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How does Israel's media fight sexual harassment? With racism

An Israeli news site runs a piece about Palestinian men sexually assaulting Israeli women at the beach, begging the question: why is this particular story newsworthy when stories about Jewish men assaulting Jewish women rarely are?

Palestinians from the West Bank enjoy the Mediterranean Sea on the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Tel Aviv, August 11, 2013. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The Israeli army generally issues entry permits to Palestinians during Ramadan, allowing many to visit the beach for the first time. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the West Bank enjoy the Mediterranean Sea on the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Tel Aviv, August 11, 2013. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The Israeli army generally issues entry permits to Palestinians during Ramadan, allowing many to visit the beach for the first time. (Activestills.org)

Israeli news site Walla! ran an article [Hebrew] on Friday with the following headline: “Palestinians who come to Tel Aviv’s beaches cannot resist the women.” The article describes how Palestinian men from the West Bank take advantage of their entry permits—which are granted with greater ease during the month of Ramadan in order to allow worshippers access to Jerusalem—to enjoy the beaches of Tel Aviv.

But if you ask Walla, not all of these men are so innocent. According to the article, one 19-year-old Palestinian from Hebron was detained for sexually harassing two women on the beach this past week.

“We see this phenomenon every year during Ramadan,” said police investigator Yoni Hirshhorn during a hearing over whether to extend the man’s detention. “The Ramadan tourists who obtain permits to pray take trips to Tel Aviv. They come to the beaches of Tel Aviv and some of them cannot help themselves when they see the women, that’s when we receive reports of sexual harassment and assault.”

There is no minimizing acts of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and there is no doubt that every allegation of sexual assault needs to be taken seriously. Men cannot commit violent, gender-based crimes against women and expect to be let off the hook.

But as one scrolls through Walla’s story, which is rife with disturbing, illustrative photos of Palestinian-looking men leering at what are presumed to be white, Jewish women on the beach—one must ask why on earth the editors thought this particular story was worth publishing, when stories about Jewish men assaulting Jewish women rarely are. Does the nationality of the attacker matter for anything other than click bait, not to mention race-baiting? Does it count as news when a Jewish man assaults a Jewish woman?

The other glaring issue is the way the article constructs the Jewish women who are at risk of assault. Walla’s article doesn’t stray too far from the racist, Jim Crow-era construction of the black man as what scholar Christopher J. Metzler calls a “hyper-sexual brute with an insatiable lust for white women.” In fact, Walla’s article only perpetuates the trope according to which white, Jewish women are always in danger of being attacked by the savage brown or black man. This, of course, does no favors to women, and leaves the reader with only two conclusions: Palestinian men must be feared, and Jewish women are the sole property of Jewish men.

Jewish nationalist activists from anti-miscegenation group Lehava protest in Rishon Lezion, August 17, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Jewish nationalist activists from anti-miscegenation group Lehava protest in Rishon Lezion, August 17, 2014. (Activestills.org)

While the former is par for the course in the Israeli media, it is the latter conclusion that has gained traction over the last several years, especially with the emergence of the anti-miscegenation group, Lehava, which tries to prevent marriages between Jewish women and Palestinian men, and urges Israeli women to refrain from associating with “non-Jews.” But while the racism of Lehava is out in the open for all to see, Walla tries to pass off its article as “news.” What happens when we can no longer discern between the two?

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    1. Marnie

      “The other glaring issue is the way the article constructs the Jewish women who are at risk of assault. Walla’s article doesn’t stray too far from the racist, Jim Crow-era construction of the black man as what scholar Christopher J. Metzler calls a “hyper-sexual brute with an insatiable lust for white women.” In fact, Walla’s article only perpetuates the trope according to which white, Jewish women are always in danger of being attacked by the savage brown or black man. This, of course, does no favors to women, and leaves the reader with only two conclusions: Palestinian men must be feared, and Jewish women are the sole property of Jewish men.”

      Enjoy your posts Mr. Konrad and as you well know, every part of the Jewish woman belongs to the Jewish state and Jewish men only (ha). There is the obvious, Jim Crow era logic also that Jewish women couldn’t possibly be interested in Palestinian men (as was and sometimes still the response in US) so every interaction between Palestinian men/Jewish women must be an aggressor/victim situation and not one of mutual desire. Just wondering about the flip side – where are there reports of Jewish men attacking or sexually harrassing Palestinian women (except by past and present posters here making sexually aggressive remarks about Palestinian women)? Certainly this isn’t a one-way street?

