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Posts Tagged ‘Israel Defense Forces’

The Katzav Effect

In Sexual Assault on March 26, 2011 at 21:43

TIME Magazine
Friday, Mar. 25, 2011
Israel’s Katsav Rape Case: A Plus for Women’s Rights?
By Karl Vick / Jerusalem

In a parliamentary government like Israel’s, pretty much all executive power resides in the Prime Minister. The office of President carries certain responsibilities, such as signing treaties and appointing the head of the central bank, but it’s largely a ceremonial post. Israel’s head of state is basically there to make the country look good.

So when Moshe Katsav, who held the office from 2000 to 2007, was convicted of rape last December, it did not enhance the dignity of the office. Nor did the outburst Tuesday morning in the Tel Aviv courtroom where he had just been sentenced to seven years in prison. “You are mistaken, ma’am, you are mistaken!” Katsav cried to one of the three judges he faced. “You have committed an injustice! The judgment is wrong! You allowed lies to emerge victorious! The women know that they lied! They know that they lied, and they are laughing at the judgment!”

The jurists took turns trying to calm the defendant — “Sir, sit down quietly, with dignity,” one of them said — then returned to reading out the sentence. In addition to jail time, it calls for Katsav to pay 100,000 shekels (about $28,500) to the woman he was found guilty of raping when she worked for him at the Tourism Ministry, which the Likud Party loyalist ran in the late 1990s. Katsav also must pay the equivalent of $7,100 to one of two former employees of the President’s residence whom he was convicted of sexually harassing. His attorneys announced he would appeal.

In the spasm of agonized national self-reflection that immediately ensued, one positive note was sounded again and again: in a country that still regards itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, “nobody is above the law, not even a former President,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it.

In fact, Israelis have grown accustomed to the long arm of the law reaching into the highest levels of government. Netanyahu was elected to an office vacated by Ehud Olmert, whose trial for corruption is under way in Jerusalem. The nation’s political landscape is stippled with former officials widely expected to resume their careers after waiting out penalties.

The real import of the Katsav conviction is the offense. Israel once enjoyed a reputation as an early exemplar of women’s rights. Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister in the 1960s. Young women wait at bus stops wearing olive green fatigues and carrying M-16s, military service being compulsory for both genders.

But in the corridors of power, it’s been a man’s world for generations. “This is considered a feminist country? That’s something new to me,” laughs Irit Gazit, who runs the legal aid bureau for the Women’s International Zionist Organization. An expert on sexual harassment, Gazit has been conducting workshops for the Israel Defense Forces. With its heavily male officer corps and legions of young female conscripts, it has often had to deal with accustions of harassment, yet it remains a crucial role model for a society that reveres its military.

In the gradual change of public attitudes, women’s rights advocates say a pivot point was the 2001 conviction of Yitzhak Mordechai, a retired major general convicted of indecency after being accused of unwelcome advances by a string of female subordinates. “While we were having coffee, he forced himself on me,” one testified. “He lay on top of me and tried to put his hand inside my blouse. I said to him, ‘Itzik, what are you doing?’ ” The accusations came in what would be a familiar pattern: news of the first complaint was followed by a wave of others. “It was a common assumption that if you were in a powerful position, you could do whatever you want,” says Gazit. “It was common in the army.”

The assumption has grown a bit less common with the publicity surrounding each new case. And there have been a lot of them. In one week last November, the nominee for national police commissioner was undone by a complaint from a woman who said he had sexually assaulted her at a conference. After another women alleged he had raped and drugged her, the candidate claimed the incident was not only consensual but a threesome. Meanwhile the director of the public security ministry resigned, acknowledging a relationship with a subordinate “that went beyond the bounds of work.”

Meanwhile, Katsav’s yearlong trial proceeded largely out of view, the three-judge panel barring most press coverage after sensationalized coverage of the investigation. The verdict included the judges’ tart observation that the Iranian-born Katsav had attempted to frame his accusers, followed by the court’s release of audio tapes supporting the allegation. “Now is a time of change,” says Gazit. “We need to educate men and women both. I hope cases like Katsav’s really serve this purpose.”

There is evidence they do. In January, the civil service commission reported that sexual harassment complaints were up 40% over a year earlier, a surge attributed largely to increasing awareness of the issue. Rape crisis counselors referred to it as “the Katsav effect.”

Why The IDF Must Fight Sexual Harassment

In Sexual Harrassment on June 16, 2010 at 00:52

The Two-Front War----Sexual Harassment in the IDF

OK. We Israelis are used to being harrassed by pretty much every nation in the world.  We’re even used to our Army, one of the most upstanding and moral in the world, being trashed— even, or perhaps, especially, by leaders of nations with atrocious human rights records.

But IDF brothers-in-arms sexually harassing their sisters-in-arms? No, we must never, NEVER make peace with that.  Read the article below. Sexual harrassment complaints in the IDF are at an all-time high, but fewer than half of female soldiers who report being harrassed are willing to file formal complaints.

The fact that the number of complaints is way, way up,  is not all bad. This certainly indicates increased awareness,  but let’s not jump to the conclusion that increased incidence has nothing to do with it. With numbers like these, it almost certainly does.

