Israel's Justice Minister Approves New State Prosecutor Despite Improper Remarks

Women's rights groups protest appointment of Amit Aisman, who received a warning a few years ago for making inappropriate sexual remarks to women at work

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Amit Aisman at a Haifa University conference in 2017.
Amit Aisman at a Haifa University conference in 2017.Credit: Haifa University

There is no impediment to naming Amit Aisman the next state prosecutor, despite the warning he was issued a few years ago about making sexually explicit comments to women subordinate to him, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn said Tuesday.

Nissenkorn said he would submit the Haifa district attorney’s name to the cabinet for confirmation at its next meeting on Sunday.

Women’s rights groups protested the appointment Tuesday. The chairperson of the Na’amat women’s organization, Hagit Pe’er, wrote to Nissenkorn asking him not to appoint Aisman until there was a more thorough investigation into his remarks. “In Israel there are enough excellent prosecutors, who along with their legal talents bring an organizational culture that respects women,” she said.

The Israel Women’s Network said in a statement, “The attempt to minimize Aisman’s sexually explicit remarks to facilitate his selection is invalid. Such explicit remarks demonstrate a distorted worldview about women, and about the organization in which he works.”

In 2017, a female prosecutor in the Haifa district complained about Aisman’s remarks. The Civil Service Commission determined that two of the comments attributed to him constituted conduct unbecoming to a civil servant but did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.

The prosecutor reported that in 2008, when Aisman was a department head, he asked a law intern about her underwear in the context of sexual offense complaint. And as district attorney Aisman once said to a female prosecutor, in the context of a disagreement with the defense, “You’re not a man, you don’t have balls, right? Because when you’re a man and they crush your balls, there’s pain but there’s also pleasure, and that’s what the defense is doing to us.” Then-Justice Ministry Director General Emi Palmor issued Aisman a warning, the mildest punishment for a disciplinary offense.

The statement issued by Nissenkorn’s office said that Aisman “expressed in the meeting with Nissenkorn regret about the things he’d said, took responsibility for his actions and promised to maintain a respectful discourse on the job and in general.” Aisman had said similar things to the search committee, and its members wrote that they were persuaded the comments, “Did not characterize the work and behavior,” of the nominee.

The prosecutor who testified against Aisman told of many offensive sexual comments he had made to female employees, beyond those for which he was punished, like saying, “I’m sweating in places I can’t tell you about,” or upon seeing a pregnant employee, “I see the lion has jumped on the rabbit.”

The prosecutor also said Aisman made inappropriate remarks during work meetings about cases involving sexual offenses. She said he would retell the stories in sexual assault cases using the words “I” and “you.” In one case he asked, “So where did he stick her?”

This prosecutor said that she was present on some of these occasions, while other instances she heard about from other prosecutors.

The search committee, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, named Aisman, 53, as its preferred candidate Monday. Aisman had previously served as deputy state prosecutor for special projects.

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