Breaking Margalit Tzan'ani

In a normal country, where the police do their work in secret, where courts act swiftly, and where there is a bailiff's office that collects debts quickly, no one would even have dreamed of turning to criminal families to deal with a business conflict.

There is no greater joy than rejoicing in another's failure, especially when the person who has failed was highly successful until just yesterday. The book of Proverbs tells us, "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth," but we are happy even when the person who falls is not our enemy.

We are referring here to the case of singer Margalit Tzan'ani, who until yesterday was on top of the world in entertainment and society circles, and who today is being detained by the police.

The police have been leaking some of the materials gathered during the course of their investigation, including an embarrassing mug-shot of Tzan'ani with an identity number. And the journalists have published everything, because no one really cares if her blood is shed even before an indictment is served, to say nothing of waiting for a conviction. That's because no one here is "innocent until proven guilty." Here, everyone is guilty the second police open a file and begin to leak information.

The most annoying accusation is the one that has been heard on all the news broadcasts: extortion. The police say - and the media repeats this like parrots - that Tzan'ani is suspected of being involved in the extortion of her manager, Assaf Atedgi. But when someone says "extortion," the immediate image that comes to mind is of a gang of criminals attacking innocent people and blackmailing them. These criminals blackmail contractors, club owners and shopkeepers, sometimes under the system of "protection," and sometimes without any kind of excuse.

But the Tzan'ani case is different. According to the reports that have been published, we are talking about an agreement between Tzan'ani and Atedgi that they would share the fees for representing singer Omer Adam. Atedgi wanted to amend the agreement so that more money would go to him. Tzan'ani refused, and in order to solve the problem, the two of them went to a mediator, who decided in favor of Tzan'ani. However, Atedgi continued to refuse to pay. At that point, Tzan'ani turned to several dubious characters to ask for their help in collecting the debt.

It is true that it is forbidden to threaten anyone, even in an indirect way. It is illegal, and it can in no way be considered acceptable. But that is not extortion in the sense that "protection" is considered extortion.

However, if the case were to be described by the police without the bombastic word "extortion," the brave policemen who succeeded in following Tzan'ani even as far as Be'er Sheva would not have received such big headlines.

In a normal country, where the police do their work in secret, where courts act swiftly, and where there is a bailiff's office that collects debts quickly, no one would even have dreamed of turning to criminal families to deal with a business conflict.

But Israel is a paradise for debtors. Any self-employed person or businessman who supplies goods is dependent on the goodwill of the person who owes them the debt. If the debtor doesn't feel like paying, he doesn't - and nothing happens to him. If you go to the police, they will simply tell you that it is a civilian matter and of no interest to them. And if you sue in court, the judge will put pressure on you to reach a compromise because he is in a hurry to close the file as soon as possible. Then an appeal will be lodged, and time will pass, and you will see the debtor looking happy and content, while you are eating your heart out.

That is how the system of justice works here - with outrageous inefficiency. It is like the parable of the vineyard in the Book of Isaiah: "He looked for justice but instead he found cries of violence."

The leaks on the part of the police are also a serious matter. I know several people who, if you show them enough disrespect, or if you prevent them from sleeping properly, would be prepared to admit their guilt in the 1933 murder of Chaim Arlosoroff - just as long as it means you'll leave them alone. That is why the police must not use "all means" to break the spirit of someone who is being interrogated. The accused is likely to admit to something he did not do, and there have in fact been instances of this.

We also do not want these kinds of detentions, which get so much media coverage, to end in tragedy. After all, it is clear why the police publish leaks. It is for their self-aggrandizement, to break the suspect, to turn public opinion against the accused, and in this way to put pressure on the judge to remand them into custody. But that is not legal. That is a means of disrupting the judicial process.

In the case of a celebrity, the leaks also are destructive. Even if Tzan'ani comes out of the affair completely clean, the leaks have by now already caused irreversible damage to her career and earnings. That is why the police have a duty to maintain utter secrecy. But if there are no police leaks, and no pictures from the computers of the prisons service, how will we be able to rejoice at the failures of others?