Protester files police report filed against Israeli lawmaker Simcha Rothman in NYC


MK Simcha Rothman, Head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, May 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ron Kampeas, JTA

(JTA) — An Israeli protester following Simcha Rothman on the streets of New York and chiding him for his role in advancing a proposal to overhaul Israel’s judiciary filed a police report against the lawmaker after he rushed her and wrested away her megaphone.

The altercation comes ahead of this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, which is expected to attract a large turnout of Jewish and expatriate Israeli anti-government protesters.

A number of videos on social media show Rothman, the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, walking along a street in New York on Friday night and chatting with companions while he is being followed by protesters.

“Go back home and repair everything you’ve done, repent for what you’ve done and perhaps we will forgive you one day,” an unidentified female protester says in a video posted by Shany Granot-Lubaton, one of the leaders of the Israeli expatriate wing of the mass movement protesting the reforms. “In the end, we’re all Jews.”

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Until that moment, Rothman had not responded to the small coterie of protesters. But at that point, he spun around, rushed the woman and wrested away the megaphone.

A separate video posted by an Israeli news outlet, Democrat_TV, shows the protesters scuffling with Rothman’s entourage and Rothman eventually returning the megaphone. The outlet identified the protester as a lawyer studying for a master’s degree at Columbia University. Granot-Lubaton later posted a photo of the police report the protester filed. The report means that an officer will assess the complaint but does not mean any charges will follow.

Rothman is one of a number of prominent and controversial Israeli lawmakers who are in New York to join the Celebrate Israel Parade, taking place Sunday.

The main Israeli expatriate protest movement, UnXeptable, has appealed to the parade’s organizers, the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, not to allow leading members of Israel’s governing coalition to join. It plans to protest the presence of the ministers and Knesset members who support proposed legislation that would sap Israel’s courts of much of their independence. The courts are seen as the bulwark in Israel protecting a number of vulnerable populations, including women, the LGBTQ community, Arabs and non-Orthodox Jews; the effort to overhaul them has drawn concern from

As an architect of the legislation and a vociferous advocate for it, Rothman, a member of the far right Religious Zionist bloc, is a leading target of the protests. (He also backs changes that would make Israel’s Law of Return more restrictive.) His participation in a panel in Israel in April convened by the Jewish Federations of North America descended into pandemonium when protesters kept interrupting him.

In a statement after the New York City incident reported by The Jerusalem Post, Rothman decried the protesters as “violent.”

“At some point, the demonstrators realized we were not moved by them, at which point they put a megaphone up to our years (an attack) and shouted,” he said. “The security guards and I repeatedly told them to stop and to stay away, and they continued. After all the warnings, I took the megaphone that the demonstrator had pushed into my ear — without touching [the demonstrator], of course. After about half a block we reached a place that we could go inside and wait for the police.”

Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister who leads the Religious Zionist Bloc, said in a tweet that Rothman was the victim of violence and called on U.S. and Israeli authorities to prosecute the “trolls” who have pursued him.

The reforms have sparked mass weekly protests and the censure of Diaspora Jewish organizations that customarily refrain from commenting on Israel’s internal politics.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud Party leads the governing coalition, in March suspended the advance of the reforms under pressure of the protests, international opprobrium and dissent within his own party. He has not yet brought the reforms back to the table, although he is under pressure from leaders in the Religious Zionist bloc to do so and has said he plans to do so. The massive weekly protests in Israel have meanwhile continued unabated.

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