Former Israeli President Convicted of Rape

An angry Kastav blames the press for his woes
An angry Kastav blames the press for his woes

Former Israeli President Convicted of Rape

After a trial lasting a year, a Tel Aviv district court comprised of a panel of judges has found Issrael’s former president, Iranian-born Moshe Katsav, 65, guilty of rape and sexual harassment in a case filed four years ago on behalf of three women who worked for him. Katsav was Israel’s eighth president, a position of largely ceremonial powers, but was forced to resign in 2007 two weeks before his term ended.

The Guardian UK reports today:

The sexual offences took place during Katsav’s terms as president and as minister of tourism. Complainant A accused the former president of raping her on two occasions, while complainants H and L accused him of sexual harassment. The verdict confirmed all the three accusations. Katsav was acquitted only of charges that he had harassed a witness.

Since the accusations first arose, the former right wing president has portrayed himself as a victim of ethnic discrimination. Israeli political life has long been dominated by Jews of European origin, while Katsav and many of his supporters are of Middle Eastern origin…

“No basis was found to the claim that the relations took place with her agreement,” he said. The court added that Katsav’s version was “riddled with lies”.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said that today was “a sad day for the state of Israel and its residents”. He added: “Today the court conveyed two clear-cut messages, that all are equal before the law and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body.”

These are the most serious charges ever brought against an Israeli leader. Oddly, the case was brought to the attorney general’s attention by Katsav himself who complained of being blackmailed by one of the accusers. According to the original indictment, Katsav forced a woman to his office floor, pulled off her clothes and raped her. A second time he summoned her to a hotel in Jerusalem for work and then raped her on the bed.

Katsav was originally offered and agreed to a controversial plea bargain that required he resign two weeks before his term ended, having pled guilty to lowered charges of sexual harassment. Detractors suggested he was getting a lenient deal because of his powerful position and an opinion poll showed that 73% of the country thought the decision was unjust.

The Guardian UK reported:

Kinneret Barashi, a lawyer for one of the women who accused Katsav of rape, said she was “very much infuriated” by the court’s decision today. “If the attorney general’s decision was wrong, deficient, riddled with shortcomings, distorts reality, causes many people emotional upheaval and leaves a woman’s body defenceless, then I think it would have been proper to intervene in such a vile plea bargain,” she said.

However, Katsav later rejected the plea bargain, intent on proving his innocence. He maintains that the charges against him are based on racism due to his Middle Eastern origins. In 2009, Katsav appeared on TV to protest his innocence for a full two hours during which he criticized journalists and his accusers. He charged the press of printing “poisonous, horrible lies” and at one point began screaming at a reporter. Katsav blamed the media for the allegations against him and swore that he would, “fight to my last breath, even if it means a world war, to clear my name.”

Today Katsav was found guilty of two charges of rape. Legal experts estimate he could spend as from four to ten years in jail, though he is appealing the decision to the supreme court. Women’s rights activists consider the public outcry against Katsav as positive change in public opinion, as the sexual misdeeds of high-ranking officials have long been tolerated in Israel.

I can’t help but be struck by the difference in reaction to rape allegations against high-ranking and/or powerful people. This case also involves an odd sequence of events, going a step further, it involved an original complaint brought forth by the accused for blackmail, and time lapsing before one of the rapes is reported. This case also involves women who interacted with the accused long after the incidents.

As Jacklyn Friedman explained in her appearance on Democracy Now, the circumstances and reporting of rape are not always a clean event, sterile of other factors or perceived motives and often the accused and the accuser have a relationship that continues past the actual event. In fact, Katsav originally suggested that these women were angry about employment issues and his staff suggested that he was simply not helpful in getting them employment after they left his office and this made many women angry. It could even be argued that Katsav had a seemingly semi-plausible public relations defense in terms of his allegations that this was a witch hunt based on his Middle Eastern origins.

Yet in this case, the public supported the investigations and indeed protested the original plea bargain. Perhaps the salacious way in which these allegations were reported early on swayed public opinion in favor of the victims. In fact, in 2007, Katsav’s attorneys sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz criticizing him for “not preventing leaks of the investigation to the press,” after leaks of his telling one woman that he fantasized about her during intimate activities hit the press and suggestions that “everyone knew who was current flavor the month was” seemed to back up the notion that sexual harassment was occurring.

