Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | February 1, 2007

What kind of republic are we?

Until recently, I was under the impression that Israel was something of a banana republic, but it appears I was off the mark. Sure, the term that comes to mind these days can potentially resemble a banana (if one stretches their imagination just a little…) in shape, but that’s where the similarity ends, I’m afraid. With all the excitement generated by our temporarily incapacitated president and our former justice minister, it would seem that Israel has turned into something far more sinister than a banana republic – we are now officially a penile republic.

Following the news these days is like passing a car accident on the highway – you don’t want to look, you know it’s going to be horrible, but you just can’t help yourself. Between the president’s frightening display of emotion during his press conference last week to Haim Ramon being found guilty of indecent behavior yesterday, the usual disregard and contempt for the law that many of our politicians show on a regular basis has taken on a far more disgusting quality. Seriously, what is it with these men in power? Given the increasing levels of public awareness regarding sexual harassment issues, it is utterly shocking that these individuals and others of their ilk have the audacity to behave as they do. I’m not even going to address the alleged “misdeeds” of the president – I wouldn’t know where to begin, and they have been covered ad nauseum everywhere else. I will say that I was disappointed that he resorted to the race card, insinuating that one of the primary reasons that he was being “targeted” was due to his background as a Persian immigrant, which was a pathetic attempt to downplay the incredibly grave charges made against him.

And then there is the case of Haim Ramon, Israel’s former Justice Minister. I was never a big fan of his before this whole episode came to light, and needless to say, I now find him revolting. I still haven’t decided what I think about this whole trial, but words escape me when I hear what he has to say about the incident at hand. The only thing that keeps running through my mind is, “he should know better”. He should know better than to perpetrate such an act. He should know enough to control himself. He should know better than to make lecherous advances on a young woman less than half his age, especially given his position as a politician (justice minister, no less!) and hers as a soldier. He should know better, given that he appears to be in a committed relationship with another woman (why she’s chosen to stay with him is beyond me). And now let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. Let’s say that there is a tiny kernel of truth in his version, and that the young woman in question was, as he put it, “flirting”, or that she was the instigator. He should have stopped it dead. He should have known that allowing it to continue was wrong. No matter what the circumstances surrounding the kiss, the point is that it should never have happened. It should never have been allowed to happen.

It is more than a little disturbing when a former justice minister opts for the “she wanted it” defense, when he allows his desires to cloud his judgment, and deludes himself into thinking that what he is doing is acceptable, when in fact nothing can be farther from the truth. With power comes responsibility, and as justice minister, it was Ramon’s responsibility to ensure that he did not use the powers given to him to act inappropriately. He failed in that responsibility. He failed as a public figure and as a man. And for that, his deeds should not go unnoticed or unpunished. Precisely because of who he is and what he symbolizes, his case should be used an example. People must be made to realize that actions have consequences and that responsibility supersedes desire. Oh, and it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing, it doesn’t matter if she’s flirting. If she doesn’t say yes, that means the answer is no. You’d think that in this day and age, that would already be understood, but clearly, if an Israeli justice minister, a president, various politicians, military personnel and other public figures here don’t get it, we’ve still got a long way to go in getting the message out.

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Responses

  1. “the usual disregard and contempt for the law that many of our politicians show on a regular basis”

    Unfortunately, the answer is very simple. Israel has never really been democratic. We’ve had the illusion of democracry, but in reality it was the party hacks (at best) and more often the money-people who selected who our politicians were.

    Over the decades the sense of “unaccountability” grew to include every social and ethical norm. The only thing that might save us as a democratic Jewish state is an ethical-moral revolution. I challenge YOU to share YOUR vision of how a true Jewish democracry would function. Please share it with us at The Orange Revolution

  2. “He should know better” ??? Hell, it shouldn’t even occur to him. I am a male university professor and have always had the personal policy that, as long as there is an academic connection or the possibility of one, I will have no other relationship with a female student other than a friendship. That’s more than I can say for many of my colleagues. But is that easy?? You wouldn’t believe some of the things female students, and even female professors do in the academic environment that entice men to do stupid things.

    But I have a problem with this… “and it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing, it doesn’t matter if she’s flirting. If she doesn’t say yes, that means the answer is no.”

