The Shmooze

Israeli 'American Idol' Judge Arrested

By Nathan Burstein

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Forget Hamas, forget the massive housing protest. Right now Israel’s attention is squarely focused on Margalit Tzanani, a major music and TV star who has been jailed on charges of extortion.

Best-known in recent years as a judge on the Israeli version of “American Idol,” Tzanani was arrested at her home this morning, in a surprise raid. The singer will spend tonight in jail, and will appear tomorrow in court, where prosecutors will attempt to prolong her detention as the investigation continues.

A star so big she’s generally referred to simply as “Margol,” Tzanani is suspected of hiring thugs to intimidate and extort a talent manager, Assaf Atedgi, with whom she is fighting over hundreds of thousands of shekels in royalties. The 57-year-old singer and her lawyer have categorically denied the charges, noting that she and Atedgi have hired a mediator to settle the dispute.

The charges follow what has been a difficult period for the singer, a veteran hitmaker whose biggest singles are still regularly played at Israeli bars, clubs and weddings. After belittling the “tent protests” currently shaking the Israeli political establishment, the singer faced a backlash so strong that she was forced to recant, going so far as to give a free performance for protesters in Beersheba on Saturday.

The arrest should also make things interesting during the next season of “Kochav Nolad,” (“A Star Is Born”), the Israeli version of “American Idol.” As big a hit as its American counterpart, the show has faced scandal before — as the Shmooze dutifully reported — but nothing on nearly this scale.

Amazingly, Tzanani is not the first Israeli celebrity accused of hiring goons to threaten enemies.


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