Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev joined opposition leaders and women’s groups in protesting on Monday against a decision by the Haifa International Film Festival to give the best actor prize to Moshe Ivgy, an acclaimed Israeli actor facing a series of allegations of sexually harassment of at least one coworker and several other women.
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Ivgy won the outstanding actor award jointly with Norman Issa for their performances in a film called “The 90 Minute War.”
Police said in February they were investigating Ivgy, 62, following complaints of sexual harassment filed by several women -- Israeli media reported six -- including at least one former coworker at the Haifa Theater.
Ivgy has been quoted as saying in response “I’ve never intentionally tried to hurt anyone.”
Regev said that “Ivgy is presumed innocent, and there’s no question that he’s a talented actor whose ability has been proven innumerable times already.
“However, under circumstances in which there is a legal proceeding under way for a crime that should not be taken lightly, the festival administration would have done well had it not suggested his candidacy at all before all the suspicions against him are clarified.”
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), former chair of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel for victims of sexual assault, said:
“I find the decision to award a laurel wreath to Ivgy a defective one, while the police are formulating an evidentiary basis to prosecute him for attacking women. Awarding the prize at this time conveys a social message that assaulting women can be forgiven, provided you’re an admired public figure, a highly regarded artist or an outstanding soldier.
“The administration of the Haifa International Film Festival should have shown more sensitivity to the subject and waited before awarding prizes to an alleged harasser, rather than turning its back on the plaintiffs and on the struggle against the culture of sexual harassment.”
The Women in Film and Television-Israel Forum said it “has a harsh opinion of the decision to award Moshe Ivgy the prize at the Haifa Film Festival.
"This decision reflects the culture of rape, which downplays the importance of sexual assaults against women. What Ivgy allegedly did is very serious, although the issue has yet to be decided.
“The women whom Ivgy allegedly attacked, as well as others who are sexually assaulted in the industry and outside of it, thereby receive the message that there is no point in complaining, since the attackers or suspected attackers don’t pay a price and carry on with their lives as usual.
"We expect any public body, including the festival, to internalize that.”