Introductory Note: In this story, I am reporting the claims of four Israeli women that they were raped by the same man. Obviously, as I’m not a private investigator nor physically present to investigate this case, I am reporting my impressions of the case and the credibility of both parties. I have read material offered to me and spoken with individuals connected with the case. I have read the claims of the accused. My judgments below are based on these deliberations. Despite my having opinions on this subject, I am not making absolute claims as to the veracity of either party.
I report here for the first time that prominent Israeli attorney, Uri Daniel (Hebrew), a member of the Tel Aviv bar ethics committee, has been accused by four women of rape. Daniel runs an 8-lawyer firm in Tel Aviv. The focus of his practice is bankruptcy. He liquidates companies. He is a pillar of the local legal community. He has deep connections not only among lawyers, but also with judges and the police.
Daniel is in his late 40s. He is divorced from his first wife and remarried. He has two young daughters with his second wife. He lives in a penthouse in a tony Tel Aviv neighborhood and drives a Mercedes SUV.
Over 20 years ago in the northern Tel Aviv suburbs, a child educator began a nursery school that was influenced the philosophy of the Waldorf schools (though it has no formal affiliation). The nursery schools have been very successful and educated thousands of young children. They brought together educators, parents and others from the outside, who decided they wished to study philosophical questions on a regular basis. The approach of the group is influenced by anthroposophy, a school of philosophy founded by Rudolph Steiner, founder of the Waldorf movement. Other renowned Israelis who were students of anthroposophy were Martin Buber and Hugo Bergmann.
Uri Daniel joined the study salon as well sometime in the 1990s and participated for ten years. It was during this period that the alleged rapes took place. The women attacked were also members of the group.
When the alleged victims approached the police, strange things happened. In one case, the police recorded the questioning on video, but later lost the audio. This has led some to believe that Daniel has a source inside the police who is doing “favors” for him. In another case, the police woman who conducted the questioning began in a friendly manner, and was called out of the room. When she returned, her manner altered radically and she assumed an aggressive, intimidating approach that filled the complainant with fear. The latter went home not only depressed, but with thoughts of dropping the case. In a third case, the police questioning was so hostile and insulting that apparently the station commander was embarrassed, and wrote the victim a letter of apology the next day.
All four victims have taken polygraphs, which they passed with flying colors.
The four women have, between them, had five lawyers take their cases and then drop out after being intimidated by Daniel. One of those attorneys, just before she stopped representing her client and after being threatened by Daniel, asked for a gag order, which was approved. Gag orders are almost never requested by rape victims. In this case, it didn’t benefit them and only benefited the accused. Therefore, one has to suspect a level of collusion between Daniel and the lawyer who shortly thereafter abandoned her victim client. In this sense, the alleged victims have been abused once by the accused and then abused yet a second time by his intimidation of their legal representatives.
One anecdote from court is indicative: during the hearing, after the judge had left the courtroom during a break, Daniel approached one of the victims’ counsels and made a threat on his life. When the judge returned, that attorney asked that the judge note the threat for the record. After the hearing ended, Daniel went to the police and filed a complaint alleging that it had been he who was threatened. This appears to be pure psychopathology and illustrative of the mental functioning of serial abuser-predators.
The gag has been in place since then (Daniel later requested his own gag on all aspects of his case, including all the victims). It has prevented them and their supporters from publicly soliciting other women who might’ve been similarly harmed, from coming forward. The gag has not, however, prevented Daniel himself from serving as a mouthpiece for an article in Maariv abusing both victims and their supporters.
Another follow-up article called the philosophy study group “the Bullshit Cult.” I can’t imagine a more prejudicial headline and it reeked of sensationalist journalism. It painted the group’s lecturer, Riki Shaham, as a guru leading a “secret, closed society” that imbued “disciples” with special powers. Daniel is quoted in the article calling her, “Planetary Empress.” It is, in one of his typically overreaching claims, “one of the most dangerous sects in Israel.” Daniel claims to have “fought the ‘sect’s’ legal wars’ taking “hundreds of thousands of shekels” from his own pocket to do so. Among these sums allegedly were $90,000 worth of gifts offered to Ms. Shaham including a Land Rover and home. In such an “investigative” article I would expect any self-respecting journalist to have asked for evidence to support Daniel’s claims. The reporter offers none.
Returning to the rape case, the current attorney too was threatened with a lawsuit by Daniel, as have several of the other former lawyers.
