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What’s the Right Punishment for Israeli Journalist Accused of Sexual Assault? Pity

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Dan Margalit
Dan MargalitCredit: David Bachar

After the disgust and the nausea, which don’t fade even after 30 years, Dan Margalit will be punished with pity. Margalit, the epitome of mainstream respectability, has been peeled off to the bare flesh. After the disgust, the nausea and the pity, comes the empathy for the hidden pain of the women who were in relationships with him, and those who still are.

The eight women who have so far testified that he (allegedly) assaulted them demonstrate the degree to which the poison of the assault remains. His respectability and that of the standards he represented prevented them from outing him in real time from the pathetic closet in which he placed himself.

>> Eighth woman accuses Israeli journalist Dan Margalit of sexual harassment

The standards of self-evident masculine domination created the media, legislative, law enforcement and judicial systems that didn’t want to, didn’t know how to and were unable to contend with revelations and testimonies like theirs. And when the media and the legislature progressed slightly (always thanks to women organizing and struggling), the law enforcement and courts lagged behind.

In this age-old sociology of supremacy, the requirement that someone is “innocent until proven guilty” is hypocritical and self-righteous. The “investigation,” “judgment” and “conviction” of the attackers go beyond the conventions of an official criminal process, which are still bound by male hegemony, even if the cracks are starting to show. The investigation by Haaretz journalist Revital Hovel, therefore, includes the first stage clearly, and the other two stages by implication. Because yes, not only do we believe you, we know that you, the assaulted women who are testifying, are telling the truth and that the investigative journalist who came to you checked and verified and gave an accurate report.

However, the immediate demand that Margalit be fired, in a public declaration, seems superfluous to me. Even if he found a place to write for, Margalit can’t allow his byline to appear above an article without imagining the scorn and ridicule it would arouse. It’s enough to let the testimonies do their job. As opposed to “fresh” assaults, which are handled by the existing legal system, albeit in a light-handed way, when it comes to “old” assaults we would do well not to turn into vengeful persecutors.

The issue of punishment for acts of aggression and violence that were perpetrated in an era of different criteria, and which are officially subject to the statute of limitations or were not defined as crimes, will always be with us.

What will we do if and when it is recognized and decided that mistaarvim (Israeli undercover units), torturers in the Shin Bet security service, heads of corporations that pollute the environment, architects who designed buildings on stolen land, pilots who bombed a civilian population and employers who created slave-like conditions for their salaried workers — were deliberate partners to crime?

Some of them are already criminals according to international law and without a statute of limitations. Will they be fired? Will their pension be frozen? Will they be ostracized from society like those who informed the Stasi? Or will future generations make do with truth and reconciliation commissions, as in South Africa? Everyone should realize by now that social struggles change the standards and that the very change judges and punishes.

The (still slim) erosion of male authority arouses hope that the same process will take place for other areas of domination. But we repeatedly discover that there is no correlation, and that there is progress here and a major retreat in civil opposition to other types of oppression. Two texts in Haaretz showed me the degree to which our historically structural violence against the Palestinians is so self-evident that it is forgotten. . .

Iris Leal wrote a critique of the book of conversations between author Amos Oz and his editor Shira Hadad, “What is in an Apple.” She discussed the writer’s social and class-related blindness.

“Let’s look at the map,” proposed Leal. “Not very far from their new home [of Oz and his family] in Arad are the towns of Dimona, Yeruham, Ofakim, Netivot and Sderot, most of whose residents live in public housing, are in constant danger of losing their job and are employed as manual laborers in the local factories, which are closing one after another. They have no possibility of getting tenure in the academic world, acquiring rights for translations in foreign languages and literary prizes, which when combined would probably total hundreds of thousands of shekels.”

Leal regrets that even Hadad, “who firmly interrupted Oz at other times in the book, didn’t put him in his place.” How true. But on exactly the same map, not far from Arad, lies the Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran, which for decades was doomed by Israel to live without a supply of water and electricity, until it was decided to expel its residents (Israeli citizens) for the second time, and to make their land available for a prestigious suburb of a pioneering religious Jewish group.

And not far from Arad there are also veteran Bedouin communities, which existed even before the Jewish community of Omer, or Kibbutz Lahav, and which are also being mandated to disappear or whose residents have already been concentrated in poverty-stricken townships (and we haven’t even mentioned the Gaza prison or the Jahalin Bedouin tribe that we expelled from the Arad area).

The second text is that of Nir Gontarz’s “On the phone with Lior Ashkenazi.” The headline is promising: “It will only result in depression.” Gontarz gave the actor, who is in Los Angeles, six minutes to talk. And Ashkenazi spontaneously pours his heart out about what is happening in Israel. Israel Bar Association President Efraim Nave is mentioned, as is the emergency room that was closed in Kiryat Shmona and the “boring” protest of social activist Orna Peretz. And what did he fail to include on his instinctive list of depressing news? You answer.

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