Moreover, read between the lines and you will see that the way these incidents are being dealt with still leaves a lot to be desired. Female soldiers who report incidents  clearly feel they are putting themselves in harm’s way. On paper, the system encourages reporting and treats sexual harrassment as a criminal offense. But behind the scenes, the system and the female soldiers who serve it share a common agenda. Like the parents in the Bill Cosby comedy routine, they are not so much interested in justice as they are in quiet.

There is a way to get both “quiet” and “justice”. It is called PREVENTION.  And I’m not talking about scolding and lecturing male soldiers, as if scolding 18 year-old boys gets them to change their behavior. I have one at home; I know all about it. And I’m not talking about handing Tear Gas spray out to female soldiers as if it were hairspray. (Tell me, Generals, what other weapons do you have in your arsenal that you hand out to soldiers with no training and no hand-to-hand backup plan? )

Bottom Line: Why aren’t these women receiving empowerment-based self-defense training?

What makes the IDF so special is that it is us. It is a reflection of our society. Can you imagine what kind of society we could foster if we invested in the thousands of young men and women going through compulsary military service so, when they re-enter civilian life, they already know that women will not tolerate sexual harassment? That they will stand up for themselves and call the perpetrators to account for it?

Look at the statistics about working women in Israel. 50% report being sexually harassed in the workplace. 50%!!!! And do you know where most of those women were just before they entered the workforce? That’s right. They were in the military.

How many stories like those below might have turned out differently if these women learned Awareness, Avoidance, Assertiveness, Physical Defense and Recovery skills as part of their Military Service? Two-years of service and they can’t squeeze in 10-hour for a Basic Empowerment-based Self-Defense Course? Come on…

I wrote to Chairman of the Knesset Committee for the Promotion of Women’s Status  Tzipi Hotovely MK (Likud) some time ago asking for a chance to speak with her about this issue. Good thing I didn’t hold my breath waiting to hear back from her.

For her part in the proceedings, MK Hotovely said: “Unfortunately, harassment has not left the world and some men feel entitled. Maybe we should think about an alternative softer track, that will enable us to work around the psychological constraints involved in serving a complaint.”

MK Hotovely, you may be right. Perhaps a “decriminalized” procedure would help. On the other hand, how about removing some of those ‘psychological constaints’ by empowering these women BEFORE incidents occur so they can STOP them? Give them the tools they need to stand up for themselves and for each other! I would expect that you, of all of our nation’s legislators, would be on the frontlines fighting for just that.

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Major Increase in Complaints of Sexual Harassment in the IDF

A day of consciousness-raising came to the Knesset: Data presented by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, indicated that over the last two years the number of complaints rose by tens of percentage points . The Immigrant Absorption Committee heard sad stories of immigrant women: “The manager harassed me – and I was dependent on him”

Yael Bernovsky
YNET
June 8, 2010

Translated by Yours Truly

Today, the Knesset held a special day to increase awareness of sexual harassment, and all the committees held hearings on the subject. This came after yesterday’s report on Ynet revealing alarming data, according to which nearly half of working women experience sexual harassment in their workplaces. Additional data published today, indicated that the scope of the phenomenon in the IDF has risen sharply.

According to the data presented by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Israel Defense Forces in 2009 reported 445 complaints of sexual harassment, compared to 363 in 2008 and 318 in 2007. Most of the reported incidents occurred in the bases, and most involved physical harassment. About 28 percent involved verbal harassment and 13 percent voyeurism. Three-percent of the percentage involved rape or attempted rape. Another one percent of the complaints involved consensual sexual relations.

IDF officials explained that there are two options for dealing with complaints – either an officer checks out the allegations or the Military Police are called in for a criminal investigation. Only 47 percent of female soldiers who complained in 2009 chose to contact the Military Police. Another 12 percent of female soldiers sought help within their units.

According to Brigadier General Gila Kalifi, Women’s Affairs advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in 2009 only one false complaint of sexual harassment was discovered. However, she said that “we do not only see the need to commit ourselves to dealing with those who claim sexualharassment. We are also committed that, until proven guilty, the person against whom a complaint is made must be considered innocent.”

“We have already learned that it is important to ask the IDF, not only about military intelligence but, there are more questions to ask, about sexual assault, about suicide… Social issues,” concluded Committee Chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi. “are part of the experience of life of this organization that must undergo parliamentary supervision. Everyone goes away with the feeling that, on the one hand, there is much to praise in the system, but there is a problem. I hope it is being kept in mind by the IDF, our country’s largest organization, that there must be a greater sense of confidence and understanding that the system will protect those submitting complaints. ”

Former Defense Minister Knesset Member Amir Peretz (Labor) added that “our expectation from the IDF is they will become one of the most important models for other workplaces to emulate . Israeli society makes judgments about women who file these kind of complaints. When the this same soldier must return to the same community where she lives, there are serious concerns about this. They must proceed with caution, but they also must develop more tools that allow these matters to be dealt with without placing the woman on the frontlines of the war. Even if the soldier has chosen treatment futher down in the hierarchy, the matter must go higher up in the hierarchy in order to maximize the punishment. The Army must provide security for female soldiers, that no one in the hierarchy, no matter what his rank, has too much authority. ”

“Didn’t they teach you in Ethiopia not say “no” to a man?”

