Katsav Verdict Bolsters the War Against Israeli Sexism

The verdict bolsters the war against what until a few years ago was seen as the perks that men in power thought they were entitled to from their subordinates. That's it, the party's over.

Everyone, it seems, is preoccupied with how we should feel and whether the day Moshe Katsav's appeal was rejected was a happy or sad day. "A deep sadness descends over Israel now that it has been established that a former minister, vice premier and president has committed such acts," the three Supreme Court justices wrote in their verdict yesterday.

They rejected Katsav's appeal and upheld his conviction on two counts of rape, two counts of indecent acts, one of them forcibly, and for obstructing justice.

Protestors outside Moshe Katsav hearing - Tal Cohen
Tal Cohen

It's not pleasant to see one "who served as a state symbol enter prison," wrote the justices. It's not pleasant to see a former president imprisoned for some of "the gravest offenses listed in the penal code. Rape desecrates a person's dignity and degrades one. It strikes a fatal, sometimes incurable blow to one's soul."

But it was far less pleasant to think of a rapist and sexual harasser walking around free without spending a single day in house arrest, especially during the past 11 months since he was convicted in the District Court.

So this is a relatively happy day for Israelis, especially for all those subjected to harassment, sexual assault and rape, who now see that all Israelis are equal under the law. Still, anyone who chooses to become a rapist and harasser would be better off being a president rather than a rank-and-file rapist.

From this day Israelis know that every woman has an exclusive right to her body and there are red lines nobody has the right to cross. It's an even happier day because the verdict encourages all those harassment and assault victims who were afraid to complain to go and do so, because if Katsav could fall, anyone could.

We should all embrace the verdict's comments on the complainant from the Tourism Ministry. "The sexual and emotional injuries she sustained undermined her faith and confidence in herself and in the world."

The verdict can restore the complainant's faith in the justice system, and the lesson to be learned from it is to hurry and complain about sexual harassment and assault instead of letting them destroy our faith and confidence in the world. But the most important and encouraging statement in the verdict is about the exploitation of authority to force one's subordinates to have sex or subject them to sexual harassment. The court says that if the rapist or harasser is in a position of power, the gravity of his heinous acts is even greater and he should be treated more harshly.

At long last nobody - whether cook, senior officer, Education Ministry inspector or minister - will be able to claim that the bastards changed the rules but forgot to tell him. The verdict bolsters the war against what until a few years ago was seen as the perks that men in power thought they were entitled to from their subordinates, as though it was the right of the first night - droit du seigneur. That's it, the party's over. For this reason, this is ultimately a happy day.