    Yes it DOES matter. There is a large difference between a woman taking care to be attractive in her appearance and purposely being sexually seductive in public or the place of work… and flirting on top of it. Responsibility works both ways, or it should. I don’t care what country you live in.

    Young girls of 12, or 13, or 14 years of age play with this stuff as a natural part of growing up, not fully understanding that they may be putting themselves on the edge of something they didn’t bargain for… and dangerous to boot. But when they are 18 or 19 or 40, there is a large difference between the experimentations of girlhood and the invitations they send out as adult women when they engage in irresponsible behavior.

    You said, “People must be made to realize that actions have consequences and that responsibility supersedes desire.”

    And that is exactly my point, and it should work both ways. Not saying “yes” is NOT the same as saying “no” when you reduce things to the biological common denominator.

    I don’t know much about the circumstances your president and minister were involved in — and certainly if force was involved a punishable crime was committed and should be punished — but give me a break on the “yes” and “no” thing.

  3. YACK!!!

    I can only say one thing, all these events make me want to throw up.

    I am getting sick not only because of what they did (or should I say “allegedly” did) but more of their defensive measures.

    I even get sicker when I hear their lawyers defending their acts

    I get double sick when I hear their hired PR people defending them and spreading lies and nasty rumors in order to show them as angels…

    I get ultra sick when I hear politican that want to change the law to make future cases like that harder to get to court or when trying to say “he is a good man” or “he is/was a/my friend”. To them I can only say “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you what are you like”.

    BUT what bothers me most is that even now after being convicted unanimously in court – that the media is letting people say that the trial was not fare, like the conviction never occoured.

    As a father of two young girls I am afraid to think what our society will look like if those CRIMINALS (one for sure and the others are for now just “allegedly” criminals) will get clean out of it.

    I am feel ashamed that these are our leaders… this is the face of our country in the news worldwide…

  4. I wasn’t really into the topic but this sentence from a previous commenter drew me in:

    “Wouldn’t believe some of the things female students, and even female professors do in the academic environment that entice men to do stupid things.”

    WHAT???
    Are you seriously saying that women are responsible for the actions of men? That men are so weak, pathetic and malleable that they can’t be trusted around women?

    If so, I hope you will join me in starting a movement to remove all men from all positions of authority in all places all over the world, because, if they are that useless, they have absolutly no business being allowed out without chaperones.

    And Mr. Sage, NO means No, especially from someone physically weaker. You would be wise to absorb that little titbit of information.

  5. UGH!!! I just wrote an excellent comment… oozing with sharp wit and stunning intellect… and then promptly lost it… oh curse this dreaded computer!!!

    The gist of my points were:

    1) Whether lack of a yes means no isn’t the point here… It wouldn’t have mattered if the girl/woman was saying “YES, YES, OHHHH YES!!!”. His decision not to say no is noone’s responsibility but his own…

    And Lisoosh… hear hear! If our feminine powers and “enticement” really sway men so easily, get them out of positions of power as quickly as possible. What a weak excuse. If a man acknowledges that he can be so affected by sexual advances that he is no longer in control of decision making capabilities, the results could be quite disturbing (and obviously have been in Israel and elsewhere).

  6. Sage-

    Re the “Yes and No thing”: At the end of the day, the only person responsible for the perpetration of an act is the perpetrator themselves. They should- and can be taught to- know better than to objectify a woman, or choose to read signals into her behaviour. It really is that simple, and blaming women’s behaviour/clothing/presentation cannot remain an appropriate topic for intelligent social discourse.

    http://www.mencanstoprape.org

  7. so sick…i’m serious…castration would solve so many problems in this world.

  8. Liza: Among all the things that bother me about Ramon — do you know what day this happened?

    If I’m not mistaken, it happened the day that the solider were kidnapped up North, and was before an important meeting to discuss this.

    So, just like General Halutz was very concerned about his stock portfolio that day, I guess Ramon was more concered with forcebly locking lips.

    Are ANY of our leaders able to actually focus on the job at hand?

  9. Jameel,

    Sadly, I think the answer to your question appears to be no. What’s even sadder is that I don’t really see any politicians on the horizon who are capable of leading the country properly – neither on the left nor on the right.


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