Bayit Yehudi MK accused of sexual assault

Bennett says lawmaker denies allegations, calls for women to go to police.

December 1, 2016 11:56
2 minute read.
The knesset

The knesset during the boycott on Oct. 31, 2016. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Several women have come forward in recent days with stories of sexual assault by a current Bayit Yehudi MK.

Chagit Moriah-Gibor, who reached the 36th slot on Bayit Yehudi’s Knesset candidates list in the party’s most recent primary, posted on a religious women’s Facebook group Wednesday complaining that there is a “roaring silence” about “a serving MK who assaulted and assaults women for years.”

Moriah-Gibor told Army Radio on Thursday morning that she had testimony from three women, and that Army Radio reporter Hadas Shteif, who has exposed many sexual harassment and assault cases, has two more. None has gone to the authorities thus far.

The lawmaker’s office said in response: “We are used to stories being spread about the MK every few years, and in the end it turns out that there is nothing. We are not going to give a prize to the detractors by helping inflate the matter.”

Moriah-Gibor wrote on Facebook that women are afraid to go to the authorities or speak publicly about their experiences because they will pay too high a price.

As such, she asked women to send her testimony in order to expose the MK, and promised to keep their names secret if they wish.

“This is a classic case in which everyone knows but no one can do anything, and in the meantime, women continue to be hurt,” Moriah- Gibor wrote. “I know it’s difficult. I respect any decision and send hugs from afar, but I am still asking, let’s put an end to this. Together we are strong, you are not alone.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the chairman of Bayit Yehudi, said that he spoke to the MK in question, who completely denied the allegations.

Bennett called on anyone who was hurt by someone in a senior position to complain to the authorities.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also from the party, said she does not respond to anonymous complaints on Facebook, and called for women to contact the police.

Religious-Zionist Rabbis Shmuel Eliahu and Itai Eisman said they would hear testimony from women and present it to Bennett, but as of Thursday, they only heard allegations secondhand. The Takana Forum, which often deals with high-profile sexual misconduct allegations in the religious-Zionist sector, is not dealing with this matter because the MK does not work as a rabbi. Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women chairwoman Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) called the case “further proof that the phenomenon of sexual harassment can happen anywhere and in all population groups.”

Touma-Sliman said she and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein worked together to make the procedure of complaining about sexual harassment easier for parliamentary aides and for anyone else working in the parliament.

“When women know they have a serious address that will take deal with their complaints, then they do submit complaints,” she stated. “It will be very serious if it turns out that this MK did commit such a crime, in which case he must be prosecuted.”

Female Meretz MKs called on Bennett to “clean house,” saying: “This time, you can’t wait for others to do the work. No one, especially not an elected official, is immune if he hurts women. Every minute of silence makes all members of your faction possible suspects and sends a negative message to those harmed.”

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