Complainant Unfairly Treated by Media, Academics Contend

Friends of embroiled officer call investigation 'organized putsch'.

As the investigation into sexual assault allegations against Police Major General Uri Bar-Lev continues, academics will release today a petition in support of the complainant called O.

The academics argue that the manner in which the media present her and how she has been described by spokesmen is doing serious damage to her public image and could deter women who might want to file a complaint in the future.

O. is fighting a war for many women and represents a problem for which she is paying a price, that "makes us realize why women are afraid to make a complaint," the letter says.

A signatory of the letter is Professor Zvi Eisikovits, director of the the Center for the Study of Society at Haifa University, who accompanied O. in her academic career.

Eisikovits criticizes the way the complainants are pictured in reports and the fundamental assumptions brought to bear.

"We see and read the way Uri Bar-Lev is described as a war hero, one who's been through many battles, we hear about his record at the police and the many operations in which he took part. The coverage of Bar-Lev is done exclusively through his work in various security organizations, while O. is covered in terms of the affairs she's had and her social life."

The shallow media coverage of O., said Eisikovits, does not represent the woman behind the initial.

"This is a principled woman. We are proud of her, of her achievements and of her leadership of one of the most important projects in Israel," Eisikovits said.

"She's a wise woman, one who sticks to her path. It's appalling they're concentrating on her private life - and not on the substance of the case."

Meanwhile, friends and associates of Bar-Lev continued voicing support for him, even as he himself shunned the microphones. Former Police Commissioner Assaf Hefetz called the investigation "an organized putsch", saying this was the home stretch of the race for police commissioner, and that a "targeted assassination" was taking place of Bar Lev, who is the leading candidate.

Hefetz said he had spoken to Bar-Lev and believed in his innocence. "M.'s testimony is being cracked by her friend's interrogation," he said. "A guy invites a girl, she's projecting something and you try sometimes more aggressively, sometimes less, and she interprets it in a different connotation.

"Even if he did make 14 calls, he did it because she was hurt. I would have done the same. Maybe he's a flirt, but if they started looking for flirts in this country, the Knesset would be emptied and a lot of people would feel quite uncomfortable," Hefetz went on. "He claims he had a one-night stand enjoyable to all parties. I don't understand where she's running to all of a sudden."

Hefetz said he had no knowledge of who was behind what he called a "putsch" but had harsh words for incumbent commissioner David Cohen. "The last thing David Cohen wants is to see Uri Bar-Lev take his place," he said. "Whoever thought up this putsch knew that as soon as the information about this complainant and this incident comes to light, he would use it as ammunition and as far as they're concerned, they've used the doomsday weapon."