Ariel University Appoints Convicted Offender as Disciplinary Judge

Trustees' board head asked his old friend, former MK Eliezer Cohen, convicted of committing indecent act, to sit on panel.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Eliezer Cohen at his office in the Knesset. July 10, 2002.Credit: Eyal Warshavsky/BAUBAU
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Ariel University has appointed former Knesset member Eliezer "Cheetah" Cohen as a judge on its disciplinary committee even though Cohen was convicted in 2012 of performing an indecent act, after touching the breasts of a flight attendant on an El Al flight.

Cohen sits on the special disciplinary committee that was established to hear the case of Prof. Amir Hetsroni, a lecturer whom Ariel University officials are seeking to dismiss.

Hetsroni has been accused of speaking out against the university and against the necessity of studying communications, and also of humiliating women, which the university deems particularly damaging. His case is currently under discussion.

The members of the disciplinary panel include two professors who are permanent members of the university’s disciplinary committee, a representative of the administration, a representative of the teaching staff, and two representatives of the public appointed by the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, Herzl Bodinger.

Bodinger, whose acquaintance with Cohen goes back to their service in the Israel Air Force, is responsible for appointing him to the panel. Cohen, who was discharged from the IAF in 1974 with the rank of colonel, later served as a Knesset member of Yisrael Beiteinu.

Cohen was convicted of performing an indecent act in Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court after having touched a flight attendant’s breasts on a flight six years earlier from New York to Israel. Cohen claimed that the flight attendant had made up the charge to keep him from complaining about poor service.

Rejecting Cohen’s claims, Judge Sarit Zamir sentenced him to two months of community service and a fine of 3,000 shekels (about $900). She handed down the relatively light sentence in consideration of his advanced age and his service on behalf of the country.

Cohen appealed the sentence in a district court, which ruled that since no sexual basis had been found for his act, the charge would be amended to assault rather than an indecent act. Cohen’s sentence remained in effect.

For his part, Hetsroni said of Cohen's role on the university committee: “The appointment of a violent sex offender as a judge in a disciplinary court shows how the administration of Ariel University shows contempt for women in general and for victims of sex offenses in particular, all in order to dismiss me for my political views ... I have never entertained the slightest doubt regarding the terrible suffering endured by victims of violent offenders of Cheetah Cohen’s sort.

“Although I have differences of opinion with radical feminist groups about economic and political issues, we are in total agreement that violent men must be kept away from society ... I call upon the university’s supervisory bodies to annul the disciplinary proceedings against me immediately and dismiss from their posts those who appointed a violent sex offender as a judge on the university’s disciplinary committee.”

Cohen did not respond to a call from Haaretz about the subject of his position on the committee. Officials of Ariel University refused to comment.

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