Shlomo Benizri

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Shlomo Benizri
Date of birth (1961-02-07) 7 February 1961 (age 53)
Place of birth Haifa, Israel
Knessets 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
Faction represented in Knesset
1992–2008 Shas
Ministerial roles
1999–2000 Minister of Health
2001–2002 Minister of Labor & Social Welfare
2002–2003 Minister of Labor & Social Welfare

Shlomo Benizri (Hebrew: שלמה בניזרי‎, born 7 February 1961) is an Israeli politician and member of the Shas party. He represented Shas in the Knesset between 1992 and 2008, serving as Deputy Health Minister, Minister of Health, and Labor and Social Welfare Minister during the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was later convicted for accepting bribes, breach of trust, conspiring to commit a crime and obstruction of justice, and served a prison sentence.[1]

Biography[edit]

Born in Haifa, Benizri attended the Nesher Comprehensive High School, before being ordained as a rabbi at the ”Or Hachaim” Talmudic College in Jerusalem. He later was head of a Talmudic college and worked as a lecturer on Judaism.

He was first elected to the Knesset in 1992 on Shas' list, and served as the party's parliamentary group chairman during his first term. He was re-elected in 1996, and was appointed Deputy Minister of Health in Binyamin Netanyahu's government. He was re-elected again in 1999 after being placed fifth on the Shas list,[2] and was appointed Minister of Health in Ehud Barak's government, serving in the cabinet until Shas left the government on 11 July 2000.

He returned to the cabinet after Ariel Sharon formed a new government in 2001 as Labor and Social Welfare Minister, serving until the 2003 elections (aside from a period of two weeks in May–June 2002 when Shas withdrew from the coalition).

For the 2003 elections Benizri was placed second on the Shas list,[3] and was re-elected. For the 2006 elections he was dropped to sixth place.[4]

Although he retained his seat, on 29 March 2006, the day following the elections, he was charged by the State Prosecutor's Office with accepting bribes and breaching the public trust. The decision to indict Benizri after the elections had already taken place was a conscious decision on the part of the Israeli attorney general Menachem Mazuz. On 1 April 2008, Benizri was convicted of accepting bribes, breach of faith, obstructing justice, and conspiracy to commit a crime for accepting favors worth millions of shekels from his friend, contractor Moshe Sela, in exchange for inside information regarding foreign workers scheduled to arrive in Israel.[5] On 27 April 2008, a district court sentenced him to 18 months in jail and decided that his actions amount to moral turpitude.[6][7] He resigned from the Knesset the same day and was replaced by Mazor Bahaina. Both Benizri and the state appealed the decision. On 24 June 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the decision and prolonged Benizri's jail time to 4 years.[8] Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev declared after the sentencing: “He is a victim of the system that allows his fate to be decided by elitist judges, who care about his sector and his race and not the good deeds he performs. I have no doubt that an American jury would have treated him better. That's why we need a jury of our peers”.[9] And Benizri's brother, Rabbi David Benizri claimed that “a conspiracy of top-ranking homosexuals was behind the Supreme Court's decision to aggravate the sentence”.[10] Benizri began serving his sentence on September 1, 2009 in the religious division of Maasiyahu prison in Ramle.[1] His cellmate from December 7, 2011 to his release was former president Moshe Katsav.

In January 2012, a parole board reduced his sentence by 16 months due to good behavior, and set his release date for April. On March 1, 2012, Benizri was released early; he was one of 600 other prisoners whose sentences were commuted to ease overcrowing in Israeli prisons.[11]

Controversies[edit]

In 1998, Benizri called for Dana International to be disqualified from the Eurovision Song Contest, which she went on to win. He stated, "The Eurovision Song Contest interests me about as much as the weather in Antarctica, but as a son of the Jewish people it [Dana International's transsexuality] offends me."[12]

In 2001 he was accused of racism after he said "I just don't understand why a restaurant needs a slant-eye to serve me my meal."[13]

In 2004, during The Passion of the Christ controversy when several Shas members wanted to have the film banned in Israel for Anti-Semitism, Benizri disagreed and said that "the Jews did kill Jesus", reportedly elaborating that Jesus was put to death according to Sanhedrin tradition: "They [the Jews] took him [Jesus] up to a high roof, and threw him crashing to the ground. Afterwards they hung his body on wooden beams in the shape of a ‘T’, but not as the Christian legends say that he was crucified. That's nonsense." Benizri also claims that Jesus' death was an internal Jewish affair. "What is there to deny? We're talking about a yeshiva student who left Judaism, and the Sanhedrin put him to death."[14]

In 2008, Benizri blamed several earthquakes in the region on Israel's tolerance of homosexuality.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ettinger, Yair, Lis, Jonathan and Azoulay, Yuval (2009-09-01). "Rivlin on Hirchson, Benizri: This is a sad day for the Knesset". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  2. ^ Parties and Lists The Jerusalem Post
  3. ^ Candidates for the 16th Knesset Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  4. ^ List of Candidates: Shas Knesset website
  5. ^ Izenberg, Dan (2008-06-24). "Benizri jail term increased to 4 years term". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  6. ^ Zino, Aviram (2008-04-28). "Court sentences Shas MK Benizri to 18-month term". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  7. ^ Sela, Neta (2008-04-08). "Benizri Will Go to Prison, Without "He is Innocent" Song". Ynet (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  8. ^ "Benizri's punishment extended: Will serve 4 years in prison". Ynetnews (in Hebrew). 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  9. ^ Hoffman, Gil and Stoil, Rebecca Anna (2009-06-25). "Shas backs Benizri, Kadima distances itself from Hirchson". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  10. ^ Edelson, Daniel (2009-06-24). "Benizri's brother: Gay elite behind harsh sentence". YNetnews. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  11. ^ Haaretz. 1 March 2012 http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/former-shas-minister-benizri-released-from-prison-1.415761 |url= missing title (help). 
  12. ^ Shinefield, Mordechai (2008-06-10). "What Eurovision Teaches Us About Israel". Jewcy.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  13. ^ Derfner, Larry (2002-07-11). "They serve, suffer and still root for us". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2012-01-13. 
  14. ^ Shuman, Ellis (2004-02-26). "Anti-Semitism: One Shas MK says ban "Passion", another says "Jews did kill Jesus"". israelinsider. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  15. ^ "Israeli MP blames quakes on gays". BBC News. 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 

External links[edit]