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ISRAEL: After years of abuse, Tax-Authority whistleblower Rafi Rotem wins the right to be deposed by State Ombudsman

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Rafi Rotem, former Israeli Tax Authority Senior Intelligence Officer, and whistleblower of organized crime in government.
OccupyTLV, May 2 - In a major breakthrough this week, Israeli State Ombudsman, Retired Judge Yosef Shapira, sent letters to whistleblower Rafi Rotem's counsel, [1] and to a group of 44 journalists, [2] consenting to start reversal of the abuse and recalcitrance of the Israeli justice system in view of Rotem's whistleblowing regarding organized crime in the Israeli Tax Authority.
The letter to Rotem's counsel states that Rotem will be permitted to be deposed by the State Ombudsman's office regarding allegations of organized crime in the Tax Authority. For months, Rotem tried to be admitted to the State Ombudsman's Tel Aviv office during public hours. So far, office security personnel denied him the right to enter at all times. In one instance, security called police, and Rotem was led away from the office in handcuffs and shackled. However, in recent months, Rotem's right to be admitted to the State Ombudsman's office during public hours has become the focus of action by the Israeli Protest Movement through weekly protests on location.
The letter to 44 journalists comes in response to a letter by the same group of journalists to the Ombudsman in December last year. [3] The journalists, mostly ones who cover financial and legal matters, noted that the current and former State Ombudsmen stated a number of times in public appearances that Rotem acted honestly to expose corruption in the Tax Authority. And yet, the same State Ombudsmen have refused for years to accord him protection, due under Israeli law to whistleblowers, and also refused to restore his financial rights as a whistleblower, after he was wrongfully terminated. The journalists called upon the State Ombudsman to act in line with his statements in public appearances.

The response letter by the State Ombudsman to the journalists is lame at best, starting with "there is no need to add words on how difficult it is to resolve this affair, which started in the previous century"... and going on "... the affair was over by 2007, about 5 years before I took office..." With it, the letter notes that under guidance of the State Ombudsman, efforts started this week to restore Rotem's lawful financial rights as a wrongfully terminated state employee.

Israeli Tax-Authority whistleblower Rafi Rotem exposed organized crime in the Tax Authority starting in 2002, following a series of political appointments at the top of the Authority: Huge tax breaks to tycoons and organized crime-related businesses, sex bribes to a tax investigator, and murder of a "source". [4,5]
Regardless of the statement by the State Ombudsman in his letter to the journalists that the affair was over by 2007, most of Rotem's allegations have never been investigated. Most notably, Rafi Amiel, Head of the Tax Authority National Investigations Division, who is at the center of Rotem's allegations, remains in that position to this date.
In a 2013 interview, [6] former Israeli Attorney General Manny Mezouz states regarding the Tax-Authority scandal, exposed by Rafi Rotem, "...the worst corruption scandal is the one in the Tax Authority... it is the closest to organized crime... the punishment of those involved did not reflect the severity of their crimes and the entire affair..."
Over the past 12 years, Rotem has been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and retaliation by the authorities. He lost his job, his home, his possessions, and remains homeless today.
Rotem's case provides unique documentation of corruption of the Israeli courts. Rotem tried to protect his rights in the courts, starting with the Tel Aviv Labor Court and the National Labor Court. In a 2007 article, journalist Moshe Lichtman (who was also the primary author of the 44 journalists' letter) details the obstruction of justice in these courts.
The main culprit is Judge Vardah Samet of the Tel Aviv Labor Court: [7] Up to 2003 Rotem received good or excellent periodic evaluations. But as part of retaliation, he was later framed in court as an employee, who engaged in intimidation and physical threats against co-workers, even prior to his whistleblowing. Although Israeli law requires that negative comments or complaints, placed in an employee's personal file, include the employee's response, no such responses by Rotem were found in documents that were filed by the State Prosecution in the Tel Aviv Labor Court. Moreover, such records were admitted by Judge Vardah Samet with no affidavits, and the authors of such records failed to appear in court and never took the stand for cross-interrogation.
Likewise, the National Labor Court denied Rotem's appeal, and failed to address in its ruling the obvious violations of court procedures by Judge Samet, who admitted inadmissible evidence.
In the Supreme Court of Israel, a panel of three Justices, Edmond Levy, Edna Arbel, and Uzi Vogelman, sitting as High Court of Justice, summarily denied Rotem's petition in 2008. The Court again ruled that Rotem was not a whistleblower, and that his case was only a case of soured relations in the workplace. [8] A 2013 review of the Rafi Rotem scandal by senior Israeli journalist Calman Liebeskind is titled, "There are no justices in Jerusalem", in reference to the ruling of the High Court of Justice. [9]
It should be noted that the ruling of the High Court of Justice on Rotem's petition was served unsigned by the Justices, uncertified by the Clerk of the Court, with no accompanying letter by the Office of the Clerk (authentication), and bearing the disclaimer "subject to editing and phrasing changes". Such paper cannot be deemed a valid court judgment by any reasonable person. Rotem's request for the service of a signed and certified copy of this decision, addressed to Supreme Court Presiding Justice Asher Grunis, remains to be answered. [10] The issuance by the Israeli Supreme Court of invalid records in Rotem's case is not unique. The 2013 Human Rights Alert (NGO) submission to the UN Human Rights Council documented that starting in 2002, the Israeli Supreme Court routinely conducts simulated proceedings, issues simulated judicial records, and refuses to issue duly signed and certified decision records. [11-13] Simulated judicial records are records that are not deemed valid and effectual court records, but which the courts defrauds the people to believe are true and valid court records. [14]
In this respect, this week's letters by the State Ombudsman, a retired judge himself, are remarkable. They show that in Israel, concerted, focused public pressure by the Social Protest movement and journalists can stand up to the corrupt courts as well, even the Supreme Court.
In fact, Rotem's case demonstrates how obstructive the High Court of Justice, a national tribunal for protection of rights pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has become over the past decade.
Rotem's case also raises concerns regarding conduct of the Israel Police. Prior to his whistleblowing, Rotem received a number of appreciation and commendation letters from the Israel police for his help as Tax-Authority Intelligence Officer in solving various crimes, unrelated to tax issue, most notably - the murder of a judge. [15-18] But after his whistleblowing, police detained Rotem numerous times on bogus charges; Rotem was severely beaten by police, and he was senselessly treated as suspect in various unrelated crimes.
The case as a whole raises serious concerns regarding systemic corruption of the Israeli government in general, and the Israeli justice system in particular. Moreover, the case shows tight relationship between government and organized crime in the State of Israel.
A confidential cable from the US Embassy in Israel to the State Department, published by Wikileaks in 2009, also raised concerns regarding the integration of organized crime and government in the State of Israel. [19]