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Walla does not make it an Arab-Jewish issue, or a white-colored issue. It does not accuse Israeli Arab males of accosting Jewish white women. It accuses some, not all, Palestinian men abusing Israeli women by inappropriate behavior. Should the newspaper not warn its women’s readership of the problem?

        There is an interesting website for women visiting Jordan called Ruth’s Jordan Jubilee which gives advice for women traveling in the middle east. Notice the warning about unwelcome touching in Arab society.

        “Intelligent behaviour: no need to snub everybody who smiles at you, but don’t allow any touching whatsoever, however accidental it might seem. Say, as mildly as seems necessary, “don’t do that (again)”. If you pass it over it is going to happen again, probably more intrusively. You are likely to receive a number of invitations for various purposes: be careful what you accept, and take the obvious precautions! I absolutely don’t tell you to refuse them all [I live in Paris, after all!] but remember that what is “normal friendly behaviour” in the West can be interpreted in the ME as “looking for” sex. On the whole, the Jordanians are the most laid back about this, you can sit and chat with them quite happily, while in the same circumstances Syrians automatically suppose that you will be agreeable to lying down! However, I strongly advise you NOT to accept any invitation from one or even a couple of guys unless you are at least a couple of women and have agreed a strategy among yourselves first! Don’t go to any out of the way places, even in the daytime, in less than quite a large group.”

        “A corollary to my first piece of advice on this page: if somebody does start annoying you, then let him see immediately that you are annoyed. It is much better to show annoyance immediately than to let it go on until you lose your temper or until a situation gets out of control. Invariably once a man sees that you don’t appreciate whatever he is saying/doing he will cut it out, or at the very least back pedal considerably. If you let it continue, you will be unhappy and he is likely to be surprised and shocked at your attitude when he probably thought that he was making an impression.”

        “Correct dress: it is important to cover your knees (a calf length skirt or loose trousers) and the tops of your arms (a tee shirt or something with cap sleeves is fine). Obviously no bare midriffs, and no tank or halter tops or shorts.”

        “Blending in: you are going to stand out anyway. Watch the way the Arab women walk in public and you will see that it is quite different from you. Don’t worry, behaviour is the most important. Don’t hesitate to denounce (loudly!) any undue familiarities, they will almost certainly stop immediately. Don’t worry about hurting anybody’s feelings by a refusal, the guys know what is correct behaviour better than you do, and will not normally resent it, however disappointed they might be personally!

        You might like to know that on a bus, Arab women refuse to sit next to a strange man, even if this means that the man has to remain standing! In fact, in these cases, almost always people shuffle around to make room; probably a couple will split up, the woman to sit next to the woman and the man with the other man. If you are in any doubt at all, you can perfectly well do the same thing. People will be surprised at a “tourist” doing this, but will accept it.”

        So there are cultural differences between western societies like Israel and Arab middle-east societies. The fact that some Palestinian men do not understand proper behavior in Israeli culture, does not mean that Israeli media should ignore a persistent problem which applies only to some Palestinian men.

        Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Bruce, now here is reality in the Palestinian territories:

        “Rufayda Qaoud, aged 17, was raped by two of her brothers and when her family discovered that she was pregnant, she was killed by her mother. The mother, who contends that she had to kill Rufayda to protect the family’s “honour”, has not been prosecuted.”

        Source Electronic Intifada March 31, 2015

        Marital rape in Palestinian society is not a crime, and men who rape women they are not married to can avoid prosecution by marrying their victims. Palestinian law also offers leniency for murders that are committed in anger. Laws in place in both the West Bank and Gaza allow leniency in the case of a man who murders his wife if she is thought to have been adulterous.

        Now read this dirty secret of Palestinian men raping volunteers in the West Bank and the crimes being covered up. Haaretz reports (July 14, 2010):

        “One of the more prominent Umm Salmuna activists – a village south of Bethlehem, long entrenched in a battle against the West Bank separation fence – is suspected of the attempted rape of an American peace activist who had been residing in the village as part of her support of the local protest.

        Omar Aladdin, who had been arrested three months ago over suspicions he had attempted to rape the U.S. citizen, was subsequently released after agreeing to apologize to the young woman. However, Haaretz had learned that representatives of both the popular protest movement and the PA have since applied pressure on the American peace activist as to prevent her from making the story public.

