeguarded the money that belongs to all of us? What about me, who was the person most familiar with Hartog's work, and still did not think to sound a warning?
Many of us are responsible for the fact that Amnon De Hartog broke down, and we will all pay the price for the slap on the face; both with the money that will now flow without interference to non-government organizations that should not receive it, and with a marked increase in the level of corruption. Some people are irreplaceable. Hartog is one of them.
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