Netanyahu Falsely Accuses Palestinian Youths of Rape While Ignoring a Sexual Assault Epidemic by Govt. Officials
A Facebook post by the Israeli prime minister vehemently accusing two Palestinian young men of the racially-motivated rape of a vulnerable Jewish woman turned into an embarrassing imbroglio when the truth emerged: Not only had no rape ever occurred, exposing the concocted accusations against the men as the real racially-motivated offense.
Though his shocking online tirade was generally overlooked by the international media, Netanyahu’s bogus allegations revealed his flagrant disregard for the rule of law, his demagogic impulses, and his general tendency to inflame an atmosphere that one of Israel’s top generals recently compared to 1930’s Germany. His outburst also drew an angry backlash from feminist activists, who noted that Netanyahu’s recent admonitions stood in stark contrast to his silence over a long string of sex assaults by top Israeli officials, including several in his inner circle.
Israeli police announced this month that there was no evidence to support the rape allegations against two Palestinians that were first reported in the Israeli press a week ago. The police requested that an Israeli court release the suspects immediately.
The police statement represented a stunning reversal of the initial account it released to the press. A week before exonerating the suspects, police asserted that two Palestinians had gang-raped a young Jewish woman with a mental disability in the coastal city of Jaffa, cursing her with anti-Semitic slurs. The police added that the Palestinians had urinated on the Jewish woman and “threatened to rape the woman’s aunt and kill her brothers if she told anyone about the rape”.
Despite the police admission that the complainant’s story was contradicted by some evidence, and even though police had not yet filed an indictment, Netanyahu took to Facebook to castigate his political opponents for not sufficiently speaking out in condemnation of these alleged acts, framing them as a politically-motivated terror attack. Although several liberal-leaning legislators had already condemned the reported rape well before he made his accusations, Netanyahu went on to insinuate that the left’s supposed silence over the attack was motivated by its desire to defend Palestinians at all costs -- even if they were sick sex criminals.
Netanyahu’s screed soon began to cause problems for the police, threatening to distort the decision-making of the case investigators. Once Netanyahu publicly decreed of his own volition that the motive for the alleged attack was politically motivated violence, police sources confessed that they were under pressure, torn between pursuing blind justice and “maintaining the honor of the prime minister”.
Netanyahu accused of showing “zero empathy for rape victims”
Netanyahu’s partisan attack also elicited harsh criticism from feminists like the centrist lawmaker and former Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, who accused Netanyahu of having “neglected, abandoned, and ignored” rape victims and neglecting efforts by Israeli legislators to protect women from sex assaults. Blasting his hypocrisy, Yachimovich said Netanyahu had shown “zero empathy for rape victims until you saw a window of opportunity for incitement.”
Yachimovich’s critique was well-founded. In recent years, a long list of top Israeli officials have been accused, investigated, indicted and convicted of serious sex crimes. The roster of perverted public servants includes multiple mayors, top state-paid rabbis, high-ranking army commanders, senior justice officials, members of Knesset, ministers, candidates for the Israeli presidency and one actual president, now serving a jail sentence for rape crimes. Most worrisome, also on this list are two of Netanyahu’s closest aides, as well as his personal driver, who was convicted of raping several women hundreds of times.
Until the recent furor over allegations of Arab-on-Jew sexual violence, Netanyahu had carefully refrained from publicly condemning any sex crimes committed by either private citizens or respected state officials. “Why haven’t you condemned rapists until now? We have never heard a word from you,” lambasted Yachimovich, “Not a sound.”
Even after his trusted advisor was demoted for secretly filming up the skirt of a woman working in Netanyahu’s office, the prime minister continued to use him to carry out sensitive and important political negotiations. After the police forces were tarred by a string of sex crimes, including charges against the Jerusalem Chief of Police, Netanyahu’s personal pick for police commissioner instituted a new misogynist policy: henceforth, the police will no longer investigate sex crimes complaints made by anonymous individuals.
The notion that men are entitled to unlimited access to women’s bodies is prevalent not only among Israel’s elite. A survey conducted four years ago found that 20% of Israeli men admit to having committed rape. As scary as this statistic is, it is overshadowed by an even more frightening figure: 61% of Israeli men say that forcing an acquaintance to have sex does not constitute rape. As this rape epidemic rips through Israeli society, Netanyahu’s silence signals his tacit acceptance of it.
Prime minister’s comments reinforce popularity of Israel’s anti-miscegenation movement
Yesterday, police recommended the release of the Palestinian young men after the woman who had originally accused them of gang-raping her admitted that the accusations had been manufactured. The woman “said that she was in a consensual relationship with one of the Palestinians, a minor, and that her family fabricated the rape allegations to put an end to their affair.”
Netanyahu had already expressed remorse for his first Facebook post with a second status update, but the damage had already been done. His original comments had dovetailed almost perfectly with the racist rhetoric of Lehava, a popular anti-miscegenation street gang that accuses Palestinians of preying on Jewish girls and attacks mixed couples and locales where Jews and Palestinians tend to intermingle.
Netanyahu’s decision to frame Palestinians as racist rapists — something Lehava has done for years — should not have come as a surprise to keen observers of Israeli politics. It was Israel’s current top diplomats, acting Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon — both of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party — who invited and hosted Lehava leaders in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to give “expert testimony” on the “scourge” of miscegenation.
Moreover, the family that donates the most money to Netanyahu’s personal election campaign fund is also the family that donates the most money to Lehava’s racial purity drives. Under Netanyahu’s leadership, the Israeli government funded Lehava’s activities for years, using a front group to transfer the funds.
Even today in 2016, Israeli law does not permit for Jews and non-Jews to officially marry one another in the country. Throughout the state, municipal authorities deputize local groups of Jewish separatists to operate out of police stations and patrol the towns, in an effort to prevent young Jews and Palestinians from socializing.
The revelation that an Israeli couple pressured their daughter to accuse her Palestinian lover of raping her, while debasing her with racist epithets, is evidence that the discourse championed by Lehava, with little objection from the regime, has deeply seeped into Israeli society. The fact that Israel’s head of state is now openly echoing this racist and sexist discourse is another sign of how far to the fascist right the country has drifted.
Women vulnerable to attack, even in Israeli government offices
Two seemingly unrelated stories also published this past week in the Israeli media lent additional credence to the claim that the Netanyahu government is, at the very least, not making sufficient efforts to combat sexual harassment, if not tacitly encouraging it.
An Israeli Channel 2 survey of the country’s 32 female legislators published on Monday found that nearly every single one of them had been a victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment. Two of the women said that they have even faced sexual harassment during their tenures as Knesset members, coinciding with Netanyahu’s last two terms as prime minister.
Just a few days earlier, an officer of the National Union of Israeli Students - a Palestinian citizen of Israel - publicly revealed that in March, she was singled out for a humiliating strip-search by Netanyahu’s security team. While her Jewish colleagues were waved through into the Prime Minister’s Office building after simple security checks, the non-Jewish woman was taken behind a curtain and instructed to remove her clothes and underclothes, some of which were taken from her. The woman also reported that one of Netanyahu’s senior security staff turned her predicament into an educational opportunity, using her to train a novice guard on “how and where to touch her body, to open her legs, close her legs”.
Asked to comment on the incident, Netanyahu’s office said that the young woman was treated “according to regulations needed for the prime minister’s security."