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Even in Death Israeli Media Cannot Report Identity of Star Witness in Olmert Corruption Trial

Before writing anything else here, let me begin by stating that I think Ehud Olmert is as corrupt as they come in Israeli politics. Which isn’t saying much, since virtually all the major politicians in Israel (that is those who wield real power as opposed to those in Opposition) are corrupt to one degree or another.

shmuel dachner

Shmuel Dachner, state’s witness against Ehud Olmert (Moti Kimche)

Which is why I am saddened that the State’s key witness in the Holyland corruption trial has died. I am told by a knowledgeable Israeli source that he was 76 year-old Shmuel Dachner, and the developer behind the Jerusalem Holyland project. Haaretz reports that Dachner testified that he paid $30,000 to Olmert’s brother (keeping it all in the family), along with similar bribes to a Jerusalem city engineer (Olmert was mayor at the time), and Olmert’s personal secretary, Shula Zaken. The overall total in bribes paid is alleged to be “in the millions of shekels.”

This development means Olmert is less likely to be convicted though a conviction is still possible. If he gets off it will mean a certain return to Israeli politics, where he will resume pulling the wool over the eyes of an electorate which believes him to be a sensible moderate, unlike the raving extremism of Lieberman and the like. The truth is that Olmert is little different than Bibi in terms of the overall effect of his policies. His return to politics will mean another shot of anesthesia for the body politic which has numbed itself to any prospect for change or compromise with the Palestinians.

You may wonder why I’m even writing about this case since such corruption is so de rigueur in the Israeli context. The reason is that there is a gag order prohibiting the publication of Dachner’s name. Yet any reasonably intelligent person can read past stories about the Holyland project, which explicitly mentioned his name, and put two and two together.

Only in Israel do a judge and State prosecutor think the public is so stupid that they can’t figure these things out for themselves. So because I think the average Israeli is smarter than the average censor or gagging judge, I’ll make explicit Dachner’s identity. Not to mention the fact that Dachner is now deceased and maintaining a gag order on the identity of a dead man seems beyond ridiculous.

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • DJ Blass March 2, 2013, 2:51 AM

    I am a Tikkun subscriber and find myself sadly in complete agreement with your assessment of Israeli politics; although a majority of Israeli’s would argue that American Jews have no right to argue or play a role in Israeli politics, I am concerned enough about the survival of the Jewish State, which sadly has become the beating heart of our faith since The Shoah, so I will comment anyway.

    I attended Hebrew Union College for two years and graduated with a masters degree which was supposed to have prepared me to work in the Jewish Community. I also had a large scholarship and the implication was that I would use it to eventually play a leadership role in Jewish organizations. I worked for the Federation as a junior exec and several of the communal service agencies in the Los Angeles but was totally frustrated in all my endeavors by the same sort of nepotism, corruption, and incompetence that you describe in your article. Perhaps its not just Israeli politics its Jewish Communal Politics as it seems to be endemic.

    I will write at some other point about my experience discussing making Aliyah while I was spending a month in Israel as a young adult and how I was received or how Hebrew Union College treated my interest in studying Talmud and pursuing a Rabbinic career. These tales from my back pages are not edifying to the American or Israeli Jewish communities and the people (still mostly men) that lead them.

    • Richard Silverstein March 2, 2013, 5:34 PM

      Our biographies overlapped in some ways. I too was a Jewish communal worker for many years (fundraiser for several federations). I too got a Judaica degree from a seminary (JTS-Conservative). I too considered the rabbinate (but turned aside from that path). I too studied Talmud at the Seminary.

  • Nimrod March 2, 2013, 11:07 PM

    The reason is that there was a gag order prohibiting the publication of Dachner’s name was because he was in the witness protection program.
    He was also regularly smeared in the Israeli mainstream media which is linked to Olmert (Yediot Acharonot news paper and some key players in the Israeli channel 2).

    Olmert’s attorneys requested Dachner’s identity to be revealed to the public and the judge did not approve, because it might hurt his testimony.

