Jewfem Blog

#MeToo Israel Round-up #GamAni

Here is a quick round-up of the #MeToo movement in Israel from the past few days:* Alex Giladi, the head of Keshet, has been accused of rape by at least two women. In a very Harvey Weinstein-esque description, women were apparently told that if they want to get a meeting, they have to speak to "it" -- he would say this while standing naked in front of them. So we know what "it" is. Anyway, Giladi hasn't denied this, and has "stepped aside" from his current role but has not suffered any consequences of these revelations. * Haim Yavin, the famous news anchor, has been accused of making similar propositions to Neri Livneh. Haim Yavin has that same "clean cut" image that we have seen in other alleged sexual predators, the Bill-Cosby type of father-figure style that makes people reluctant to believe he would do such a thing. * Ehud Barak apparently helped Weinstein cover up -- not literally, but figuratively -- his actions by connecting him with the Mossad. What does it tell us that Israeli security agents were being used to help a rich rapist, with zero interest in the victims? There are layers of patriarchy here and we have only begun scratching the surface of what this means. * Gabi Gazit has been accused by Dana Weis of sexual harassment, where he would kiss her on the lips without permission. He has not denied these allegations and in fact sort of bragged that "One day, people will be telling stories about me from 45 years ago." This was actually just 15 years ago.  * Yoram Zak of Big Brother (a Keshet production....) would routinely send the women on his staff explicit sexual notes and comments, like an entire email all about the erection he had because he thought about how beautiful they all are. The emails don't lie. As opposed to the others here, he has apologized and said that he is embarassed by what he wrote then and has changed. He says he understands now what he didn't understand then, that this is wrong.  * MK Yael German has joined the ranks of the testimonies by sharing that she was sexually assaulted by her gynecologist.  * The late Tommy Lapid, who everyone knows was crass and gross -- though some considered those qualities endearing in the man -- has been posthumously accused of attempted rape of journalist Sylvie Keshet in London in 1063. His son Yair points out that we can't ask the father what really happened. True. So we'll just leave this there.  * An unnamed senior executive in the tax authority sexually harassed his colleagues and was fired for "medical reasons" rather than face the consequences.   If I missed a story on this, please share so I can add it.  To stay up to date on these stories, follow the Gender-in-Israel-List on Facebook#GamAni

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Sexual harassment in the Israeli police force

There has been an earthquake in the Israeli police force, and the institution may never be the same again. No less than three senior police officers have been accused of sexual harassment in the past two weeks, including one who is now under house arrest, and the story is not over yet. This may be bad news for these men, but it is great news for women. Two weeks ago, The Police Investigations department of the Justice Ministry announced that the Deputy Police Commissioner Nissim Mor is being investigated for crimes of sexual harassment and indecent acts against a female police officer subordinate to him. He allegedly used his seniority to take advantage of her. Apparently several other women have started to come forward with similar allegations of sexual harassment against him. The officer was released to house arrest and subsequently fired by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino. Just a few days later, the commander of the coastal district, Deputy Commissioner Hagai Dotan, was accused of sexual harassment by five separate women who came forward with complaints about him. One of the complaints alleges that the woman approached him for help in a personal matter, and he in turn tried to kiss her and touch her. Although he initially denied the charges, claiming there may have been “verbal” abuse but not “sexual” abuse, he was suspended for two weeks and then later was removed from his post completely. Then this week, Com. Moshe Ivgi, head of the Beersheba city police, came under investigation and was suspended from his job for two weeks on charges of sexual harassment of a female officer. According to the complaint, Livgi approached her while she was pregnant and asked her how far along she was in her pregnancy. When she told him she was in her fifth month, Ivgi told her he had always fantasized about having sex with a woman who was five-months pregnant. He allegedly sent her messages asking her to text him pictures of herself wearing skirts. These events in quick succession follow several other instances of sexual harassment in the Israeli police that have come out in the past two years. In October 2013, then Jerusalem District Chief Nisso Shaham resigned after he was indicted for sex crimes against female officers who worked under him. And in September 2014, Judea and Samaria District Commander Kobi Cohen was leaving his post amid suspicion he carried out a relationship of a sexual nature with a female police officer. In total, eight senior police officers are not in various stages of investigation for sexual harassment from the past 18 months, and are expected to be removed from their posts permanently. These cases are particularly striking in light of the fact that the police force is considered one of the most sexist institutions in Israel. Of the 18 members of the top brass, there are zero women. And last week, there was a graduation of newly inducted officers – and only 16% (16 out of 101) were...

