Shoe Thrower Gets 3 Years

Divorcee debtor Pini Cohen hurled his shoe at Supreme Court President in January, toppling her from her chair. MK Ben-Ari cries foul.

Gil Ronen, | updated: 17:47

Cohen being led by guards.
Cohen being led by guards.
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court sentenced a man who threw a shoe at Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch to three year in jail on Wednesday.

Pinchas (Pini) Cohen, 52, hurled his shoe at Beinisch during a High Court debate on the use of medical cannabis in January. The shoe, thrown from about 22 feet away, hit Beinisch squarely in the face, breaking her glasses and toppling her from her chair and onto the floor. Cohen, who is divorced, was motivated by frustration over a child support debt that he believes the courts saddled him with unfairly.

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) reacted to the sentence, saying that while Cohen's action was reprehensible, the sentence amounted to “judicial thuggery.”

"While rapists, drug dealers and robbers walk the streets in the name of the Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom," the freshman MK said, "it is absurd to mete out such a long sentence to a man who threw a shoe. Pinchas Cohen deserves punishment for his act, but it is regrettable that the punishment is so disproportionate, illogical and unreasonable.”

In his sentence, Magistrates Court Judge Shimon Feierberg determined that “through the deed of hurling an object at the President of the Supreme Court, in the course of a court session, the defendant challenged the entire judicial system.”

"This is an unprecedented deed in Israel, in which a litigant protests the result of a trial by attacking a judge in the courtroom,” he added. “It is not accidental that the defendant chose to attack the President of the Supreme Court, who heads the system, in his attempt to disgrace the entire system and punish it for daring to rule against him in legal procedures.”  

The court found Cohen guilty of assault, contempt of court and intentionally causing grievous harm.

At the time of the attack, some commenters saw a connection between Cohen's action and a general feeling of hostility toward the court system in the Israeli public.

Plummeting Support for Courts
Recent polls indicate that the court system, including the Supreme Court, enjoy less trust in the eyes of the general public than at any other time in Israel's history. While 80% of the general Jewish public (not including residents of Judea and Samaria and hareidi-religious Jews) placed “great trust” in the High Court in 2000, only 56% did so in 2010. Among Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, the percentage with “great trust” for the top court plummeted from 60% to 25% in that decade, and among hareidi Jews, it sank from 19% to 9%.