Hannah Beit Halachmi, one of Israel’s leading feminist bloggers who has written passionately about crimes against women in her country, reports on the case of Yoav Even (Hebrew), Channel 2 TV’s health (his reporting beat is ironic in the extreme) reporter, who’s been accused by a co-worker of a violent rape and bodily injury. Though I know more than I am publishing here (for the sake of the victim’s privacy) about the specific nature of the attack, I’ll let Hannah describe its severity:
He raped her in modes and manners for which the word “brutal” is far too kind.
It appears she may’ve been drugged in order to render her unable to resist.
The charges and his identity are under gag order in Israel, yet another example of abuse of a system of government secrecy to protect the powerful. For Even is a member of the media elite, entitled to a powerful attorney who has the connections necessary to persuade a judge to seal the case under gag.
What gives Even the right to hide from the charges against him? Even former Israeli president Moshe Katzav had to face charges of rape for which he was eventually convicted in the full light of day. Why should anyone suspected of a major violent crime deserve such a shield from public scrutiny? The very notion offends me. So let me be the first to report that Yoav Even is charged with rape. If you’re an Israeli you should know this. You deserve to know this. If a powerful man is suspected of engaging in criminal behavior against women he should face the music and not hide behind a gag.
In some cases, gags might legitimately be used to protect the identity of a woman accuser if she does not wish her own identity known. But that is because she is a likely victim and not the perpetrator. The fact that an alleged perpetrator of a violent crime gets such consideration is a shandeh, and further evidence of a perversion of justice at the heart of the Israeli legal system.
The victim has approached the Israeli media asking for it to appeal to the court to remove the gag. No one did. So let no one say that the status of women in Israeli society is such that a man’s status, especially one suspected of sexual crimes against them, isn’t higher.
In Syria they may’ve removed the emergency laws, but here in Israel Tahrir Square is empty of protestors and there are no banners flying.
…Isn’t it hypocritical for the captains of Israeli media to expend huge sums to fight against gag orders when it’s in their interest to report on the stories being concealed, while in cases like this they expend huge sums to maintain such gags when it’s in their interest to protect one of their own…The right of the public to know includes matters concerning those members of this exclusive media Club Med.
Beit Halachmi and Dvorit Shargel report that the prosecutor may be ready to dismiss the investigation, which certainly is made easier by the fact that it is in the shadows and unknown to most Israelis, especially women. This drives Israeli feminists (or anyone concerned with protecting women from sexual predation) beserk as well it should. The public not only cannot know, but reporters, bloggers and activists may not inquire, they may not investigate, they may not even confirm information that they discover in a public setting.
The Israeli blogger notes that the security services are quick to utilize gag orders to deny Palestinians accused of security crimes of any serious inquiry into the charges against them by the media. Similarly, settlers guilty of crimes of violence and against property are protected from the public knowing the full extent of their crimes by similar gag orders. Soldiers and police officers charged with serious crimes can similarly be protected. In these cases, the crimes are political or security-related and we are used to such gag orders used for political purposes. But Israelis are less used to gag orders protecting the wealthy and powerful and harming the interests of Israeli women victims of sexual violence.
Who doesn’t get a gag order when his case is heard? The suspect who has angered the elites with behavior that offends them or who no longer serves any useful purpose for their interests. But in this case, Yoav Even is one of the golden boys who merits protection from the full extent of his actions.
I should add that according to Beit Halachmi this is not a case in which there is, at least to her mind, any doubt that a horrible crime has been committed against this victim and that the accused is guilty of it. The blogger says that if the criminal investigation is dropped, and she hopes it will not be, that a civil complaint will be filed against Even and that the victim will deprive him of every cent he owns in punishment for his acts of cruelty. This is strong stuff. Of course Even is entitled to a trial and to be considered innocent till proven otherwise. But given the certainty she expresses in her post, I have little doubt that this gag order is an evil act of concealment of a crime.
Beit Halachmi also publishes a statement from a manager at the station who witnessed the victim’s return to work after the rape. His or her testimony further confirms the sterling character and impeccable professional and personal reputation of the victim and the likelihood of her accusations being well-justified.
A Facebook commenter on my post, Eli Meshulam adds an important point for consideration:
The very fact of Even’s seeking a gag order testifies to the severity and credibility of the charges and to the fact that the complaint and her testimony are credible. It this were not so he would put forward publicly his own version of events against hers and even seek to debate her publicly.
This, after all, is what Moshe Katsav tried and failed to do. But that’s because he was guilty and no one believed the version he offered. If Even had a credible response he would offer it and do so aggressively. It’s telling that he chose the opposite tack of trying to bury the charges in secrecy–till now.
Another Facebook commenter, Adam Shuv, CEO of the Israeli social networking site Refresh-Go Social, made a provocative and maddening defense (Hebrew) of the gag saying that the accused deserved to have his privacy protected until an indictment was filed because a false charge of rape would cause enormous damage to Even’s reputation. Even if we concede that this may be true, we have to weigh the overall damage or benefit of revealing Even’s identity here. If we protect it and he is innocent, then we’ve done a service to him. But if we protect it and he is guilty then we’ve let a guilty man conceal his crimes. If we reveal his identity and he is innocent, then we’ve done him an injustice. But if we reveal his identity and he is guilty, then we’ve not only helped a victim gain justice, we’ve outed a sexual predator who might have victimized others. I think my writing of this post indicates clearly on which side of the argument I stand. What shocked me is the typically male approach of Shuv which discounted completely the suffering of the alleged victim.
A final note, to be clear neither Dvorit Shargel nor Hannah Beit Halachmi or any Israeli media source thus far has broken this gag nor violated Israeli law. That is my doing and fully my responsibility. Thanks for research assistance from Dena Shunra.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.