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Uproar as Zoom participant curses during health official’s Knesset testimony

Health minister demands probe to determine identity of interrupter; spokesman for committee says individual was not directing profanity at Sharon Alroy-Preis

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Health Ministry, speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on June 23, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Zoom participant at a Monday Knesset panel was heard using a curse word during the testimony of a senior health official, quickly sparking a media storm.

While the head of the Health Ministry’s public health department, Sharon Alroy-Preis, addressed a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee hearing on the government’s COVID-19 policy, an unidentified member listening on Zoom interjected with the term, “bat zona,” which can be loosely translated as “bitch.”

Footage from the Knesset Channel showed Alroy-Preis stopping her testimony in shock before the committee’s chairman, Gilad Kariv, ordered virtual participants to mute their microphones. “We will not allow any violation of the dignity of public servants addressing the committee,” he said.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy called for a probe to determine the identity of the interjector, but his office subsequently issued a statement saying that after looking into the matter, it was determined that it would not be possible to do so, as there were 77 participants in the Zoom session, and it was not recorded.

Nonetheless, Levy said, “there is no room for swearing and insults in Knesset debates. In any future case where there is evidence of this kind of expression on the part of the invitees to discussions of Knesset committees, the incident will be dealt with severely.”

Earlier, Alroy-Preis’s husband, Meir, tweeted his disgust with Kariv for not immediately stopping the hearing to determine the identity of the interjector and boot him from the session.

However, it was not entirely clear whether the profanity had been directed at Alroy-Preis. A spokesman for the committee told The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, Zman Yisrael, that the remark was likely made in reference to an unrelated matter. Kariv said the same in a conversation with Alroy-Preis late Monday, Channel 12 news reported.

Alroy-Preis has been exposed to intense criticism in the past, including from members of the cabinet, who — while demanding anonymity in leaks to the media — have accused her of taking too extreme a position in favor of COVID restrictions.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz both put out statements last month defending Alroy-Preis, saying that they would not tolerate personal attacks against her, and praising her as a dedicated public servant.

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