The Absorption Committee headed by MK Lia Shemtov held a discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace that included presentations by women victimized by the phenomenon.

One of them, an economist that came from Ukraine a few years ago and still learning the language, said that she managed to get work in a clothing warehouse as a folder. “I had to leave work even though it suited me. The reason: my manager’s behavior. For a period of two months, he harassed me, took advantage of his authority, because I was financially dependent on the work. He also attempted to rape me and commit indecent acts. I went to the Rape Crisis Center. I did not want people to know – and this is one of the reasons that I did not go to the police. I’m really depressed because of what happened. ”

Another woman, a 24 year-old Amharic-speaker, went to  the Rape Crisis Center to accompany a friend. She talked about things she was accustomed to living with: “I was out of work and my neighbors were looking for a babysitter. It started with words: “I’m used to white Israelis.”, ” Didn’t you learn in Ethiopia not say ‘no’ to a man?’,’Your chest is the color of mocha’.

The neighbor started to harass me, push himself against me while talking to me. After a month, I left my job. ”

Michal Rosen, the CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, mentioned that the bill for providing compensation for victims of sexual assault drafted by a interdepartmental committee last year and presented to the Welfare Department (details published in Ynet) “still lies in the hands of the Minister. Nothing has been done about it. ”

MK Marina Solodkin concluded: “the former President (Translator’s note: Former President Moshe Katsav whose trial for rape and sexual harassment is being held in extreme secrecy) was a master of sexual harassment. This procedure is very important and it will set a precedent if the judge convicts him. I am optimistic”.

Stopping Sexual Assault in The Israel Defense Forces

In violence prevention on September 17, 2009 at 15:42
As unlikely as it may seem, 1 of 7 of  female IDF soldiers will be sexually harassed or worse during their service

As unlikely as it may seem, 1 of 7 of female IDF soldiers will be sexually harassed or worse during their service

This morning, I read a report issued this summer by the Knesset committee on The Status of  Women, chaired by Knesset Member Zipi Hotovely (Likud).

According to the 2008 military survey, one of seven female soldiers report that they have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. Of the 363 reports of sexual harassment or worse , 62%  were physical; 5% of the complainants were men. When it came time to pursue the charges, only 63% of the women complainants chose to pursue the matter further.

I was impressed enough to write Knesset Member Hotovely the following letter:

I am one of the founders and the Executive Director of El HaLev, a non-profit woman-powered organization dedicated to empowering women of all ages, body, mind and spirit, through training in the Martial Arts and Self-Defense. Since our founding in 2003, we have worked with thousands of women and collaborated with dozens of government and non-profit agencies in pursuit of a kinder, gentler and safer Israel…

…You wisely added that the fact that only 63% of the women complainants chose to pursue the matter further, indicates problems in the system. It also highlights the society-wide problem of being re-victimized after an assault.

I am a great believer in “Crisis=Opportunity”. Your implications of this survey are disturbing. However, they also present an unprecedented opportunity to empower an ever-greater proportion of Israeli women.

We at El HaLev (www.elhalev.org) are recognized throughout the country as The Experts in training women to find their physical and emotional strengths and use them in their own defense. We met this week with an Wingate army training representative to discuss the possibility of introducing our truly women-oriented self-defense, assertiveness and life-skills training into the army training regimen toward the goal of producing better, safer and more confident female soldiers. We were well-received and, I am certain, more meetings will follow…

…If we are going to succeed in our mission of reducing verbal and physical violence against women in our society in general, and the army in particular, we will need the help and support of people like you, leaders on the frontlines of changing the status of women in Israel.

Please do me the honor of meeting with me to explore how we can work together with your network of empowered women toward our common goal.

Now you all know MY resolution for wording toward my life’s dream the New Year.

What’s yours?

PUMA

In case you thought that the IDF is too “macho” to consider making women’s self-defense part of the training of female soldiers, don’t take MY word for it…

IDF mulling self-defense course for all female recruits

Aug. 9, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST

Citing fears of kidnappings and sexual assault, the IDF is considering establishing a special self-defense course for all female soldiers who enlist in the military.

The plan is the brainchild of Col. Dr. Avi Moyal, head of the IDF’s Combat Fitness Division. Moyal has discussed the idea with Brig.-Gen. Gila Klifi-Amir, the General Staff’s Adviser on Women’s Affairs and the two are hoping to secure a budget for the program.

Under the plan, all female recruits will participate in a week-long self-defense course to provide them with skills how to fend off potential attackers, rapists and kidnappers.

“This course will be aimed at providing the female soldiers with self-confidence to travel around the country in the framework of their military service as many of them need to” explained a senior officer in the IDF’s Ground Forces Command.

Most female soldiers in the IDF serve in non-combat positions and undergo a very low-level basic training without receiving any real self defense skills.

“Very few female soldiers are given an introductory class in hand-to-hand combat but not enough to know how to fight off an attacker,” the officer said.