Former Israeli TV Journalist Haim Yavin Accused of Past Sexual Harassment

Yavin said in a newspaper interview over the weekend that today 'we'd all be accused of sexual harassment’ for doing what was once considered 'semi-legitimate.'

Haim Yavin, 2011.
Hadar Cohen

Two women have claimed that journalist and television presenter Haim Yavin touched them against their will in the past. One former Israel Broadcasting Authority employee said that Yavin squeezed her breasts 15 years ago, while another said he had touched her buttocks. Yavin denied both reports.

The women were apparently responding to an interview Yavin gave to Yedioth Ahronoth over the weekend in which he said that in the past, “If one would say something, or pat or hug or even kiss, it was considered semi-legitimate.” Today, he added, “we would all be accused of harassment.” Yavin was heavily criticized for his remarks.

One former IBA employee told the Walla website that Yavin had touched her breasts 15 years ago. “One day I met with Haim at work and he suddenly touched my bra,” the woman said. “He took my breasts in his hands against my will. I pushed his hands away and said, ‘put your hands back where they belong; stop this immediately!’”

The woman added that Yavin had said he loved her. “I was in shock, it was disgusting and humiliating,” she said. “Someone else in the room saw it happening, and she was also shocked. He’s a horny, dirty old man, but he would stop when you told him no.”

Yavin categorically denied the account. “It never happened. I don’t know what’s motivating the complainant. In the Yediot interview, I pointed to the trend that was then. It’s good that things have changed since then. I live and respect and champion full equality between women and men with full rights. If I offended someone I apologize.”

Two other former IBA employees told Ynet about alleged harassment by Yavin. “He caressed my buttocks as I was making him up,” one said. “I jumped backward and said, ‘Get your hand away.’” The second woman said that, “there wasn’t a [woman] who didn’t get a comment or a touch from him. He would caress women’s buttocks, and one said to him that he should be careful or she would complain.” Yavin denied these reports as well.

Magi Otsri, a writer and doctoral student in law at Tel Aviv University, posted a Facebook account about an incident that she said happened when she was 24 and looking for a job on a documentary series that Yavin was working on. “To my shock, it didn’t seem as if Yavin was too interested in the series,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, he seemed more interested in me.”

“What happened afterward – the conversations, the text messages and the frequent invitations for ‘coffee, just the two of us,’ ended with my terrified evasiveness which, somewhat ‘amazingly,’ was accompanied by the dissipation of the job offer.”

In an investigative report on sexual harassment in the IBA by the Jerusalem weekly Kol Ha’ir in 2000, Yavin was confronted by a woman employee’s claim that he had sexually harassed her. He described it as “an exchange of jokes in a totally open area, but it was in passing and wasn’t very funny.”

Yavin added that he felt he had exceeded the bounds of good taste and apologized to the woman. “It was all in the open, in the office, and I don’t remember if I also touched her hair. It was in public and it lasted only a few seconds.”

In the same interview, Yavin gave his take on sexual harassment at the IBA, saying, “When someone at the IBA, it doesn’t matter who, tells someone to open another button on her blouse, it’s an atmosphere, very informal. The moment it ratchets up five more notches to harassment, that’s problematic.”

In the interview with Yediot this past weekend, Yavin said that 40 years ago, “There was a much freer atmosphere. If you would say something, or pat, or hug or even kiss, it was semi-legitimate.”

He added, “It was another world. Today we’d all be accused of harassment. But I much preferred the responses of the women back then. If you pinched someone on the bottom she would give you a slap in the face. Now that’s disappeared; today they run straight to a lawyer. I’m in favor of a good slap and finishing with it.”