Opinion

Israel's Attorney General Must Take Action on Litzman

Yaakov Litzman in front of the High Court of Justice, Jerusalem, February 27 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak Rata committed horrific sex crimes against a girl, starting when she was 8 and ending when she turned 18. She courageously testified, and Rata received a 16-year prison sentence. Yaakov Litzman was involved in the case, before and after becoming deputy health minister, including by pressuring psychiatrists who report to him and decide on Rata’s fate.

On Thursday we reported, on Channel 13’s “Hamakor,” on intervention by Litzman and his ministry in behalf of at least 10 convicted sex offenders. In a creative step, Litzman aired his own ad that evening: “There is no forgiveness for sex offenders, who belong in prison,” he said authoritatively. But Litzman told the psychiatrists that injustice was done to Rata and lobbied for longer furloughs. His efforts led to a rare clash between the ministry and the Israel Prison Service.

Litzman argues that he merely responds to requests for help. Among the cancer and nursing patients are a few pedophiles and rapists. Litzman often helps people, but with a distinct bias toward celebrities and ultra-Orthodox Jews. (After the broadcast, MK Bezalel Smotrich and journalist Amichai Atali praised Litzman in tweets, saying he had helped them. Of course the petitioners’ status is immaterial).

In fact, there is a conspiracy of silence in the health care system surrounding these requests. Hospital directors, department heads and senior physicians are aware of the endless requests from Litzman and his ministry to help those he wants to honor, on the pretext of “public requests.”

Litzman simply found a brilliant way to reward his public. In the story of the sex offenders it is combined with a terrible culture of helping criminals and denying that there are victims. Rata, for example, was released and became the rabbi of a congregation, as though nothing had happened. Incidentally, Litzman and the Gur, or Gerer Hasidim to which he belongs have a political interest in supporting this small community, in which Rata is a key figure.

It is the attorney general who must take action. The attorney general blocked the appointment of public security ministers who were under investigation. When Tzachi Hanegbi was under investigation for illegal political appointments, he suspended himself, but the government only appointed a temporary replacement. The issue reached the High Court of Justice; justices Mishael Cheshin and Dorit Beinisch, in a minority opinion, argued that Hanegbi should be barred from the position for several years, so that the police investigators involved in his case would have no reason to fear for their professional future.

Litzman oversees a number of psychiatrists who are key witnesses in the affair. Most were allegedly pressured by him and his ministry to help Malka Leifer, a suspected pedophile, whose extradition is being sought by Australia. Litzman is also in charge of district psychiatrist Dr. Jacob Charnes, a key witness in the affair; his partner in the problematic opinion, Dr. Gadi Lubin; the two psychiatrists who tried to repair the distortion - Dr. Igor Barash and Dr. Daniel Argo; Dr. Yelena Dinerstein, the psychiatrist who examined Leifer over a period of 18 months; Dr. Weisbrod, the psychiatrist who determined that Leifer was pretending, and all the psychiatrists who treat convicted sex offenders and who testified in the case, including Dr. Moshe Birger. Shouldn’t Litzman be barred from being able to influence all the witnesses who are likely to decide his fate?

In the story of Hanegbi, then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided that “Hanegbi ought not to serve in another active ministerial position either.” Unfortunately, at a time when we need an active attorney general more than ever, Mendelblit is once again hiding. This is what Cheshin wrote in the Hanegbi ruling: “When we learned that the culture of ‘that is not done here’ has weakened, and we have become severely eroded, shouldn’t the law make its voice heard loud and clear? Shouldn’t its voice be not only like the voice of the piccolo, “clear and pure but drowned out in the commotion?”