An Ex-judge Exposes the Rotten Underbelly of Israel's Court System

Sexual harassment, judges who hand down decisions in cases they did not hear, corrupt appointments and a culture of silence surrounding it all. A rare glimpse of the world behind the bench

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Dalia Ganot.
Dalia Ganot. Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Itay Rom
Itay Rom
Itay Rom
Itay Rom

In September 2016, the Judicial Appointments Committee met in what was a particularly volatile session. Things started off pleasantly: Ayelet Shaked, the justice minister at the time and the committee’s chairwoman, read out a poem by President Shimon Peres, who had just died. Several appointments that had been agreed on beforehand were quickly approved. At this point, however, the politicians serving on the committee – which is composed of the justice minister and another cabinet minister, MKs, members of the bar association and Supreme Court justices – raised a demand to meet with judges who are candidates for promotion. “The lawyers [on the committee] meet with the judges, and it’s not fair for the MKs not to meet with them,” Shaked said.

The Supreme Court justices on the committee were appalled. “I am committed to protecting the judges from politicization,” the court’s president at the time, Justice Miriam Naor, said. “For me that is a red line.” Other committee members also objected vehemently: “What will happen if we see a photo in the paper every day of a judge visiting one MK or another?”

Photographs of that sort don’t appear in the media – but not because such meetings don’t take place. “Officially, the system prohibits meetings with politicians, but they do take place,” says Dalia Ganot, who was a senior judge in the Tel Aviv District Court until 2016. Ganot can testify firsthand about the impact of political lobbying.

“When I was deputy president of the magistrate’s court, I thought I was doing an excellent job and I tried for a long time to get appointed to the district court. I didn’t want to approach politicians; I thought my qualifications spoke for me. But it didn’t happen. I met with the president of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak. He said, ‘You’re wonderful, you’ll be appointed for sure’ – but I wasn’t appointed. I realized that if I didn’t go to the politicians, I wouldn’t be promoted. And then someone hooked me up with a politician.”

Who?

Ganot: “I won’t name him. I met with him, he read judgments I’d delivered, was impressed by me, and in the committee’s next round, I was appointed.”

If you hadn’t cut corners, you wouldn’t have been appointed to the district court?

“Certainly not at that stage. It really irked me. I was offended. Why did I have to take a roundabout route to move up, when I deserved a promotion through the regular channels? It’s terribly dispiriting, it affects one’s motivation. The system is not clean, the motives behind the appointments are very often political, not substantive. People who are well-connected succeed in being appointed.”

What happened in the meeting with the politician? Did he ask you about your political views?

“I remember that he knew about the rulings I’d drafted, which came as a pleasant surprise. In my case, not a word about politics was spoken.”

What did you hear from other judges about their meetings with politicians?

“In cases where the system knew that someone had approached a politician, there were meetings and reprimands and a great deal of anger. No one talks about it. It’s something everyone keeps to themselves, but you see the appointments and you understand that they are directly connected to some political connection. The heart of the corruption is the fact that the appointments are made in the dark.”

Closed doors

It’s not just the appointments that are determined under such circumstances. Overall, Israel’s courts are a system about whose behind-the-scenes activities very little – too little – is known to the public. Serving judges are forbidden from giving interviews, a rule almost everyone continues to abide by even after retirement. Ganot, however, has decided to become an exception to the rule.

“When you ask for reactions [from others, to this article] you will undoubtedly be told that I am frustrated because I wasn’t appointed district court president. That’s really not the case. I’ve decided to speak out because the system is important to me and I love it, and I want it to be better and cleaner.”

After nearly 30 years in the country’s legal establishment, Ganot has quite a lot to say. For example, about the time she reported to Judge Michael Spitzer, the then-director of the Court Administration, about a judge who engaged in sexual harassment. “One day a court stenographer came to me crying. She said a judge had patted her legs under the rostrum. I reported the case to the director of courts. He replied, ‘I thank you very much, that is very important, it’s good you told me and we will deal with it.’”

How was it dealt with?

“It wasn’t. Nothing was done in the matter and that judge was promoted. It makes you despair. The conclusion is that maybe next time something like that should be leaked to the press.”

Why do you think nothing was done?