Such level of corruption of government in the State of Israel is relatively new, dating back only some 10-15 years. [20] It has been accompanied by soaring levels of poverty and homelessness. Recent OECD reports show Israel with the highest levels of poverty among developed nations. As is the case in the United States, corruption of the courts and the legal profession is a central cause of the current socio-economic crisis. The central role of the corrupt justice system in such developments in the United States is most clearly evidenced in the foreclosure fraud epidemic. Likewise, in Israel, it is most directly evidenced in rampant fraud in the corrupt, medieval-style debtors' courts. [21]

The transformation of Israeli government and socio-economic conditions in the State of Israel are particularly striking on the background of past government policies. The State of Israel successfully absorbed about a million penniless refugees from post WWII Europe and from Arab nations in the first few years after independence in 1948, and another 400,000 penniless immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Rafi Rotem's case fits the observations of the 19th century French political theorist Frederic Bastiat, "sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim -- when he defends himself -- as a criminal."

However, Rafi Rotem's case also shows that the Israeli Social Protest movement, modeled after the US Occupy movement, is by far more successful than its US counterpart in regaining control over government that went astray.
Joseph Zernik, PhD
Human Rights Alert (NGO)
* The Human Rights Alert (NGO) submission to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations was incorporated into the 2010 Periodic Review Report regarding Human Rights in the United States, with the note: "corruption of the courts and the legal profession and discrimination by law enforcement in California".
* The Human Rights Alert (NGO) submission to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations was incorporated into the 2013 Periodic Review Report regarding Human Rights in Israel, with the note: "lack of integrity of the electronic records of the Supreme Court, the district courts and the detainees courts in Israel."
[1] 2014-04-29 State Ombudsman letter to Rotem's attorney
[2] 2014-04-28 State Ombudsman's response letter to 44 journalists
[3] 2013-12-19 Letter by 44 journalists to State Ombudsman to provide Rotem protection
[4] 0000-00-00 Rafi Rotem - Timeline
[5] 000-00-00 Rafi Rotem online archive - Index of Records
[6] 2013-06-07 Interview with former Attorney General Manny Mezouz_Haaretz
[7] 2007-10-02 The Rafi Rotem file: The witnesses, who never took the stand_ Globes
[8] 2008-04-08 Rotem v Samet et al (1233/08) petition in the High Court of Justice -- Online Records and Justice Edmond Levy Judgment and Decision
[9] 2013-10-04 No justices in Jerusalem_Maariv
[10] 2014-04-25 ISRAEL: Tax Authority whistleblower Rafi Rotem asks the Supreme Court for signed, certified decisions in his petition
[11] The Human Rights Alert (NGO) submission (2013) for the Universal Periodic Review of israel by the UN Human Rights Council, as it appears on the UN web site
click here
[12] 13-01-01 The Human Rights Alert (NGO) submission, as incorporated into the UN Human RItghts Council UPR reprort with the note "Lack of integrity in the electronic records of the Supreme Court, the district courts and the detainees courts in Israel" (page 4, paragraph 25)
click here
[13] 12-05-10 Human Right Alert, Appendix I to Submission; 15th UPR - State of Israel - "Integrity, or lack thereof, of the electronic record systems of the courts of the State of Israel"
click here
[14] 2014-04-29 Simulated process, fraudulent computer systems of the Israeli Supreme Court, and proposed corrective actions
[15] 2004-12-01 Appreciation letter for Rotem by Israel Police- Intelligence Unit, Tel Aviv -- case of murder of Judge Adi Azar
[16] 2004-05-13 Recommendation letter for Rafi Rotem - Israel Police- Netanyah
[17] 2004-00-00 Appreciation letter for Rafi Rotem by Israel Police - Rosh Ha-Ain
[18] 2004-04-20 Appreciation letter for Rafi Rotem by the Tel-Aviv Police
[20] 13-10-25 ISRAEL: Nation hijacked by a Shin-Bet Judiciary
click here
[21] 14-02-27 ISRAEL: War hero Moti Ashkenazi+76 others versus the medieval debtors'
click here
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Dr Zernik's core research pertains to e-government and its significance for Human Rights and Civil Society.

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