By Jenni Frazer
December 30, 2010
After the verdict that found former Israeli President Moshe Katzav guilty on two counts of rape and other charges of sexual harassment, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is a sad day for the State of Israel and its residents." He went on to say: "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."
Well, Bibi, you were half right. The two messages from the court that no-one is above the law and that all women have exclusive rights to their bodies ought certainly to resonate in Israel. But to say it was a sad day for the state of Israel and its residents is surely the very reverse of the truth. It is a shining triumph for Israeli justice, nothing less. Israel should be proud that it can call to account every citizen, no matter how powerful, and that he or she will be required to answer for what they have done.
Meanwhile, however, apart from the natural desire of members of Katzav's family to support him, there are some rather distressing attempts, out in the blogosphere, to defend his actions. The female accusers, it is suggested, should be identified, as though they had not been victimised enough.
Slightly more scary are those who are saying that Katzav only did what he did - as though he could not help himself - because he and the women breached the halachic stricture of "ichud", whereby a man and a woman should not be alone in a room together unless they are married (to each other, it apparently needs to be said).
On various websites I have seen the women whom Katzav sexually harassed, denounced as if it was they who were at fault, the old canard of "asking for it", and not just by virtue of their dress, rather by their very presence.
Once again Israel is dividing across religious lines: secular Jews were more inclined to believe Katzav was guilty, observant Jews appear to be scrabbling about to find excuses for his behaviour.
Some things, however, as the court pointed out this morning, are indefensible, no ifs, no buts. Why is that so hard to understand?