“In order not to sully the reputation of the judicial system.”

[Barak Leizer, the legal adviser for the court system, has asked Ganot for information about her allegations following the publication of this interview in the Hebrew edition last week. A spokesperson for the court system told Haaretz that Ganot refused to cooperate.]

Was that the only time you heard about sexual harassment by judges?

Dalia Ganot. Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

“No. I also heard about another judge who engaged in sexual harassment.”

Against an employee or another judge?

“Against every woman who worked with him. He was promoted, too.”

Not always P.C.

Ganot, who turned 70 last year, always stood out as a courageous, nonconformist judge. Both her admirers and her rivals agree that she was extremely industrious, not to say a workaholic. She dealt with a wide range of cases, including those involving serious crimes, though her reputation rests largely on the fact that she was the senior judge in Tel Aviv in the realm of civil tort cases (suits involving damages), particularly medical negligence cases. Her blunt and not always politically correct style of speech often generated a public furor – or, in Ganot’s words, “I was an expert in entering the line of fire.”

Her biography perhaps offers an explanation for that predilection. She grew up in Netanya with a father who was a bus driver and was rarely home, and a homemaker-mother who had been at Auschwitz and throughout her life struggled with the demons she carried because of that experience. “She survived the camp, but horrifically, she remained in it mentally,” Ganot says. “I have one sister, and throughout our childhood and adolescence we were exposed to her abuse. It was routine, a few times a day, for no reason. So I’m not pampered.”

Did your childhood affect your work as a judge?

“I don’t know how to be forgiving. People who appeared before me many times would try to heighten damages or exaggerate their troubles, and I would say, ‘You call that troubles? I would get over it.’ A judge is a human being and that has an influence.”

Ganot began her army service in the late 1960s, the period of the War of Attrition, and was in charge of a radar installation in the Sinai Peninsula. Subsequently she was posted to the “pit” in the Tel Aviv Kirya, defense establishment headquarters, where she met Mordechai Gonen, her future husband. After their service they both studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and began working together. Ganot didn’t dream of a judgeship back then – in fact she decided to leave the job and devote herself to raising her three children. “I worked with my husband for a short time and then I spent the next 12 years at home.”

Why?

The system is not clean, the motives behind the appointments are very often political, not substantive. People who are well-connected succeed in being appointed.

Ganot

“In 1944, the Germans gathered all the Jews of Hungary in railway stations for transport to Auschwitz. My mother was there with her sister, who had two small children. Each of them held a child. While they were standing on the platform, German soldiers walked by and grabbed the children out of their arms. My mother said she still hears the cries of the children, who were never heard from again. That story affected me so powerfully that I told myself, ‘I’m going to make sure that no one ever touches my children.’”

In 1989, when her children had finished primary school, she’d had enough of being a housewife, and successfully competed in a tender to become the registrar of the Netanya Magistrate’s Court. She embarked on her career as a judge five years later, in Rehovot. She doesn’t remember a great deal from the brief training that new judges underwent at the time, other than one story: “We were told how to behave, what was permitted and not permitted for judges, and I remember we were told that a judge was not allowed to lick ice cream in the street or eat falafel, in case the tahini dripped out. And also, you weren’t supposed to be seen in the street wearing shorts.”

Did you abide by the rules?

“I licked ice cream on the street with great pleasure and I ate falafel with even greater enjoyment. It was absolutely ridiculous.”

Today you laugh at it, but at the time did the rules seem logical?

“No one said a word. You’ve just been appointed a judge and you treat everything reverently.”

Gradually Ganot discovered the disparity between the theoretical purism and reality on the ground. In 2001, she was promoted to deputy president of the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court, under Judge Yehuda Fargo, where she came across frightened and threatened judges. “He terrorized us at a level that cannot be described in words. He frightened everyone, he threatened the judges nonstop. They were subject to serious abuse – one judge came out of a meeting with him in tears.”

According to Ganot, beyond the issue of human relations, the problem was that the court’s president intervened in the judges’ decisions at far above an acceptable level.

“He examined the judges’ transcripts and would ask, ‘Why did you write it like this, why didn’t you write it differently?’ That’s forbidden. A judge has to be completely independent. It’s inconceivable that I will decide this way or that way because that’s what the president wants.”

