Five different women have accused one of Israel’s most famous journalists, Dan Margalit, of sexually assaulting or harassing them over the course of his career.
One of the five also accused former Justice Minister Haim Ramon of sexual assault.
Margalit, 80, is currently an op-ed columnist for Haaretz. His career has included stints as a senior reporter and columnist at many papers; he was also a popular host of several television shows. He is considered one of the country’s most influential journalists, with close ties to many senior politicians.
But according to several different women, he was also a serial sexual harasser of young female journalists.
The first to speak out was Hannah Kim, who formerly worked for various papers, including Haaretz. In a post on social media two weeks ago, Kim described a sexual assault she suffered decades ago. The post didn’t name her attacker, but she later told Haaretz it was Margalit.
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The incident occurred while she was reporting from the Knesset, she wrote. Margalit entered the office where she was working, closed the door, took out his penis and shoved her against the wall. She thought he planned to rape her, but the assault was halted when another senior journalist opened the door.
Kim, who is now 60, said she never spoke out because she was a young journalist just starting her career and Margalit was a superstar. But at Haaretz’s request, she took a polygraph test, which confirmed her story. In addition, four friends of hers confirmed that she had told them about the assault many years before she decided to make the story public.
“Since then, I’ve periodically read his hypocritical condemnations of sexual harassers, and almost every day I’ve asked myself why I didn’t complain,” she wrote in her post.
Orit Shochat was also a young journalist in her thirties when Margalit assaulted her, twice, she said. Shochat and he were both working for Haaretz at the time.
The first incident occurred at the Knesset, when he shoved her against the wall in the hallway and rubbed up against her, she said. The second occurred when Margalit invited her into his office at Haaretz. He closed the door, pushed her against the desk and pressed his body against hers, until she pushed him away, she said.
Shochat said she told this story to another female journalist at Haaretz, who replied that Margalit had done the same thing to her. The second journalist confirmed that Shochat had told her of being assaulted by Margalit.
B., another Haaretz journalist, said that while working at the paper one night in 1993, Margalit put his hands on her, pressed himself against her breasts and tried to kiss her. She was in her twenties at the time. She never told anyone about the incident, but the polygraph test she took at Haaretz’s request found her to be truthful.
C. was also a young journalist at Haaretz when Margalit, who had mentored her, invited her to his apartment. When they got there, he undressed and pulled out his penis. She too, thought he planned to rape her, but in the end, she protested and the incident went no further.
A friend said C. had told her this story, but without mentioning her attacker’s name.
D. said she was working on a television program with Margalit in the 1990s, and he sexually harassed her verbally during a meeting at a Tel Aviv café to discuss the project. But in this case, there was no assault.
Margalit denied all the incidents. “There’s nothing to these claims about incidents that allegedly happened more than 30 years ago,” he said. “I don’t intend to devote my remaining years to an argument that has no chance at this moment, given the prevailing mood.”
Kim’s post also described a sexual assault by a senior politician. Once again, she didn’t name the man, but she told Haaretz it was Ramon, who was convicted of assaulting a female soldier working in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2006. Ramon termed that incident, in which he tongue-kissed the soldier against her will, as a one-time slip, but Kim’s story disputes that claim.
Kim said the assault occurred sometime between 1986 and 1988, when she was a young journalist and Ramon was a Knesset member. One day, Ramon offered to take her back to Tel Aviv from the Knesset. But shortly before they arrived, he stopped the car and kissed her against her will, thrusting his tongue into her mouth. When she protested, he abruptly told her to get out at a gas station, leaving her to make her own way home from a place she didn’t know.
The polygraph test deemed her account truthful, and five friends told Haaretz she had told them this story years before.
Ramon said Kim’s inability to give a date more specific than a two-year range “is bizarre and shows she’s afraid to give an exact date in case I could refute it.” He also said polygraph tests are meaningless.
Moreover, he said, during his trial in 2006, police made great efforts to find other complainants, to no avail. Kim, “who has connections and a social and feminist consciousness,” should have come forward then, he argued. “The fact that she remained silent then attests better than a 1,000 witnesses that she apparently feared her testimony could be refuted.”
After the alleged assault, she contacted him as a journalist repeatedly and “never even hinted that I’d done anything wrong,” he continued.
Finally, Ramon said, because Kim’s story is too lacking in detail for anyone to refute it, he is being smeared with no possibility of defending himself.
“This seems to me like part of a campaign against me by a radical feminist cult,” he concluded, adding that he intends “to fight it for the sake of everyone who’s been smeared without any ability to defend themselves.”