Chief Justice Beinisch Lightly Hurt After Assailant Flings Shoes

A disgruntled litigant threw a pair of shoes at Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch yesterday, one of which hit her in the face, breaking her glasses and injuring her slightly. The assailant, Pini Cohen, 52, of Jerusalem, was immediately arrested.

The incident occurred at about 11:30 A.M., while Beinisch was hearing an unrelated case in the Supreme Court's main courtroom. Cohen entered, sat down and asked the woman sitting next to him whether Beinisch was in fact the presiding justice. When the woman said yes, he took off his shoes and threw them at Beinisch.

As the courtroom guards grabbed him and led him away, he screamed at Beinisch, "you're a corrupt creature of Philip Marcus; the two of you destroyed my life!"

Marcus, a Jerusalem family court judge, had ruled on Cohen's alimony case. Cohen later told police that he threw the shoes to take revenge for that verdict, but regretted having done so.

Beinisch herself had no connection to the case in question, but was apparently targeted because of her position as head of the judiciary.

Beinisch was immediately taken out of the room and given first aid, and the hearing was suspended for about an hour and a half. She then returned to the courtroom to finish hearing her case, and was greeted with applause upon entering. Her husband, Yehezkell Beinisch, later said that she was fine.

Courts Administration Director Moshe Gal said an initial inquiry found that the incident did not stem from any negligence by the courtroom security guards, but security procedures would be reviewed in light of the attack.

Politicians were united in outrage over the attack.

President Shimon Peres telephoned Beinisch from Berlin.

"I'm concerneded for your welfare," he said. "The attack on you was an attack on a sacred institution of the State of Israel, and we must not ignore it. Be strong. My heart is with you. And take care of yourself."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called her from Poland, saying such a "crime ... ought to be inconceivable."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) declared, "faced with such a lawless crossing of a red line, we must not hesitate. Even when upset, or [conducting] a legitimate debate, it is important to zealously guard all of the State of Israel's symbols of government, including the judiciary - because we have only one democracy."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) said that "violence in an Israeli courtroom is unacceptable," while Knesset Constitution Committee chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) termed it an assault against the judicial system and the state as a whole.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that "violence and hooliganism threaten Israeli society, but violence against judges is seven times more dangerous, because it undermines Israel's democratic character."

But Labor MKs Eitan Cabel and Shelly Yachimovich charged that ultimate responsibility for the attack lay with the MKs and ministers who have criticized the court in recent years.

"All those who flung mud at the Supreme Court in the Knesset and the cabinet bear responsibility for shoes being thrown at the Supreme Court president," Cabel said.

The attack, Yachimovich added, should serve as "a warning to senior politicians who smear and delegitimize the Supreme Court."