He's Paid His Dues and Now Israel Should Release Katsav

Katsav is undoubtedly a rapist. But compassion requires us to accept he was punished justly with his public life all but dead.

AFP

I’m in favor of releasing Moshe Katsav from prison. There, I’ve said it. It’s hard for me to admit it even to myself. I’ve been following the twists and turns of this unending saga and – may God forgive me – I want him to be released.

I’m quite convinced that if Katsav is making a list of the journalists he most despises, I’m in the starting five. I’m proud of that, and I believe that I earned the status honestly. In 2006 I helped organize the first meeting between Orly Revivo, the employee at the President’s Residence who broke open the scandal, and MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union). I have never before or since played such an active role in a developing story. I felt that there was going to be a shocking miscarriage of justice and that Katsav would emerge from it unscathed. Straight from that meeting Yacimovich went to the Channel 10 News studio and said for the first time that Katsav would end up in prison because he committed rape.

I have no doubts regarding the legal decision in his case, and it’s clear that Katsav’s victims are living with the wounds he caused them. It’s present in Revivo’s life, and the internet lynching of Odelia Carmon, known as “O.” from the Transportation Ministry, still hurts.

In that case, why do I want his release? Compassion. Katsav’s was punished justly, he is a sex offender and received the worst possible punishment. He will no longer be able to walk around in public like an ordinary person, he won’t be a welcome guest in television studios and won’t serve on the board of directors of government companies. His public life is largely over. Now they’re already stomping on his head and firing an extra shot to confirm the kill. Besides, the custom that a person cannot have a third deducted from his sentence unless he confesses to the crime he was convicted for doesn’t hold water. Had it not been Katsav, it’s clear he would be out already.

Katsav is only an example of something more widespread. We aren’t satisfied if someone is prosecuted, demoted in status, impoverished, loses his friends, even imprisoned. We want blood.

Nir Kafri

Last week one could see that in the treatment dished out to Nochi Dankner. Dankner also deserves all the criticism he’s gotten. We carried out investigations and wrote articles about him too, but now, when he’s already down – they’re selling his house, they convicted him of a criminal offense, he lost his empire, Benjamin Netanyahu certainly no longer returns his phone calls, and he may be forced to spend months, if not years, in prison – what’s the point of kicking him further?

The same thing happened to Danny Dankner, his cousin. Someone wasn’t satisfied with all the judicial decrees that fell on him, and insisted that he appear in court in orange clothing. A little more humiliation, why not?

The same thing is happening to Ehud Olmert. I’ve conducted more investigations of Olmert than of Netanyahu. Olmert didn’t speak to me for nine years, but now he’s in prison, the first prime minister to arrive there. Olmert was humiliated, trampled and will never return to politics. The preoccupation with questions of who exactly visited him and in which capacity looks to me like bloodlust.

About two months ago it was reported (by Yaniv Kubovich, in Haaretz) that a treadmill was brought into the prison wing where Olmert is staying, and all the prisoners there are allowed to run on it for 20 minutes. Once Olmert ran for the permitted amount of time and wanted to continue because there was nobody else there – and they made him get off. Why? Because. Because those are the rules. Afterwards someone even made the effort to leak the story.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment. Among all the rights that the leaders of the American nation (and the British before them) sought to fortify is the right to be punished in a manner that is not “cruel.” I would add one interpretation to that: Let’s be tough with them when they have a lot of power in their hands, and find a little more compassion in ourselves when they no longer have any power at all.