With Israel Too, No Means No

When a woman says no, it’s important to understand what she means. But when Israel says no and the world doesn’t understand what it means, then we’re really in trouble.

Yoel Marcus
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MK Yinon Magal answering online readers' questions at the Haaretz offices, February 2015.Credit: David Bachar
Yoel Marcus

Prof. Yehuda Bauer should have changed the name of his latest book “The Jews – A Contrary People” to “The Jews – A Horny People.” Not only to increase sales, but because the suggested title is a much better reflection of what is happening here in the Jewish state’s political-sexual realm, as seen in the ousting of shining star Yinon Magal from the career he had barely begun.

A woman from the past exposed him as a molester from the time when he was her boss, but remembered only now how much pain it had caused her. As these stories usually go, another woman or two soon emerged, having also remembered that Magal fondled their buttocks, including one who got on the bandwagon “but won’t take part in the initial complaint.”

Magal had no choice but to save himself from a lawsuit by fleeing politics. Yes, he’s a real charmer, but no wiser than that elite commando veteran who, after his wife caught him in a little operation on the side, promised to take her on all his trips abroad – and is taking her along to this day. It has been said that the world changes. In France there are terrorists, while here we have horny men. More than one policewoman has been forced to serve under her superior officer in every meaning of the term. Since most senior police officers gain an incredible amount of weight, perhaps in memory of the days they ate kebab in pita on the house when they were beat cops, swinish police behavior is hardly a surprise.

I read in some study that the Hungarians are the horniest people on earth, followed by the Scandinavians and then the Americans, mainly via cyber-sex. Israel wasn’t included in the survey, but there’s no shortage of stories about horny men among our leadership in times gone by. These include Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman, not to mention a president who is still serving time for certain sexual acts and beyond. And about the wife of the most senior man in the state, who not only had a drinking problem but also groped men’s knees in social gatherings. Major General Israel Tal, who led the development of the Merkava tank, used to tell the new female soldiers in his office, “always say ‘yes, commander.’” There was also that chief of staff who was so active in that way that a cheated husband sent his uniform, which he found in his bed, straight to David Ben Gurion (who, by the way, found a Biblical justification for this historic betrayal). Of course, in today’s atmosphere nobody would admit what he did, said or hinted as part of his position’s perks.

People in political circles commended Magal’s decision to resign. “The cloud has been lifted,” like. But sexual harassment is rife everywhere, and according to various surveys one of every three women has been sexually harassed in one way or another, at least once in her life. In the army this is reflected in hundreds of complaints a year. In any case, the army’s naked gun seems to have been replaced with a naked policewoman in a squad car.

What is sexual harassment, anyway? In fact, what isn’t? Staring, whistling, talking or hinting of sexual prowess, “accidentally” rubbing against intimate body parts, pressing for a date, undesirable touching and hugging, grabbing the breast, fondling the butt, using forbidden expressions, giving inappropriate gifts, lingerie for example, imitating certain animals, standing glued to someone else, coaxing and soliciting sexual services. Fortunately men too are protected by the same law.

In brief, this is not a third intifada, it’s a sex war. But there’s no need for alarm. Although the newspapers are full of these stories, they will not be Israel’s redemption or downfall. The question of whether the term koosit (extremely crude slang for “attractive woman“) is sexual harassment or not may be riveting, but it won’t solve our problems. When a woman says no, it’s important to understand what she means. But when Israel says no and has been saying so for 50 years and the world doesn’t understand what it means, then we’re really in trouble.

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