It seems that sexual harassment under state auspices is worthwhile if the harasser is close to retirement age. Transportation Ministry director general Alex Langer, who sexually harassed women who worked for him and promoted those who slept with him, has made a deal with the Civil Service Commission, under which he'll get off with a "severe" reprimand and a dock in pay of one month's salary (as reported by Revital Hovel in Haaretz on August 21). He'll also no longer be permitted to work for the Transportation Ministry or in any other civil service position.
Perhaps this could be considered a serious punishment with some deterrent effect if Langer weren't 64. In real terms, it's an early retirement arrangement. It certainly isn't a punishment that will prevent him from being welcomed with open arms by the private sector, straight from his very senior position.
The Langer case illustrates the two ugly sides of sexual harassment: Women who resist harassment are treated badly at work and sometimes even fired, while those who submit get promoted. By meting out such a meager punishment to Langer, the state is enabling these two patterns to continue.
The proof? After former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai received a suspended sentence for harassment and sexual assault in 2001, we've had the case of former President and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav; former Justice Minister Haim Ramon's indecent conduct; the rape of a female soldier by Col. Zahar Ataf; the case of Jerusalem Police Chief Nisso Shaham, now suspected of sexual harassment and assault; and that of Kiryat Malakhi Mayor Motti Malka, who is accused of rape. The conclusion? That the idea that it's forbidden to sexually harm or exploit female subordinates has not been internalized.
When the state wants to eradicate a phenomenon, it knows how to do it. In this instance, all it has to do is properly enforce Israel's advanced laws regarding sexual harassment and assault. The law is there; one must merely be determined to enforce it stringently, in a way that will leave no room for doubt that sexually harassing subordinates is just not worth it.
Sexual harassment and exploitation of female employees, particularly by a man in a very senior position, is not a minor violation. It's a crime that must be uprooted and punished accordingly.
But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to cook up political deals with the help of Natan Eshel, a man who exploited his position as Netanyahu's bureau chief and admitted to improper behavior between a superior and subordinate, it's no wonder that the Transportation Ministry director general and sex offender gets off solely with a reprimand.
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