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When journalists commit sexual harassment

“How to reduce an outstanding professional woman to a sex object.” That should have been the headline of the article in this week’s Forward which Tuvia Tenenbom interviewed Racheli Ibenboim, an up-and-coming Jerusalem politician who happens to be a Ger hassid. It was supposed to be a profile, but the leering interviewer apparently could not contain himself and it turned into an embarrassing and intrusive peep show. Before explaining why this interview represented the slimiest element of voyeuristic journalism bordering on sexual harassment, I would just like to tell you who Racheli Ibenboim is. I feel that need to describe her as a person because Tenenbom, in what was meant to be a profile of her, completely neglected to do so. Racheli Ibenboim is a 28-year-old executive director of the Meir Panim charity organization that, among other things, runs soup kitchens providing over a million meals a year to the needy and homeless. This is a huge operation with a NIS 40 million annual budget. I would have been really interested to hear about her work and her views about issues such as, say, poverty in Israel, social activism, or how she came to be a leader at such a young age. In case this isn’t a big enough task, Ibenboim ran for the Jerusalem municipal council last year, number three on the Jerusalem Home party list. This is particularly impressive considering that in all of Israel there is apparently only one haredi woman currently sitting on a municipal council – Shira Gergi in Safed – and in fact women generally have only around 15% representation on municipal councils and less than 2% representation in positions of leadership in local politics. So even though she did not actually make it into the council, she is clearly on the path of breaking barriers. To wit, the haredi community must know that Ibenboim is a force of nature because she received a series of threats to pressure her to pull out of the race – yes, actual threats to her person and her family, threats of “excommunication” which is a big deal in the religious world. So she pulled out. Can’t say I blame her. Her election campaign would have been an interesting topic to ask her about as well: How does a haredi woman decide to break convention and run for political office? And how do you grapple with real threats like that? What insights do you have about the future of Israel and the dynamics of religious power in politics? I would have loved to hear a real interview exploring some of these issues. These are actual stories. But that’s not what we got. Instead, we had this Tenenbom guy (Who is he anyway? Why do we even allow creeps like this to even be in the same room as powerhouses like Ibenboim?), who could not get past sex. Over and over again he asked her about her sex life, about her wedding night, about “technicalities”. Ew, ew, and ew. Tenenbom,...

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On "Resh" and predicaments of sexual harassment

This op-ed appeared in the Times of Israel on 31 Jan 2012 A woman who we know only by the Hebrew initial of her name, “Resh,” is under some intense pressure, and I do not envy her predicament. According to a reports by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, Resh was the victim of sexual harassment by one of the leading aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Natan Eshel. The accusations are pretty serious: Eshel is said to have been obsessed with Resh, who was working directly for him, not only to the extend that he stalked her and spied on her, but even by strategically placing cameras to photograph her under her skirt. Three members of the PM’s senior staff filed complaints with Lindenstrauss – apparently unbeknownst to one another – and another four staffers have already given testimony on these events. But thus far, Resh has insisted that she does not want to testify. Her position is understandable. The women who filed police complaints of rape against then-president Moshe Katsav – who was convicted in a ruling that has since been upheld by the Supreme Court – had their lives ruined in the process. One of the complainants, who is officially known as “Aleph” but whose identity is known to everyone in the media , had to move out of Israel because she had lost all semblance of privacy. She also continued to be harassed by Katsav’s people throughout the four-year ordeal, according to the judges in the case. And on top of everything else, she could not get another job in Israel. This is a tragic reality for high-profile rape victims. Before the story broke, Aleph’s career was in great shape, as she was managing one of the highest offices in the country, and today she has lost it all – all because she came forth to tell the world she had been raped. So when Resh says she fears that she will become like Aleph, her fears are justified. If her identity is revealed, it will likely end her career. One day you’re working in the Prime Minister’s office, and the next you’re out of a job, perhaps permanently. There’s more. The Aleph who moved out of the country was one of the complainants whose charges were eventually dropped from the case (the “second” Aleph, a different victim, remained on the indictment). So this poor woman went through an excruciating ordeal: After allegedly enduring rape and sexual harassment, which is traumatic in and of itself, she went through the pain of revealing her story, losing her home and career in the process. And ultimately it was for naught; she gained nothing. I will never forget what she said at her famous press conference after she learned that her case was removed from the indictment: “Women’s groups are not going to like this, but my advice to rape victims is, don’t go to the police. Get help, get therapy, do what you have to do for yourself. But don’t file a complaint....

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