Chaim Levinson’s bullying attack on Yitzhak Laor was an act of cowardice. In his opinion piece, “If Yitzhak Laor is ‘left,’ then ‘left’ is not a worldview” (Haaretz Hebrew, Dec. 17), Levinson presents himself as a feminist hero who goes out to protect women from Laor, the predator. But the truth is that Levinson arrived at the battlefield when Laor was already lying on the field, half-dead. Only then did Levinson dare to cock his keyboard, when there was no risk to his status or his job and, using the latest jargon of his own political camp, shoot the dying predator in his metaphorical head. Levinson pulled an Elor Azaria.
Laor's troubles began in 2010, when several women came forward and alleged that he had harassed or assaulted them many years prior. Because of the statute of limitations the claims were never investigated. Laor has since denied all allegations against him.
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In his essay, Levinson claimed that “If Laor truly believed what he preached, he should have respected women as the weaker side in male-female relations.” As an aside, I have to say that this is an outrageous statement. As a woman, I don’t want people to respect me “as the disadvantaged side in male-female relations.” I invite Levinson to come and face me; we’ll see which one of us is disadvantaged.
I reject the notion of women as a class that is implicit in Levinson’s expectation that Laor should “understand better than anyone the power and class imbalance between men and women.” If society is understood as class-based, then leftists have a duty to come out against the bourgeoisie and the rich, even when they happen to be women. If the left is anti-colonialist, then it must oppose female colonialists as well. If the left is anti-racist, then it must take a stand against racist women, too. In fact, there’s no lack of women who side with Laor, who speak of the respect and recognition he gave them and who regard themselves as his friends.
If we ignore the gender issue and accept the structural argument that leftists must always side with the weak and act in their defense, then Levinson failed this test. The thing is, even if we accept that at the time, Laor was in a position of power relative to young female editors on the Haaretz news desk and female poets early in their careers, and that he abused his power instead of respecting them as “disadvantaged,” as Levinson argues, it is clear that this is no longer the case.
Today, Laor is the weak side: He has been publicly shamed, convicted in the court of public opinion – not in a court of law – and sentenced to the loss of his status and his livelihood. Yes, the strong can turn weak. And when they turn weak, they are deserving of protection. It is this logic that underlies the principle of protecting hostages, prisoners and even wounded terrorists, God have mercy on us (not that I’m comparing them).
Power structures change, and anyone who wants to protect the weak must identify hidden oppressive power structures before they are recognized as such and are in any event in the process of being dismantled. That’s the challenge. It’s not enough to identify power with men and weakness with women: If you do that, you could easily find yourself defending a woman who tramples the weak.
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Levinson did not protect the weak against the strong. Rather, he smelled weakness, not strength, the weakness of someone who was once strong. Levinson didn’t come to rescue anyone, but rather to exact revenge. But on whose behalf? He didn’t identify an oppressive power structure when it was in operation, and he certainly did nothing to dismantle it. On the contrary, he hitched a ride on a fashionable political struggle. Levinson arrived late to the scene, to confirm the killing of a corpse and be called a hero, without taking part in any battle.