        The incident allegedly took place last April, as Aladdin, who had served a term in the Israeli jail in the past, arrived one evening at the guest house in which many of the foreign peace activists were staying. The European and American female activists reportedly agreed to let Aladdin stay with them after he had told them he feared the Israel Defense Forces were on his tail, adding that he had been severely beaten at an IDF checkpoint only a week before.

        During his stay Aladdin allegedly attempted to rape a Muslim-American woman, nicknamed “Fegin” by fellow activists. The woman escaped, later accusing the popular protest man of the attempt. One villager who had encountered the American following the incident said she had been in a state of shock.

        Aladdin then refused to apologize for the incident, when news of it reached the village’s popular committee, the popular protests’ governing body, allegedly saying that the incident had been marginal and normal. The American activist then asked the committee to notify authorities of the attempted rape, a request which resulted in the man being arrested by security forces in Bethlehem. After agreeing to apologize for the incident, Aladdin was released from custody by the PA police.

        The U.S. citizen was then convinced to retract her complaint, as to avoid tainting the image of the popular protest, which had attracted praise from around the world in recent months.

        However, the Umm Salmuna case is not the only one. Separation fence activists know of other incidents in which Palestinians molested and sexually assaulted foreign peace activists, a subject which was apparently raised in the discussions of the various popular committees.

        Foreign female peace activists regularly participate in protests in the villages of Bil’in, Na’alin, and others, where the activists stay in separate houses. Some villagers do not agree with these housing arrangements, claiming that the villages’ youth, who frequently visit the activists, are corrupted by the young women.

        One villager said the female activists bring a different “culture with them, western, too open. The young people, especially from the villages, aren’t used to stay near other girls, they do not know their culture, certainly when it’s a young woman staying with other women in a strange house. They misinterpret it.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Wedding Singer

          Thank you Pedro for exposing Bruce for the little man that he is.

          Bruce, what sort of sick person highlights abuse of women as some sort of stick to beat Israel and the Jewish people with?

          What is the context of your post? Abuse of women is a global problem. And let’ not even get into culturally embedded practices such as sex slavery, female genitsl mutulation, honor killings et. al. Singling out Israel does a cruel disservice to women who don’t have the luxury of living in Israel,

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      @ Pedro X: Edo’s point about why is this news?, and the racist subtext, is getting lost here, or maybe doubly confirmed. This is really ugly what you’re doing here with this festival of sex crimes. What’s the subtext? Should leftists come in here and start cataloguing every backwards sexual more and crime and coverup in Haredi society and we’ll all have a contest of backwardness? What kind of game are you playing here? The vast, vast majority of Palestinian Arabs with work permits and Ramadan permits commit no crimes. I have to wonder if there is absolutely anything Israel could do that you would not excuse. Yet at the same time you have not once confronted the multiple, aggressive, lewd sexual comments, with degrading sexual assault a persistent theme, directed at Arab women by Jews right here in this forum. The fact is these right wing juvenile perverts hereabouts would listen to someone like you on the far right (from someone on the left it just excites them and invites more of the same, as you well know) but you couldn’t be bothered. What fun, eh? But you’re all in high dudgeon about some Arab guy on a beach. You’re not serious.

      Reply to Comment
      • Zeus

        Ben says: “Yet at the same time you have not once confronted the multiple, aggressive, lewd sexual comments, with degrading sexual assault a persistent theme, directed at Arab women by Jews right here in this forum”.

        • Pls. tell us, Ben: who are those “Jews”?

        • You have made several sexual comments “right here in this forum”. Do you want me to start presenting them?

        Reply to Comment
        • Marnie

          BigCat/ICat/Merav/Zeus – I want your next name to be Slinky.

          Reply to Comment
      • Electric Avenue

        Hi Ben!
        Maybe you can lead by example. Marnie, who will never be confused with a right winger, writes the kind of smut that would make a sailor blush. And yet,… you say nothing?!? Do you like pornography from left wingers? If you are equally appalled, why the double standard?

        And when you are finished with that task, perhaps you can take on the handful of folks who use terms like Jewish fascist, Jewish brownshirt, Jewish supremecist etc, Or is sex the only content you find to be unacceptable? Hmmm… Maybe you are more right wing that you think.

        Reply to Comment