Magal resigns as Bayit Yehudi faction chairman after sexual harassment allegations

The Bayit Yehudi MK said he will remain a lawmaker "and act on the behalf of the People of Israel as I did this far, out of faith and commitment to my voters."

By
November 25, 2015 08:42
Yinon Magal

Yinon Magal. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Bayit Yehudi faction chairman Yinon Magal stepped down from his position under pressure from party leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday, following allegations over social media that he had sexually harassed subordinates before entering politics.

The police said in a statement they had begun examining the complaints made against Magal, under the supervision of the head of the Investigations and Intelligence branch, Assistant Chief Meni Yitzhaki.

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The police also said they had arrested a resident of Tel Aviv suspected of posting “incitement and threats to violence on Facebook” against Magal. They would not provide any further details at this time.

The case against Magal arose a day after two posts appearing on the social networking site Facebook showed two former women subordinates accusing Magal of making inappropriate sexual remarks to them during his previous role as a journalist.

After a meeting with Bennett, Magal announced he was resigning as faction head. MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli will replace him.

“I was mistaken in my inappropriate behavior in the past, and which is even more inappropriate now that I am a public representative,” Magal said.

“I apologize from the depths of my heart to anyone who was hurt.”

Magal also said he is determined to improve his behavior and to rehabilitate his relationship with his family.

Magal added he continue as a lawmaker “and act on the behalf of the People of Israel as I did this far, out of faith and commitment to my voters.”

“I hope the public will find it in its heart to give me the chance to fix my ways and serve it faithfully,” Magal said.

Bennett called Magal a “true friend,” but that “the things he said never should have been said, and there is no place for them, certainly not from a public servant.

“I have zero tolerance for such inappropriate behavior,” Bennett added.

Bennett also urged people not to “decide his (Magal’s) fate on Facebook,” and to abide by the law.

One of those who complained about Magal, Racheli Rottner, a writer at Walla News, wrote in a lengthy post that when he served as editor-in-chief of Walla he would tell her to dress sexier for her video segments, “like a librarian from a porno.”

She described an interaction between her and Magal – both of whom are married – at his goodbye party, after he announced that he was leaving journalism for politics, in which he said he constantly felt sexual tension between them while they were working together.

Rottner wrote that Magal had said: “‘Now, I can tell you this, because I’m not your boss anymore, but whenever we worked together I was horny for you. I was looking at you and thinking about your tits and ass. And I would talk to other people about your tits and ass and how horny they make me.’ Or Shukrun, another ex-employee, wrote on Facebook Tuesday that he “touched my behind more than once despite my requests that he stop, asked me to join him in the bathroom and asked other questions that cannot be understood any other way.”

Several MKs in Bayit Yehudi came out in support of Magal, saying he should be given a chance to repent.

Muallem-Refaeli said “his statements and actions are severe and inappropriate for a public person of his stature.

This is not the way of Bayit Yehudi, which advocates for women in every arena.

“I respect Yinon’s decision to fix his ways and take responsibility, and suggest he wait for the relevant authorities to check the matter,” Muallem-Refaeli added.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan said that “when King David sinned with Batsheva, he taught us the value of repentance, and I hope other public figures will behave the same way in the future.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said that Magal offended the values of the public that elected him, but that his apology and expression of total regret allows them to move forward and put things behind them.

“It would be good if we, as a society, take advantage of this opportunity to learn lessons about building a healthier and less permissive society so that our behavior is more respectful to men and women,” Smotrich added.

Zionist Union, however, was less forgiving, saying that while it is good that Magal apologized, it does not exempt him from a criminal investigation.

Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) called a meeting to discuss the sexual harassment of women working in the media.

Touma-Sliman, a former newspaper editor, invited editors to “discuss the best way to reach women working in the media in order to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

“I will not allow any attempts to cover this up,” she added. “I will follow this topic in order to uproot the phenomenon and create safe work environments for women.”

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.Bayit Yehudi faction chairman Yinon Magal stepped down from his position Wednesday, following allegations that he sexually harassed employees before entering politics.