Press leaks. High-powered man. Delays in reporting. Multiple women coming forward. This sounds eerily familiar and yet the two were prosecuted in the press very differently. Of course, Julian Assange is clearly a wanted man and therefor it may be much easier to believe that he’s being set up by the government than it is to believe that he may have sexually assaulted two women. And the early inaccurate leaks that came from the Daily Mail made is sound as if the charges against Assange were based on some odd Swedish law that made having sex without a condom a crime, when in fact, they were much more serious than that. But it may be that the story that first hits the press is the one that sticks, and in Assange’s case, the notion of mocking “sex by surprise” proved too tantalizing for most pundits.

11 Replies to “Former Israeli President Convicted of Rape”

  1. Ex-president Bill Clinton was also accused of sexual harassment and rape, more than once. I think those cases might compare.

  2. Looking at the case against Katsav from a legal point of view, I don’t see any direct evidence that led to his conviction. That he had at one point entered into a plea bargain, though, does not necessarily dispose one to believe his current continued claims of innocence. However, one does prefer not to convict on hearsay alone.

  3. I grant you that while his consensual sexual relations with ML could be considered sexual harassment, she never claimed that. Clinton’s affair with Ms. Lewinsky was deemed legal and consensual. However, due to the inherent power issue, it could be argued and has been argued that even consensual sex with such a disparity of power is sexual harassment.

    RE PJ, I’ll remind everyone:

    “Paula Jones agreed to drop her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton on Nov. 13 in return for $850,000 – but no apology or admission of guilt from the president.

    Two weeks later, when the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, it marked the conclusive end of Clinton’s battle against Jones and her conservative backers. Seven months earlier, the case was dismissed by a district-court judge as having no merit, but Jones appealed. ”

    I think it could be fair to say that powerful men can often be brought down in this way when there is an agenda to do so because it’s a common weakness. However, just because the people pursuing it have a political agenda does not necessarily mean it is untrue.

    It’s too bad that this isn’t taken more seriously at other times when there’s no enemy with an agenda.

    Of course, Clinton wasn’t convicted of sexual harassment — that is an important distinction if we want to be accurate here.

    However, I’d like to ask you to post links for the rape charges other than from World Net Daily and NewsMax.

  4. Even if their testimony passed lie detector tests and was backed up by multiple witnesses? In this case, he brought this investigation upon himself by complaining of blackmail. During the blackmail investigations, the investigators found multiple women reporting the same thing about him.

    Perhaps you are referring to rape kit evidence, of which I doubt there was any since these women did not go to the police when this happened.

    I will note that it’s not hearsay when a woman is testifying as a witness to something that happened to her and not something that she overheard since hearsay involves an indirect knowledge of the situation.

  5. Thanks Pep. I think it’s a good idea to include the links when discussing things of this magnitude. It’s my experience it helps further the discussion, though I know it’s not always easy or convenient to find them when they’re older.

    Interesting that Kenneth W. Starr found her account inconclusive. He was looking for anything at this point, but it was an old case and perhaps he didn’t chose it for reasons other than its own worth or lack of worth. Tough to know that now.

  6. Hi Sarah: I don’t know enough about this case to comment responsibly on it, and can not find thorough-enough reports that would allow me to do so.

  7. They did speak to the women themselves, so it’s not hearsay. The full report wasn’t given today, just the convictions.

  8. Scott I don’t think you understand what hearsay means. He wasn’t convicted based on hearsay. They did lie detector tests on the victims which means that they testified. I’m glad he was convicted. For years he was doing this crap to women
    He blames the media
    What do you expect from a right winger? Haha.

  9. Here is another article, on the Kathleen Willey sexual assault allegation, from CNN: http://tiny.cc/hmuxs
    Willey wrote a book in 2007 wherein she made allegations that Clinton’s associate attempted to prevent her book by threatening her and her children. She went on Hannity’s show to promote the book and according to Media Matters contradicted her own written account of the incident from her book:
    http://mediamatters.org/research/200711090002
    And, in the category of “you can’t make up crazy that’s crazier than reality”, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/1999/05/20/buchanan

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