If inordinate pressure is exerted on judges, Ganot says, it’s liable to affect their handling of cases: “The president in Rishon Letzion would tell the judges, ‘Treat the cases like a crate of oranges that has to be filled.’ Maximize the number of verdicts. Quantity is more important than quality. That was appalling.”

Comparing court cases to a crate of oranges doesn’t sound good, but it’s also important for judges to work faster and not subject people to delayed justice.

“There’s a difference between urging judges to deal with their workload and doing it like that.”

Judge Eitan Orenstein, president of the Tel Aviv District Court, in 2017.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The situation in Rishon Letzion was extreme, but the phenomenon is widespread. As a rule, Ganot says, “The number of cases you hear and the number of judgments you hand down – those are the decisive elements in the way the system treats you as a judge. What’s most important is to hear many cases and hand down rulings on time.”

What’s the result of that approach?

“There are magistrate’s court judges who want to advance – impressive people who want their judgments to be far more high-quality – but the relentless pressure to get through more and more cases leads them to make compromises.”

What do you mean by “compromises”?

“To delve less deeply into cases.”

Can a person who comes into a courtroom be confident that the judge will read the material and examine it properly?

“I don’t know if there are cases in which a judge doesn’t look at the material at all, but there are situations in which they will perhaps only skim it.”

There were also situations where judges simply stopped handling certain cases. “When the Bat Yam court was closed down, we received cases from it. I went with paralegals to examine what was going on there and found files 20 years old lying in closets. No judge had ever dealt with them. Insane. I summoned the parties to those cases, and it was really funny: People didn’t remember what they had quarreled about. They told me, ‘I don’t even remember why I sued.’ Within a month I closed hundreds of cases – not because I am such a genius, but because people said, ‘Yallah, let’s get it done with it, we’ll accept whatever you suggest.’”

Absurd overload

It wasn’t only in courts located in peripheral locales that Ganot encountered the absurd results of the overload. She found the same situation in the Tel Aviv District Court, to which she was promoted in 2007. “One day,” she recalls, “I received a case heard by another judge and was asked to write a judgment.”

Why? Where was the other judge?

“He was working in the court, but behind in handling many cases. When I asked judges how this could happen, it turned out that there were many cases with significant delays and they were divided among all the district court judges.”

Does that make sense?

“It’s very irregular. In a case where there is a dispute over facts, the judge must form an impression of the witnesses and the litigants. The personal impression is very important; you can’t pass judgment without it. Here I received a transcript and summations, but had no way of knowing which of those people who testified I could rely on and which I couldn’t.”

The judges did as they were asked and wrote judgments instead of colleagues who had actually heard the cases.

“There was a great deal of anger,” Ganot says. “Judges said that if you’re lazy, cases are taken away from you, and if you’re industrious you get more.”

I heard about another judge who engaged in sexual harassment. Against every woman who worked with him. He was promoted, too.

Ganot

In other words, the protest was not against the miscarriage of justice caused by the fact that judges were handing down decisions in cases they didn’t personally hear.

“Right. The judges protested because they were being given more work. No judge talked about the issue of principle, and I didn’t protest, either.”

Why?

“I was new in the district court. I told myself that I wasn’t going to use up energy now in quarreling with the whole world. I am not a quarrelsome woman, and even if I don’t like something, I will do it because I was told to do it. I remember saying to another judge that I didn’t understand the whole story, that it wasn’t right from the judicial viewpoint to do things like this – but those words were exchanged between us and that was the end of it.”

Would you say that there was a culture of silence among the judges?

“There was a culture of silence.”

According to Ganot, the workload is one of the reasons that few friendships are formed among judges. “Once a week there’s a meeting with the court president – there are refreshments, we talk, drink, eat. It was nonsense. There were judges who, besides that, would meet one more time a week in the chambers and have a coffee, chat for half an hour.”

Do judges consult about decisions?

“Some consult on decisions, others don’t.”