  • shmuel March 3, 2013, 12:19 AM

    I discussed with some friends on shabbat the stupidity of a gag order in Israel whilst the name is publicised abroad and in blogs.
    An opinion was put forward that even with this awareness, the vast majority of Israelis don’t follow foreign blogs, especially in English, but only expose themselves to the local Hebrew media. Thus the gag is in fact effective for the average Israeli who either doesn’t care or doesn’t know where to look to find out.
    Hence the authorities will continue their gagging policy as largely effective.
    Specifically, “s.d.” will be named at the end of the shiva, and not earlier out of respect for his family.

    • Richard Silverstein March 3, 2013, 1:53 AM

      Only in Israel would the State respect the memory of a gonif real estate developer who corrupted scores of officials up to the prime minister himself (who was then only mayor of Jerusalem) by keeping his identity secret until after shivah ends.

      • Nimrod March 3, 2013, 2:39 AM

        you make it sound like it’s a bad thing

  • zh March 3, 2013, 1:34 AM

    At least some Israeli leaders do go on trial, once in a while.

    • Richard Silverstein March 3, 2013, 1:51 AM

      When they do they’re invariably let off with a slap on the wrist. Unless they’re dumber than sh*t like Katsav, who refused a plea bargain on a lesser charge & was convicted of rape.

      • DavidL March 3, 2013, 6:35 AM

        I happen to agree that politics in Israel is just that… politics- and that I have less and less faith in the government (not specifically “Right” or “Left”… I just think this coalition form of rule works like sh*t in making the government really work). It might work in other countries but there has got to be a better way to run the government.

        But what you say above isn’t entirely true, politicians who get caught go to jail. It wasn’t just Katza, but there have been others who have served some sentance of one type or another… many are a bit more than a “slap on the wrist”- Deri, Hirchson, Ben-Izri and of course, Katzav to name the biggest.

        Here’s a Telegraph article about some of them (there was one or two more Shas characters who served as well not mentioned in the article… maybe they were in jail more than a couple of decades ago):

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/8397866/Israeli-politicians-convicted-in-last-two-decades.html

        I remember a few years back taking my daughter to Gan and at the entrance was a picture of our “leaders”… Olhmert the PM (or more fitting “Peeyew”) and Katzav as President. I would avert my daughter’s attention as not to see them lest she ask me who they were. I was/am so embarrassed by those two I would have felt compelled to tell her they were crooks– basically, a crook and a rapist!

        And as much as we don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, when it comes to political corruptness, left or right (and NEITHER side has a monopoly on their scruples here) I believe we share the same thinking that corruption has to go out the door and not be invited back in. Unfortunatley in Israel we keep seeing the same faces leave and come back… and they aren’t necessarily connected to any one party, but a whole lot of ‘em mixed together.

        • Richard Silverstein March 4, 2013, 9:17 PM

          I hardly think there’s any corruption on the Israeli left unless you want to call people like Ehud Barak “the left,” which would be laughable. But one reason there may be little corruption in the left is that it’s not in power. Political power & corruption appear to go hand in hand–certainly in Israel they do.

      • eden March 3, 2013, 8:46 AM

        Or Deri of course. It seems that like in America with Black politicians, certain groups are offered less clemency. Kennedy could drive drunk and kill his secretary but Jackson can not steal campaign money.
        Olmert and Bush are therefore safe. This is still better than China where a British man wa killed to protect a corrupt politician and his wife

        • Ori March 4, 2013, 12:40 AM

          Regarding Olmert, unfortunately you seem to be right – the guy is going to escape his due punishment. Too So bad. Yet the case of sh-d, the witness, has nothing to do with evil Israeli habits or whatever. The gag order was intended to protect him during the trial, and now, after his death, to let his family lashevet shiv`a in peace. It’s upsetting that this kind of humane consideration seems inappropriate to some.

        • Richard Silverstein March 4, 2013, 12:54 PM

          Chappaquidick happened in 1972. Kennedy would never get away with anything like that today. It’s like you to presume that the U.S. of over 40 yrs ago is the same as the U.S. today, when it’s not.

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