Tuesday, April 02, 1991
By Michael Rotem
Jerusalem Post - April 2, 1991
The law provides for heavy sentencing in cases of rape and woman-beating, but the courts hardly seem impressed. Michael Rotem finds that Israeli women are mobilizing to challenge perceptions of sex crimes
THE 50 WOMEN protesters at the Tel Aviv District Court on Tuesday may have received nothing more than bored stares from courthouse regulars - an assortment of anxious-looking lawyers, petty criminals and harried police prosecuters.
The placards the protesters held told the horrific tale of 100,000 women in Israel who are regularly beaten by their husbands or boyfriends. One out of every three females under 18 years of age, and one quarter of all women, have at some point been subject to sexual abuse, according to Bat Adam, a recently-formed coalition of women's organizations.
But beyond the hair-raising statistics and numbers lies the outrageous and undebatable fact: male defendants receive surprisingly light sentences for raping a girl or beating their female partner.
Israeli legislators set the maximum penalty for rape at 16 years imprisonment, thus expressing the policy that rape is one of the gravest of criminal offences. Criminal law here sets the maximum penalty for gang rape at 20 years imprisonment - the same as manslaughter.
Bat Adam is planning a protest march on May 9 in Tel Aviv under the slogan "We will march to regain the right to walk the streets at night without fear."
Rivka Ben-Zvi, a psychologist, runs a center to help women in distress. "We decided to get together," she said, "because the situation is worsening. The law in Israel concerning rape and sexual abuse is very modern, which, regretfully, cannot be said about many recent court rulings on these crimes."
The demonstration was the start of a large public campaign against what seems to be a widening gap between punishments given for white-collar crimes and to rapists and woman-beaters, the organizers said.
Ruth Reznik, who runs the shelter for battered women in Herzliya, added: "What has been going on in courts in recent years might give the impression that women are worthless. I'm furious about the fact that Roni Leibovich, who robbed banks and physically did not harm anybody, received a 20-year sentence, and Mr. Ezra who murdered his wife, received only seven years with the absurd argument that his children are now orphans."
Whereas Leibovich, the "Motorcycle Bandit," acquired infamy through front-page headlines every time he struck, the sordid crimes of rapists and woman-beaters are seldom made public. That has the effect of making such crimes blase and routine, and may well contribute to diminishing their perceived severity.
Following is an assortment of unpublicized cases:
* On April 19, 1986, a 43-year-old Jerusalemite violently and sexually abused a hitchhiker. He pleaded not guilty and provided the District Court with an alibi - at the time of the assault, he claimed, he was at home celebrating with his son's Bar Mitzva. He provided a video cassette as proof.
The suspicious district attorney ordered the police to dig a little deeper. The investigators were amazed to find that the defendant staged the Bar Mitzva film two years after the celebration - and a few days before his trial began.
For the sexual attack the defendant was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He was also tried for deceiving the court and sentenced to a year and a half suspended, and an additional year to be served parallel to his first sentence.
* On December 20, 1990, a Nazareth District Court tried a rabbi in his 50s who was charged with two incidents of sexually attacking a teenage girl in a synagogue's air-raid shelter.
The defendant was found guilty and was sentenced to six months suspended and fined NIS 1,500. In his verdict, the judge wrote that the defendant fully confessed and had no previous criminal record. The judge also wrote that the girl suffered no mental or physical damage from the incident.
* In December 1990, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, head of the Council for the Protection of Children, received a shocking letter from a mother whose son was raped several times by his Bar Mitzva melamed (instructor).
The melamed admitted to the court to sexually abusing five boys. After a plea bargain, he was sentenced to four months imrisonment. The defendant appealed to the Supreme Court for a lighter punishment and was released until his appeal could be heard.
"The melamed who sodomized my son and other boys is free," the mother wrote, "and my son, whose soul has been murdered by this man, did not get any plea bargain and did not even receive any treatment.
"There is no justice," the enraged mother wrote. "How can they make a plea bargain and give such a light sentence to a man who had exploited his religious position to harm the souls of innocent children? I will fight to change the law that permits it, not only for my son's sake but for other children. The real person who's been punished was my son," the mother added.
* On January 2, 1989, the Beersheba District Court charged 55-year-old Eilat playboy Rafi Hayun with assault, rape and attempted sodomy with a 33-year-old American tourist. He was given 18 months in prison and 30 months suspended. The judges wrote that they took into consideration the defendant's clean record, his age and the fact that it was a first incident. The judges also noted the woman's "provocative behavior" - noting her alluring clothing.
* On January 9, 1991, a Haifa District Court tried Shimon Mor, 30, of Haifa, for brutally raping a handicapped 14-year-old girl.
Mor, posing as a policeman, lured her to a beach where he ripped her clothes off, beat her, threatened her life and raped his helpless victim.
The defense told the court that her client "is a young and handsome man who has no previous criminal record. He used to volunteer in hospitals and is a saxophone player." She added that the defendant is being harassed in the detention house by his cellmates and that he had expressed his deepest regrets for his deeds.
He was sentenced to four years.
* On February 14, 1991, a Nazareth District Court tried three Beit She'an defendants for repeatedly raping a mentally ill teenage girl.
Baruch Cohen, 24, Yossi Deri, 22, and Shimon Harbun, 20, were charged that they forced themselves on the girl over a period of a year and a half.
The verdict was given after the three had spent three months in custody awaiting trial. After a plea bargain the judges sentenced them to three months of work for the public benefit.
* Last March, a Tel Aviv District Court sentenced a 56-year-old father of four to six months work for the public benefit, 12 months suspended and a year's probation for sexually attacking an 11-year-old girl.
* On March 19 a Sharon resident, 19, was tried at the same court. Every night, the defendant sexually abused his 15-year-old sister, and raped and sodomized his teenage girlfriend. The defendant was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and 18 months suspended.
* On April 10, the same court tried Eliyahu Afanzar, 31, of Tiberias. The man, already serving a six-year sentence for planting a bomb in a woman's home, was accused of attempting to rape his girlfriend in an orchard. When she resisted, he locked her in his car for 48 hours.
A week later he tried to rape her again, beat her, tried to strangle her and again locked her in his car - this time for 24 hours.
The defendant admitted the charges after a plea bargain. He wa sentenced to two years in jail. The judge wrote that he was not happy with the plea bargain, but he considered the fact that the defendant, already sentenced to six years, would have to serve eight years in prison, "which is a long time for a young man."