Retired Judge Varda Alshech, former deputy president of the Tel Aviv Court, in 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The question of friendship and collegiality between judges came to the fore particularly during an episode that roiled the Tel Aviv District Court in 2012. The ombudsman of the judiciary found that Judge Varda Alshech, the court’s deputy president and one of the country’s most prominent judges, had illegally made changes in the transcript of a hearing. Ganot was appalled (“A transcript is the most important thing in a trial – this was at the level of a criminal offense”). However, the then-president of the Supreme Court, Justice Asher Grunis, was far less outraged and was against holding even a disciplinary hearing for Alshech. Grunis summed up the matter with a laconic statement: “I made it clear to the honorable Judge Alshech that I take a grave view of what happened, and I warned her against the recurrence of similar instances in the future.”

Ganot notes that some of her colleagues in the district court also did not exactly dissociate themselves from the deputy president’s deed: “Judge Eitan Orenstein drew up a letter of support for her and circulated it among all the judges. That really surprised me, because she had done something that is absolutely forbidden. I refused to sign, and Orenstein said to me, ‘What kind of friend are you?’ I told him that friendship is one thing and acts like this are another thing. I would help her in any way I could, but I would not express support for what she did.”

Were you taking a risk by refusing to support her?

“Yes. She was a judge who wielded a great deal of power, and the word was that Orenstein was going to be appointed president of the Tel Aviv District Court.”

Orenstein was in fact appointed to that post in 2016, to the chagrin of Ganot, who had contested the position against him. Last January an exchange of correspondence from that same period between Orenstein and attorney Efraim (Effi) Nave, who was at the time the chairman of the Israel Bar Association, came to light and raised considerable doubts about the appointment.

“This week I am with the search committee,” Nave wrote, and the senior judge replied, “Keep an eye out for me… Counting on you.” In response Nave promised to fight for him, but reminded Orenstein that as president, there was a “commitment” he would have to fulfill “for the benefit of the tortists” (attorneys dealing with torts, of whom Nave was a leading figure). The judge’s response: a winking Smiley.

There are magistrate’s court judges who want to advance – impressive people – but the relentless pressure to get through more and more cases leads them to make compromises. To delve less deeply into cases.

Ganot

The courts’ administration stated at the time, in the name of President Orenstein that “with a view to determining the bar association’s position concerning the candidate it recommends for the presidency [of the Tel Aviv District Court], Nave had held talks with the various candidates.” According to Ganot, that was a lie. “It’s not true,” she says. “Effi did not meet with me and did not speak with me, and from what I know, not with the others, either. Maybe he met with Orenstein.”

The courts administration’s response went on to note that the mysterious “commitment” mentioned by Nave was no more than a promise to enhance the professionalism of district court judges in the realm of torts, in light of multiple complaints about their work in that regard. Ganot, who was the senior judge in that realm, exploded with anger and wrote Orenstein: “The only one who had complaints was Effi Nave, who tried to take advantage of his status coarsely and crudely… I have never esteemed Effi, because of his untoward behavior, I was never among the sycophants who streamed after him and above all I was contemptuous of him. Is this the person for whose sake you were willing to issue a distorted statement to the media that is not true?”

“Eitan is a worthy person and he was a good president,” Ganot says now of the veteran judge, who retired last year. “But the way in which I was blocked and he squeezed into the position is very irregular. That is not how a president is appointed. Effi Nave wanted my head. A person like that pulls the strings and what he wants, he gets. It’s the very embodiment of corruption. I wasn’t appointed because I was very conflicted with him.”

And Orenstein was appointed because he was in the opposite situation – on friendly terms with Nave?

“Correct, that is the conclusion.”

Minister Ayelet Shaked chose him following a recommendation by a search committee headed by Supreme Court Justice Isaac Amit. Did Effi Nave decide for Isaac Amit whom to pick?

“No, but the Supreme Court justices are subordinate to the president, and the president speaks with the minister. I think that from the outset the decision is in the hands of the minister and the president. The search committee is a type of ornament.”

The dispute between Ganot and Nave is a telling illustration of the conflict of interest that is built into the judicial appointments system. On the one hand, a judge who covets promotion, on the other a bar association chairman who has the power to determine her fate while representing clients before her. “Effi appeared before me in the courtroom. To begin with, he was consistently late. He also never submitted written arguments on time. He would allow himself [these freedoms], because of his political clout. That infuriated me and I remarked to him about it numberless times. He would arrive with a reporter and a photographer, an entourage. I told him, ‘Sir, the courtroom is not a circus, please have the photographer leave.’ Then he answered, ‘Ma’am, I brought him in order to take ma’am’s picture.’ I told him I appreciate that, but that I would pass, and he didn’t like it. No judge dared to speak to him like that.”

