Few other ostensibly democratic countries have as strange a judicial system as Israel when it comes to gag orders and the veil of secrecy they cast on matters of public interest. Witness yesterday’s decision by Tel Aviv Judge Benny Sagi to partially lift the gag order protecting the identity of Channel 2 reporter, Yoav Even (Hebrew). Even was arrested and accused by P. of raping, drugging, and sodomizing her at his apartment last February. During the entire investigation Sagi upheld Even’s well-connected lawyer’s attempt to suppress knowledge of Even’s identity from the Israeli public with the claim that a possibly innocent man, his reputation, and his livelihood might be damaged by the revelations.
P. argued that the public had a right to know about the charges and could reasonably judge for itself and weigh the quality of the evidence offered. Further, maintaining secrecy meant that other witnesses or victims of the accused rapist might have an opportunity to confirm similar behavior at his hands. This was precisely what happened in the case o former Pres. Moshe Katsav, who is still appealing his rape conviction.
Alas, and unsurprisingly, Sagi sided with the political and power elite against a female victim and maintained the gag. Even the police asked the judge to remove it, but to no avail. To no one’s surprise, the state prosecutor decided not to prosecute for lack of sufficient evidence. It should be noted that this is an entirely different standard than clearing Even of charges on grounds of innocence. And so far neither Even nor the State has charged P. with filing a fraudulent claim against Even, which indicates there were serious allegations raised against him.
On the strength of this “clean bill of health,” Even has now been welcomed back by colleagues like Roni Daniel and another producer there, who actually subverted justice by attempting to communicate with P. during the investigation. Clearly, they were either attempting to divine on Even’s behalf whether she would press charges against him or they were attempting to persuade her not to do so. Fortunately, P. brushed off their importuning invitations to meet them and the attempts at pressuring the victim never proceeded.
On a related note, I wondered why Channel 2 reporter Amit Segel wrote such a vicious attack on me and my reporting on the Gideon Sa’ar sex story, calling me a “well-know fantasist and foreign product.” It just came to me while I was writing this that Segel and Even are colleagues at Channel 2, and calling me a “fantasist” was payback for reporting on his good friend, Yoav. One thing you have to say about Israel is that they know how to protect their own. And if you report nasty information about a reporter his friends at the station will return the favor at the earliest opportunity.
What is especially strange about this case is that Judge Sagi has told the media they may report that there IS a case and what is alleged to have happened. But they still may not report who the victim or accused are. So in effect, despite the fact that no charges have been filed against him, and the case is for all intents and purposes closed (unless new victims or charges are revealed), Even may still not be named. I should add that the Israeli media has done an abysmal job in this case. Not a single journalist or media company appealed the judge’s gag rulings. Not a single one.
This is precisely the sort of travesty that this blog seeks to address regarding Israeli justice. That’s why I’m pleased to be able to name Yoav Even and why I look forward to the day when Israelis may read his name in their newspapers and see this story reported as fully as it deserves to be. And I’ll repeat something I’ve said regularly in covering this story. P.’s treatement at the hands of the Israeli judiciary and justice system is a second round of abuse after the victimization she suffered at Even’s hands. But in this case not only has P. suffered, but every Israeli who believes in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom from sexual violence.