Defense Ministry Security Employee Claims Sexist Work Atmosphere, Causing Storm in Unit

The head of the Civil Service Commission's disciplinary department, Assaf Rosenberg, has ordered an investigation into charges of sexual offenses in the Defense Ministry's security department, known by its Hebrew acronym, Malamb. Senior officials are expected to testify. The episode, which caused a storm in the unit, stems from charges made by a dismissed female worker who complained of a sexually charged work environment, the use of work computers for viewing nude photographs and pornographic films and the spreading of rumors about her supposedly loose sexual behavior.

Malamb is a secret unit of the Defense Ministry, responsible for the physical security of the ministry and institutions subordinate to it, such as the nuclear reactor in Dimona. It is also responsible for protecting information about these institutions.

The officials who are expected to give testimony include the head of Malamb, Amir Kin, and his deputy, Nir Ben-Moshe, who is in charge of securing information and foreign relations.

The investigation comes in the wake of a complaint made in July by a female worker who was dismissed by Ben-Moshe. At a meeting held a few weeks ago, which was attended by attorney Orit Koren of the State Prosecutor's Office, it was agreed that the Civil Service Commission would look into the circumstances of the worker's dismissal.

According to the complaint of the dismissed employee, as presented by attorney Tziona Koenig-Yair, the national commissioner of Israel's Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and attorney Sharon Abraham-Weiss, who works with her, the picture that emerges is one of a problematic male-dominated work environment. The employee claims that as a woman, she endured abuse and discrimination, and that her direct superior harassed her sexually.

In the first week of her employment, says the former employee, her superior sent her an SMS inviting her to join him in a coffee shop. She says that later he would frequently ask her questions such as "With whom did you sleep to get this job?" and would make other sexually loaded comments. She says she overheard a conversation in which her boss told another worker in the department that she had had sex with a driver in the office. Her boss also allegedly invited another new employee to watch pornographic films with him on the unit's computer.

The dismissed worker also alleges that following an argument with her boss, he told her "to fuck off" and pointed to his penis. This was the regular kind of talk there, she says. The woman says she complained to Kin and asked to leave. Kin, she says, refused to let her go, saying she was indispensable and had succeeded from the professional point of view. He instructed Ben-Moshe to look into the complaint.

In April, the woman adds, Ben-Moshe told her she was dismissed, that the decision had been made by all the relevant people and was final. He refused to give her a reason for her dismissal, she says.

A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said the woman had been taken into the unit on a trial basis. During the year she worked in Malamb, he said, there were problems with her concerning lack of credibility and she was found unsuitable for the job. It was therefore decided to dismiss her after the matter was examined and authorized by the ministry's legal department. The spokesman said that only after steps had been taken to end her employment and a hearing had been scheduled, did the employee submit a complaint about a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. It must be stressed, the spokesman said, that the woman's superiors deny the charges of sexual harassment or other abuse. Her superiors said they knew of no inappropriate use of office equipment, the spokesman added.