Why?

“They were afraid of him. Magistrate’s courts judges were certainly afraid of him, because they all knew: If he didn’t recommend someone, they wouldn’t be appointed. I would hear about cases in which a judge got angry at someone from [Nave’s] law office, and Effi would show up and pound on the table.”

According to Ganot, “The peak came when one day he argued before me in a case and his phone rang. He said, ‘Just a minute, ma’am,’ and answered the phone. My jaw dropped. I was flabbergasted, I couldn’t believe it. He finished the conversation and I asked whether that is what the honorable chairman of the bar association is teaching the younger generation. He replied that precisely because he is the chair of the bar association, he has a great many things to do, so I said to him that maybe he shouldn’t appear in courtrooms. He became unbelievably angry. He was very distraught that I dared to say that.”

Ganot later told a friend, also a senior judge, about that dialogue: “He said to me, ‘That’s it, you’re finished. You won’t be appointed to anything anymore.’ I said to him, ‘Don’t exaggerate, you made me laugh now.’” In retrospect, she thinks he was right. “From the moment I told Nave the truth in the courtroom, I no longer existed, that was it.”

Effi Nave, former chairman of the Israel Bar Association.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Ganot is convinced that the process of choosing the district court president was tainted by extraneous considerations, in part based on information that reached her about talks that took place around that time between Nave and Ayelet Shaked. Nave told the justice minister that Ganot must not be promoted to president, terming her a nonentity. But “Effi also didn’t think I was a nothing, believe me. That shows that his recommendation to the minister wasn’t substantive.” At the same time, in order to persuade Shaked to support Orenstein, Nave explained to her that there was no truth to the rumors that he [Orenstein] was – heaven forbid – a leftist.

‘Judges like to boast’

In November 2017, the cameras of the “Fact” (“Uvda”) investigative television program supplied unusual proof of Nave’s clout when they documented a series of judges courting him embarrassingly at a bar association conference in Eilat. “That didn’t come as a surprise to me,” Ganot says, “not in terms of what was said and not in terms of the personas involved.” She too used to attend those conferences and give talks. “Judges really like to boast that they are invited to lecture at those events. By the same token, the bar association wants to show off with lectures by judges. Tit for tat.”

With all due respect to such gatherings, they are not the main reason for the country’s senior judges to stream to Eilat. “There’s a lot of mingling,” Ganot notes. “I didn’t like those conferences, because I never liked to go begging. People toadied to people, trying to attain something. It’s very bad if I have to go there and suck up to all kinds of people in order to get ahead.”

According to her, fawning over the head of the Israel Bar Association isn’t the only troubling element in this story. The desire for promotion, she says, sometimes even causes judges to change their rulings. “Take an example. There is now a slew of preschool teachers who are [being prosecuted for] abusing children. I think the punishment for that should be in the clouds, but the punishments are very moderate, not in the clouds at all. One of the reasons is that the judges think that the Supreme Court will reduce the punishment in any case.”

Judges think that stiffer punishments are needed but hand down lighter ones?

“Yes, because maybe one day they will want to advance, so they want it to be seen that their judgments toe the line with the Supreme Court. They say, ‘Yes, that guy deserves such and such, but the Supreme Court will reduce it, so I will hand down a lower punishment from the outset.’”

Are there rulings you regret?

“Years ago, I was the judge in a case involving very serious disturbances in the territories, during which a person was shot in the eye with a [metal-tipped] rubber bullet and it wasn’t clear who fired the shot – the Border Police or the rioters themselves. I transferred the file for examination by Prof. Yehuda Hiss [now-retired chief pathologist at the National Institute for Forensic Medicine]. He analyzed the trajectory of the bullet – where it came from and the angle of entry – and reached the unequivocal conclusion that the bullet was fired by the rioters, so I rejected the suit. Afterward stories came out about problems with Hiss’ opinions, and I asked myself whether the judgment was correct.”

