It''s an old joke we are all familiar with but this week it wasn’t so funny as newspaper headlines reported on the rape of a young girl by three suspected Eritrean migrants who had no doubt entered Israel illegally via Egypt. I am not usually one to enter into politics and my compassionate nature tends towards humanitarian ideologies but this issue in particular leaves me feeling that perhaps we compassionate left wing types are living in a certain amount of denial.
Sitting on the beach late Friday afternoon, surrounded by Arabs from local villages, one of our Israeli friends suggests ''they should stay their own places''. Horrified by his racist remark, I challenged his beliefs about segregation. He assured me that the packs of Arab men who sit on ''our'' beaches would be better received if they brought their own women instead of starting with ours. I am obviously uncomfortable with the ''them'' and ''us'' references but after the rape of the young girl in Tel Aviv last week, I suddenly feel compelled to protect my own daughters from the eyes of men whose culture I know nothing about.
I am reminded of an evening spent with an Arab friend who shamelessly told me that Muslim Arab men socialise with Israeli women because they can have sex with them, keeping their own virgin women protected in their villages until they are ready to marry. It does not work the other way. Jewish Israeli men rarely socialise with Muslim Arab women. In fact, according to then Sociology student Tal Nizan, Israeli men won''t even rape Arab women. In her ludicrous thesis entitled "Controlled Occupation: the rarity of Military Rape in the Israeli Palestinian Conflict"(2006) , she notes that "the relative absence of rape by Israeli soldiers is an alternative method of achieving the same kind of degradation of Palestinian Arabs that would be achieved through a direct policy of raping Arab women". Even more ludicrous is the fact that for this brilliant ''discovery'' she was awarded a prize by the Hebrew Universities Sociology Department.
I asked my Israeli male friends if they found the generalisation that men in the Israeli army don''t rape to be true from their experiences in the army, and I asked if it was because they don’t want to have sex with Arab women. Most of them did not have a problem with the idea of having sex with a woman from a different culture, religion or race and they all agreed that ''rape'' was simply not part of their social vocabulary. Perhaps in Eritrea it is different. It certainly is in South Africa where, according to Carolyn Dempster, in a piece entitled "Rape, the Silent war on South African Women, "A woman has a greater chance of being raped than learning to read". I imagine this to be true across Africa though reported rates fall to as low as 4.9 out of 100,000 in Uganda which suggests that rape statistics say more about the rate of unreported rapes or the cultural differences in definitions of rape than anything else. Still perhaps Tal Nitzan should put her thesis to the women of South Africa as proof that they are at least ''worthy'' of degradation by means of rape.
Many years ago I read a book called "Eurabia -The Euro Arab axis." In it, author Bat Yaor shows how as early as 1973, Europe started the process of aligning itself with the Arab countries through a series of informal alliances between European and Arab delegates as a way of gaining strength against a growing United States power. She suggests that at the time, European countries underestimated the impact of opening their boarders to a cheap labour force of African and Muslim migrants, and today her predictions of an Arabized Europe seem to be manifesting before our very eyes.
So where does that leave us? Should we open our hearts and our arms to the flow of illegal African migrants who arrive with all their cultural baggage and different cultural definitions, or should we take a lesson out of the European annuls and wake up to the how these differences impact the lives of our children walking home from a night club on the streets of Tel Aviv? Of course the answer lies in integration and education, in cultural re-education and I guess that''s what the judicial system is about. Still it''s a painful lesson for us all. Painful to see our own prejudices exposed before our own consciences and painful to think what our denial of these very real cultural differences could lead to if allowed to continue without some very real checks, balances and serious integration programmes being put into effect immediately.