CORRECTION/APOLOGY: Thanks to a number of Israeli readers who pointed out that the previous identification of the suspect in this case was in error. My profound apology to the individual who was wrongly identified. A number of independent sources have confirmed the name of the actual suspect who I’ve named below.
בכיר מרצ וההסתדרות הנאשם בעבירות מין בקטינה הוא ציון אלגריסי
I’ve reported many Israeli sex scandals from judges to journalist, to rabbis, to presidents. But I never thought I’d report a sex scandal within two prominent Israeli institutions. The first is the Histadrut, where the suspect worked. And a lesser participant is the Israeli left-Zionist Party Meretz, of which the suspect is a member and mid-level official.
For the past six months, police have conducted an investigation of a Histadrut official accused of committing sex acts with a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested and indicted last February. Later reports indicated that he’d conducted the affair with the girl from the age of 8 or 9 till she was twelve and a-half years old. The YouTube video above is a TV interview with the woman who first exposed the case.
The suspect claims that the girl “seduced” him and that the charges were concocted by the victim’s mother. How in God’s name does a little girl seduce a grown man?
There is an Israeli gag order prohibiting reporting of the name of the suspect. His name is Tzion al-Grisi (or Algrisi). He works for the Histadrut labor federation as the Tel Aviv regional branch chair. He is also the chair of the Tel Aviv professionals union. He was also a labor union delegate to Meretz and was a mid-level member of the union’s delegate list (though important enough to feature a photo of himself arm-in-arm with Party chair Galon).
Though al-Grisi was arrested months ago, the labor union announced after the case became public last March that it was taking action to suspend him. He remains in his position.
The Party announced that it had suspended the Algrisi a few days after the charges first became known. However, Party chair Zehava Galon had requested he be fired. It’s unclear why the Party chose the milder approach considering the seriousness of the charges. Further, it’s unclear why the Party revealed nothing about the incident for months until rumors began flying through the Twittersphere, which the Party felt had to be addressed.
One of those charges was that other Party officials made sympathy visits to Algrisi’s home while he was under house arrest. This is not the case. It appears connected to the earlier erroneous identification of the suspect with another individual.
Though Israeli media have widely reported the suspect was a senior member of Meretz, this appears to be a slight exagerration. He is a senior member of the Histadrut, which appears to have taken no disciplinary action against him. There are several references to him and his position on the union’s website. I posed a series of questions to the Histadrut’s attorney about Algrisi’s status in the organization. If he responds, I will update this post.
In considering why Algrisi remained a fixture in both organizations well after he was arrested, I considered whether he had a political patron who offered him support or protection. Though this is only speculation, I noticed that the other senior Meretz/Histadrut official pictured in the Facebook photo above is Yossi Marciano, the Histadrut deputy chair. If you read the interview displayed here with Algrisi, it’s noteworthy that he specifically mentions that Marciano is the one who gives him his political marching orders concerning policy issues related to the Party. These two circumstantial facts may be help explain the leniency offered to the rape suspect.
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.