I respect the women’s organizations, but at times they exploit their status and do things that are harmful to women. They jump on every case like who knows what.

Ganot

Ganot also had second thoughts in the wake of one of the major judgments she handed down, in which she ordered the state to compensate a young man who spent months in custody for rape, because of flagrant lies told by the police investigators. That case led her to reflect about other instances in which she ordered the arrest of suspects based on secret memoranda she received from the police.

“For me, those memos were like the word of God,” she says. “I never doubted the truth of what they said. In retrospect, that was a dreadful mistake. I went back and saw in all kinds of cases statements made by the police in the memos, and I realized that in a lot more than just one case those statements ranged from imprecise to lies. And you rely on them with eyes shut. I think to myself about how many people I wronged by taking those memoranda verbatim.”

And where is the state prosecution in this story?

“I don’t think the state prosecution lent a hand to what the police officers did, but it failed in supervision, there was negligence.”

Did the state prosecution take measures against those responsible?

“The attorney who handled that case was later appointed a judge.”

Ganot was even more critical of the prosecution in the suit that an intelligence officer, Doron Zahavi, aka “Captain George,” filed against the state in connection with charges made by Mustafa Dirani. The latter, a Lebanese militiaman and reportedly the person who handed over missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad to Hezbollah, was kidnapped by Israel in 1994 and held captive as a “bargaining chip.”

Zahavi, one of Dirani’s interrogators, claimed that the state was hiding a tape that refuted Dirani’s allegation that he was raped by the interrogator, and he blamed State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan for the blunder. In an affidavit to the High Court of Justice the state denied that additional evidence existed in the case, but it turned that there was such evidence: In 2011 the “Fact” program revealed a tape documenting Dirani’s interrogation from which it emerged that it was the commander of the unit who interrogated the terrorist, who was completely naked at the time. Ganot ruled, in the wake of this, that “the affidavit did not contain truth in the best case, and in the less than best case it contained a false declaration, a fact that is astonishingly grave.”

Was anything done with this, were sanctions taken against those responsible?

“Not that I know of. It was terrible. Listen, an attorney submits an affidavit to the Supreme Court, his hands are shaking. He is supposed to ascertain a thousand times that what it says is the truth. And it turns out that it doesn’t. I thought that the very heavens would shake. I thought a committee of examination would be appointed and that the state prosecution would probe itself. But it passed. It’s appalling. Listen, I’m really sad about what’s happening.”

‘A personal motive’

The spokesperson’s unit of the courts administration stated in response to Haaretz: “The allegations in the article refer to a period extending over many years and would appear to have a personal rather than a substantive background. The courts’ search committees operate professionally, and the search committee in this case did likewise. Under the law a court president is appointed by the justice minister with the consent of the president of the Supreme Court, and the search committee is a body that makes a recommendation to them.”

Judge Yehuda Fargo’s response, provided by the spokesperson’s unit: “I have no intention of entering into a confrontation in the press with the speaker and with the personal motives that underlie her words and which are inconsistent with reality. The successful comportment of seven magistrate’s courts and two local affairs courts in the Central District during my term as president speaks for itself.”

Judge Michael Spitzer’s response, also from the spokesperson’s unit: “Judge Spitzer, in his tenure as director of courts, dealt substantively with every complaint. He does not recollect the said case, and if additional details are supplied, we will be able to address these things concretely. It is regrettable that the judge kept the story to herself for years until the interview.”

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. Credit: David Bachar

Judge Orenstein stated that he has no wish to comment, as in his view these are “old matters that were also rehashed in the media, were gone into in detail, were completely played out and are not relevant.”

Effi Nave stated in response: “The allegations are groundless. I do not recall a confrontation or personal rivalry with Judge Ganot. All the relevant persons in the bar association supported Orenstein’s candidacy for district court president, because we thought he was the most suitable and worthy [person]. The search committee itself recommended two other candidates. Those who decided on the appointment were the justice minister and the president of the Supreme Court.”

How Ganot became an enemy of MeToo

Meretz’s Zehava Galon accused her of displaying “insensitivity and crassness,” attorney Roni Aloni Sadovnik published an article against her titled, “Your Honor the Judge, Your Honor the Whore,” and dozens of protesters gathered outside her home. (Ganot: “They also filled my mailbox with used tampons. It was surreal.”)

