Police questioned an Israeli attorney under caution on Sunday after he hurled a barrage of insults at Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) when he saw her walking with her family on a Tel Aviv street.
Attorney and social activist Barak Cohen filmed the video of himself accosting Regev and her family and then posted it to his Facebook account last week.
Cohen faces accusations of offending a public official, invasion of privacy, and assault.
“I am glad that he was questioned but I hope that it won’t end only with questioning,” Regev said in a report from Channel 2. “A person needs to know his limits, you can give [your] opinion, but [don’t] frighten…threaten…[or] attack in the way that he attacked.”
The incident happened last Thursday when Regev and members of her family were walking along Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv as they headed to dinner. Cohen intercepted the group and berated Regev over some of her policies regarding the country’s Sepahrdi and Mizrahi Jewish population, who are descended from local communities from across the Middle East.
Striding alongside Regev, whose father was Moroccan, Cohen filmed himself on his mobile phone as he called out insults at the minister, much of which related to the cultural tensions that exist between Israel’s Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews and those Ashkenazi, or European descent.
“You are a champion only for the Ashkenazi [Jews] of Meretz, right?” Cohen shouted referring to the opposition left-wing party. Regev is a member of the ruling Likud party.
“For the democracy of the Mizrahi [Jews] you aren’t a champion,” he continued. “You are a rag who poses as a fighter on behalf of Mizrahi Jews. Non-democratic garbage!”
Regev, who largely didn’t respond to Cohen, eventually said “You are talking nonsense, I don’t even want to pay attention to you.”
As the Regevs entered a seafood restaurant that serves non-kosher food Cohen shouted “You are eating vermin. Are you a Jewess? I shit on you and all of your family.
“You are a worthless rag of the racist Mizrahi Jews, a culture minister, as if!”
An infuriated Regev tried to push the camera aside but Cohen continued to film and heckle her.
He later posted the video on his Facebook page.
שרת התרבות מירי רגב פנתה למשטרה לאחר שהותקפה לדבריה ע״י הפעיל החברתי ברק כהן בתל אביב pic.twitter.com/ywYJ01bwOb
— חדשות 10 (@news10) April 20, 2017
In a post to her own Facebook page Regev wrote “I and my family were indeed attacked today on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. It is the kind of price that a public official and his family should not have to pay. I trust that the police will deal with the attacker as necessary. I am not bothered by him or his ilk. We will continue to do good for the Israeli people.”
Regev’s office released a statement after the clash saying the heckler was “an anti-Zionist anarchist, an extreme left-winger who in the past has harassed public officials.”
Cohen leads the “Going to the bankers” activism group that has held protests outside the homes of prominent bankers in the country.
Following his questioning, an unrepentant Cohen justified his actions in a statement to Channel 2, saying that “contempt and denouncement of a petty politician who made her fortune by spreading poisonous racism is an important political message.”
“There is nothing more fitting than to loudly point out the hypocrisy of someone who pretends to talk in the name of Judaism but goes into the [seafood] restaurant that is known to serve vermin. My expressions against her stand against the hypocrisy and false championing she has of the Mizrahi Jews. I will not take a lesson in polite speech from someone who uses the slogan ‘the Sudanese are a cancer in our body.'”
In May 2012, Regev apologized after a speech in South Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood, in which she called Sudanese asylum-seekers “a cancer in our body,” saying the comment was misconstrued.