Better to Be a Buzaglo

Moriel Matalon
Moriel Matalon

More than 30 years ago, Aharon Barak, then the attorney general, coined a new phrase: "the Buzaglo test".

The issue at the time was Asher Yadlin, the omnipotent chairman of kupat holim and one of the strongest people in Israel, whom the government chose to chair the Bank of Israel. Not long after, suspicions of serious crime began to arise.

Barak ordered that Yadlin be investigated like any other person would be, and to drive home the point, he said, "Yadlin's fate should be the same fate as Buzaglo's fate." With that utterance, the unknown Mr Buzaglo entered the Israeli pantheon as Everyman, a person with no special contacts or influence.

Over time, Barak came to regret having chosen a name of Moroccan origin for the simple Everyman, and started using "Mrs Cohen from Hadera", signifying Every(wo)man with No Political Contacts or Influence, and No Clear Ethnic Affiliation. It didn't help: by then Buzaglo had become an idiom and every novice law student knew that in the modern state of Israel, the highest of the land to the lowest, yes! Buzaglo, were equal in the eyes of the law.

Thirty years down the line, it seems we took the Buzaglo principle to wrong places.

Imagine that instead of attorney Dori Klagsbald, one of the most famous lawyers in the land, the man who crashed into a car halted at a red light, killing the driver and her six-year old son, was an anonymous person. Buzaglo, or Mrs Cohen from Hadera. Instead of unceasing coverage in the press, page 1, it might get a mention on page 17.

Instead of 15 months' hard time, the negligent driver who killed the mother and son would probably have gotten half that, six to nine months.

Simona at the grocery

Suppose that it wasn't Minister Haim Ramon, but Mr Buzaglo standing accused of inserting his tongue into the mouth of Simona at the neighborhood grocery. Would the police have sent the best and brightest of its investigators to locate Simona in South America and take down her testimony? Would the police have abetted wiretaps at the grocery?

The police and prosecution have shown courage and fortitude in pursuing investigations against the rich and powerful. But why can't they show the same courage and fortitude in closing cases? Has the power gone to their heads?

No doubt the adrenaline flows stronger when one flies to Costa Rica to investigate the mysterious H about Ramon's tongueplay, compared with taking a bus to Hadera to try and figure out who stole Mrs Cohen's car.

It may be hard for the police to forgo an opportunity to lay down the law to the nation's leaders and, for instance, to topple the justice minister from his lofty seat straight to the witness box. What paper in its right mind would run a picture of a cop investigating the theft of Mrs Cohen's car? Would Shelly Yachimovich bewail the crime wave? No, the paper would not, Yachimovich would not.

The people enforcing the law, the media and publicity-mad figures have joined forces and created a new truth: under the circumstances today, it's better to be a Buzaglo than a Klagsbald. It is time to coin a new phrase: 'The Klagsbald test'.

From today onward, say ye that equality before the law means, not only that Klagsbald and Ramon receive equal treatment and no "discounts", and that they get tried if necessary exactly as Buzaglo would have been; it also means that Klagsbald and Ramon not be subjected to harsher treatment than Buzaglo would have because of their celebrity.

If the original Buzaglo test was, that Yadlin was no less suspect than Buzaglo would have been, then the Klagsbald test is: Klagsbald is no more suspect than Buzaglo would have been.

The author is a managing partner at Gornitzky & Co law offices.

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