In the decision that generated all this fury, Ganot ordered the release on bail of a number of people accused of engaging in trafficking in women. Much of the anger was ignited by one sentence in her verdict: “From the testimony, it arises that both the respondents [the accused] and the complainants treated the complainants’ work in prostitution as a regular, normative workplace… and as such it is only natural that their employers… were angry at them when they could not or did not want to work, both because of menstruation or because they did not wish to work for reasons of their own.”

The media reports omitted the first words (“From the testimony”) – and that did her an injustice, Ganot maintains: It wasn’t she who thought it was natural to be angry at a woman involved in prostitution who refuses to work during menstruation – she was only quoting the pimps. Ganot turned to Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and requested that the system speak out in her defense. “The president told me she would go to the media and request a clarification, but nothing happened.”

As the leading judge in tort cases, Ganot dealt with many suits filed by victims of sexual assault. In one such case she ordered compensation to be paid by women who claimed they had been raped, after ruling that they had lied. In regard to one of them, Ganot wrote that the plaintiff “was disappointed that ‘he penetrated and came fast’… The natural reaction of an adult woman who is raped is to file a complaint with the police.” Rape crisis centers responded by stating that her judgments “set us back decades.”

“The complainants in that case described very violent rapes, horrific accounts,” Ganot says now. “It’s the type of rape that a woman goes to the police with. It’s not that my view is outdated. I know that women don’t always go [to the police], and I know they sometimes go two days later or a year later. But here they kept it to themselves for years.”

In MeToo campaigns, we saw testimony from 30 years earlier.

“But they didn’t file a complaint. Those women demanded and requested money.”

You wrote also that “a consistent account of the rape occurrence is critical to prove the suit” – but the accepted judgment today is that it’s natural for contradictions to appear in the testimony of a rape victim.

“The contradictions here were awful: where it happened, when – there was a different story every time. And there wasn’t a situation in which they said, ‘I don’t remember.’ They said, ‘with absolute certainty, that was how it happened,’ except that in each place it was different.”

In such cases, it is indeed very doubtful that the complainants were trustworthy. When all the details were published it turned out that they had hired a well-known PR man, Motti Morel, who created a campaign for them to tarnish the respondent under the rubric, “Plan of the Rape Victims.” The Supreme Court, though critical of some of Ganot’s findings, accepted her conclusion that in this case a story had been concocted.

“I respect the women’s organizations,” Ganot says, “but at times they exploit their status and do things that are harmful to women. They jump on every case like who knows what. In this case it was a frame-up. A group of women organized to destroy someone’s life. It’s not, heaven forbid, that I am hardhearted about rape victims.”

The prevalent approach in recent years is that first of all the complainants have to be trusted.

“Every complaint needs to be examined in an attempt to verify or negate it. If I say that something was stolen from my house, you won’t say, ‘The approach is to believe you.’ Why then with sex offenses?”

Conflict of interest?

In a case involving a suit against Clal Insurance, the prosecutor called on Ganot to recuse herself because her husband represented the company in other cases. Ganot refused. However, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, to whom the prosecution took its argument, accepted it, explaining, “A judge who is perceived to be tainted with partiality is liable to stain the whole system.”

Ganot: “That decision was so ridiculous that I thought that possibly it was written by one of his paralegals and Barak signed off on it without even reading it. All the insurance companies are represented by a great many lawyers. My husband is one of them. To say that my opinion is biased because of that is hallucinatory.”

But it’s in your interest for Clal to give your husband many cases, because that is good for you both financially, and if you rule against them, maybe they won’t give him cases.

“Yes, but that’s not how it works. My husband received cases in his own right.”

I imagine it’s not easy to be on the receiving end of a ruling like that from Aharon Barak.

“It didn’t stress me out, it aroused ridicule. On top of which, there are so many conflicts of interest in the Supreme Court that it made me laugh that he wrote something like that.”

Was this a case of a double standard?

“Of course.”

Subsequently, by the way, Justice Dorit Beinisch, who succeeded Barak as Supreme Court president, reversed the decision and allowed Ganot to rule in cases involving Clal.

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