Let’s go back to the story of the philosophy salon. The students pooled their resources and hired a lecturer to help facilitate their sessions. The number of students participating varied between 20-30. They studied the history of science, theology, and any subjects that interested them. The members also socialized outside the study sessions and formed strong personal, even familial bonds. They attended each others weddings, helped each other through tragedies and divorces. Among those who joined were couples, related individuals, and singles. It was a cozy family of people who cared for each other.
Among them was Daniel. At the time, he was a litigator for the Tel Aviv municipality, at the beginning of his legal career. At the beginning, people found him a powerful, captivating speaker. He argued his views forcefully and passionately. People looked up to him. He had a certain power or charisma. Since members were mutually-supportive many used Daniel as their lawyer when they created businesses, filed for bankruptcy, or needed other sorts of legal help. In effect, they helped launch his independent legal career.
But gradually, for some in the group, his strong-willed demeanor turned nasty. He began insulting those who disagreed with them. He became a bully. People had had enough. After a decade, he announced that he’d learned everything he had to learn from the group and would be leaving. The other members breathed a sign of relief. But they weren’t done with him.
After leaving the salon, he forged a document claiming Ms. Shaham owed him a sum of money. The document has been examined by a forensic investigative firm which found it to be a fraud. Though she maintains she did not owe him anything, the threat of a lawsuit caused her to decide it would be easier to pay him off. There is only one word for what is alleged: extortion. But he didn’t go away. He then sued, demanding that she return gifts he alleged that he’d given her. At that point, some members began to see a truly ugly side of him which they’d suspected, but hadn’t fully appreciated.
Gradually, female members of the group shared their own personal experiences with him. He’d allegedly raped four of them. When a male member of the study group confronted Daniel about one of the rapes, the lawyer acknowledged he’d had intercourse, but told him that she had seduced him. And the power of this man was such that the other man believed Daniel.
Some of those who have known Daniel describe as a sociopath, and even a sadist. He possesses both immense charm and immense cruelty and can wield either when it’s to his advantage. For some dark psychological reason, he’s alleged to have exploited the closeness of this group to brutalize some of its female members. In the process, whether intentionally or unintentionally he tried to destroy the community itself through sexual violence.
The female victims filed their complaints three years ago. In each case, the police refused to refer them to the prosecutor, dropping them for “lack of evidence.” They have now turned to the Supreme Court asking that it direct the police to reopen the case.
In the meantime, refused a criminal trial, the women have turned to the civil courts and filed for damages. Last week was the first day of the civil trial. During the hearing, testimony was heard from the victims for the first time in open court.
I have railed many times before about the abuse of gag orders in rape cases in Israel. They serve the interests of the male accused. They allow him to control the discourse just as he controlled the women when he raped them. I call on the judge hearing this case to remove the gag. Allow Israelis to know about this case as they now know about the similar case of Emmanuel Rosen.
It’s miraculous that despite the gag, Daniel served as the source for the two Maariv articles I mentioned above. Apparently, there’s one law for powerless female victims and another for powerful male suspects.
Throughout all this, Daniel has retained his position on the bar disciplinary panel. The lawyer’s association has not seen fit to remove him, nor has he taken a leave of absence until his case is resolved. One reason for this may be that if he does so, then every lawyer who was disciplined before the committee would have the right to demand their case be reopened because of the ethical stain on Daniel’s legal reputation.
There are cases pending against Daniel brought by ex-clients in which he’s accused of theft, fraud and money-laundering.
The Israeli media has not yet reported this case. Partly due to the gag. But also because Daniel, being a powerful individual, wields enough power to suppress any bad press about him. That’s one of the reasons I’ve agreed to report this story.
Those of you who read this blog know that my reporting on Israeli society shows that it is one in which power is wielded by a small, tight-knit élite. Its members look out for each other’s interests. That’s why the police refused to pursue an investigation. That’s why five lawyers resigned from representing these clients.
But beyond the notion of the power of the élite, there is a special sense of privilege that some Israeli men take on. They have the world on a string. It owes them. For such men, women are entitlements or objects meant to flatter their egos.
As I was listening to their stories, I asked the those familiar with Daniel if they knew anything about his childhood. He had told them that his father had beat him as a boy. In revenge, he’d gotten hold of a poisonous snake and put it in his father’s drawer hoping it would bite him. Hearing stories like this, it’s not hard to see how the boy grew into the man Uri Daniel turned out to be.
Among other alleged sexual predilections he has is wearing women’s clothing underneath his business clothes, even to court. He’s aroused by wearing women’s panties and by violently abusing his sexual “partners.” Ex-girlfriends have said he engaged in intercourse rarely, but that when he did it was always abusive, violent, and filled with rage.
This is anonymous testimony (Hebrew) from yet another of his alleged victims.