Police Expected to Indict Artist for Defecating on Israeli Flag

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Natali Cohen Vaxberg in 2014.
Natali Cohen Vaxberg in 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Police are expected to indict a performance artist in the near future on charges of desecrating the national flag.

Natali Cohen Vaxberg was recently arrested for the fifth time in the 14 months since she first videotaped herself defecating on the Israeli flag and flags of other countries. Though the indictment is being prepared by police prosecutors, Deputy State Prosecutor Amit Aisman is working with the police on preparing the charge sheet.

Cohen Vaxberg was arrested for the first time in November 2014, after uploading a video clip to the Internet that showed her defecating on the flags. But a court ordered her released that same day, saying this was not an act that justified detention.

Since then, she has been arrested four more times over similar video clips. In each case, she was arrested pursuant to a different citizen’s complaint filed with a different police station in a different town.

The fifth time, however, she was arrested because police decided to question her as part of an investigation being conducted by the Ayalon subdistrict’s cyber crime unit. The unit is supposed to deal with crimes like online pedophilia, incitement or bullying. But it apparently decided Cohen Vaxberg’s Facebook page was worth investigating, and quickly discovered a video of her defecating on a teddy bear dressed in the Israeli flag.

On December 26, a few days after that arrest, Cohen Vaxberg gave Haaretz her description of what happened.

“They asked me about my picture with a teddy bear wrapped with an Israeli flag that looks like I am about to defecate on it,” she said. “They asked what the message of the picture was. I said it seemed clear to me and I didn’t intend to explain. They asked whether I remembered when I posted the picture, and I said I didn’t remember and that they should ask the bear. Even the policeman couldn’t help laughing.”

Police then decided to send all five cases to the prosecution to see if there were grounds for charging her with desecrating the flag.

“She was questioned four times, but continued to do this a fifth time as well,” a police source said. “It’s our right and obligation to stop her and indict her if she’s violating the law.”

It’s not clear why police are ascribing such importance to this case, which they term a “flagship case” in enforcing the law against desecrating state symbols. But they have not been deterred by criticism that they are wasting time on a triviality, and police sources said they believe Vaxberg Cohen will soon be charged with five counts of desecrating the flag.

The Flag, Emblem and National Anthem Law was enacted in 1949. It states that anyone who dishonors the flag, causes it to be dishonored or uses it in a way that dishonors it is liable to a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a fine.

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