The announcement came the morning after meeting with Bayit Yehudi leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett. MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli will take over as faction chairwoman.

"I was mistaken in my inappropriate behavior in the past, and which is even more inappropriate now that I am a public representative," he stated. "I apologize from the depths of my heart to anyone who was hurt."

Magal added that he is determined to improve his behavior and to rehabilitate his relationship with his family.

The Bayit Yehudi MK said he will remain a lawmaker "and act on the behalf of the People of Israel as I did this far, out of faith and commitment to my voters."

"I hope the public will find it in its heart to give me the chance to fix my ways and serve it faithfully," Magal added.

Bennett said during an address at the Sderot Conference at Sapir College on Wednesday that Magal had been the one to ask to be removed from his role as faction chairman.

"Magal is a true friend of mine and I love him and his family but the things he said never should have been said, and they have no place, certainly not by a public official," Bennett said. "I have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior."

Magal made the sexual comments to a writer for Walla News after he resigned from his position of editor-in-chief at the website last year.

The writer, Racheli Rottner, wrote a lengthy Facebook post about his overtures.

Rottner said that, when she worked for Magal, he would tell her to dress sexier for her video segments, “like a librarian from a porno.”

She described an interaction between her and Magal – both of whom are married – at his goodbye party, after he announced that he was leaving journalism for politics.

According to Rottner, Magal sat close to her on a sofa and said: “Tell me, did you feel like there was tension between us while we worked together? ...I always felt sexual tension. You didn’t notice?” Rottner told him more than once that she didn’t know what he was talking about, or as she wrote: “Haha, Yinon, you really felt tension? I had no idea, teehee, you’re so crazy.”

Then, she wrote, Magal said: “‘Now, I can tell you this, because I’m not your boss anymore, but whenever we worked together I was horny for you. I was looking at you and thinking about your tits and ass. And I would talk to other people about your tits and ass and how horny they make me.’ “Magal smiled when he saw my embarrassment and said that’s what he likes about me, that I come from a background of a religious school and I’m very innocent… and after that, he got up to speak to all the people invited about Bayit Yehudi and values and family,” Rottner wrote.

The writer said she had not spoken to Magal since then, but found out that other female workers at Walla said he made unwanted advances, including touching them.

“Thank God, he’s not my problem now, but he’s [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett’s… And to clarify, I have nothing against the Bayit Yehudi, I’m religious and my family voted for [the party’s precursor] NRP and Bayit Yehudi for years,” she added.

Or Shukrun, another woman who worked with Magal wrote on Facebook Tuesday that he “touched my behind more than once despite my requests that he stop, asked me to join him in the bathroom and asked other questions that cannot be understood any other way.

“He brought the shame on himself,” Shukrun, who said she voted for Bayit Yehudi, wrote of his complaint that Rottner did not come to him directly.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel called for Magal to be investigated.

“Women in Israel must go to work, and everywhere else, without fear of harassment, and the country must defend this basic right,” Gamliel stated.

“If what was said is true, there must be a criminal investigation and MK Magal must be suspended from the Knesset.”

The police said Tuesday evening it will examine the claims made against Magal and that a decision about the nature of the probe and which police unit will be tasked with looking into the claims will be made on Wednesday.

Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality Chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said “sexual harassment is never a discussion ‘between friends.’” Touma-Sliman called the accusations a test for Bennett, as Bayit Yehudi’s leader, saying he must sound a clear voice against sexual harassment and assault and act to remove Magal from the party and the Knesset.

“Some men still don’t understand that women are not objects,” MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) told the Knesset Channel. “They are not tits and not ass, they are people with equal rights.”

MK Orly Levy-Abecassis commended Rottner for exposing Magal’s actions, saying she knows how difficult it can be.

“Maybe [Magal] and others need to be reminded that sexual harassment – whether it’s in the Knesset, at work, in the market or the local pub – is against the law, and the separation MK Magal makes between his behavior before he became an MK and his behavior today is outrageous, to say the least,” Levy-Abecasis stated.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.


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