Jenni Frazer

The downfall of Netanyahu's biggest critic shows male stupidity is an ever-present risk

It's such a disappointment when otherwise intelligent men behave in stupid ways

February 08, 2023 12:07

In the last days of January, Israeli lawyer Avi Himi was both the president of the Israel Bar Association and the much-praised, unofficial leader of the people’s protests against the government’s plans to rein in the judiciary.

“Our lives are on the line,” he said in an emotional and passionate interview he gave to Haaretz, “if the government’s revolution is successful, our children will not be able to live in this country.”

But as the former British prime minister Harold Wilson once feelingly observed, a week is a long time in politics.

Within hours of the adulatory interview appearing — the writer confessed herself almost in tears at Himi’s trenchant and patriotic replies — Himi was caught up in a truly distasteful scandal, leading to his resignation from the Bar Association, while insisting on his innocence and complaining of having been set up by the government.

What happened was that Himi took part in a Zoom conversation with a younger, female lawyer, Ruth Kolian, seeking his support for her to apply for a judge’s role. According to her, he used the occasion to then masturbate on camera. She recorded this and gave the incriminating video to Israel’s Channel 13.

Quite what happened after that is confusing, to say the least. The matter is now under investigation by the Israeli police; Himi has variously declared that his behaviour was “consensual” — but also that the timing of the accusations was “not coincidental”. He told a different Israeli TV channel that “the timing was intentional and clear — they tried to take me out. They’ll never succeed”.

Himi has acknowledged a previous sexual relationship with Kolian, against whom he is now bringing legal proceedings; and he now says he “can’t look my wife and children in the eye”. Really?

We know, unfortunately, that some men in public life — not just in Israel, obviously — conduct themselves in a way that calls for the question, what were they thinking?

With Himi, it seems to me that “thinking” did not enter into the equation. There is certainly a species of powerful men who appear to believe that they can behave with impunity and remain unchallenged.

It would have been nasty enough if Himi had simply been head of the Bar Association. But he allowed himself to be lauded as the leader of a civil protest movement in a critical time for Israeli democracy.

If what Kolian alleges is true, it begs the question: could he have not repressed his urges until after that fatal Zoom call? As it is, re-reading the first Haaretz interview now leaves a bitter taste, and I wonder if Himi realises how badly he has undermined the credibility of the protesters.

I can accuse the new Israeli government of many things but even this crew, I believe, wouldn’t have had the imagination to trap their clever and articulate enemy, Himi, in quite this unedifying fashion.

Netanyahu  — whose wife Sara is usually to be found clamped permanently to his side like a blonde barnacle — must be rolling on the floor, laughing.

February 08, 2023 12:07

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