Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has come under fire by women’s rights organizations for a scene from a video wishing IDF soldiers a happy new year in which a Krav Maga instructor takes up-skirt shots of a Muslim woman wearing a burka.
The video was based on Sacha Baron Cohen’s segment from “Who Is America?” with Jason Spencer, a Georgia lawmaker who subsequently resigned from the Georgia House of Representatives.
In the spoof video, Liberman is being taught how to defend himself by Matan Gavish, a Krav Maga instructor on whom Sacha Baron Cohen’s character of Erran Morad is based
“You know, I hear so much nonsense every day, let’s hear you as well,” the defense minister says at the beginning of the clip.
The controversial segment of the video is titled “Terrorism under Burka,” referring to the traditional Muslim garb worn by women covering their entire body. In the segment, Gavish explains to Liberman how to detect terrorists by taking pictures with a selfie stick before putting it underneath the burka to check for bombs.
The video finishes with Lieberman turning to the camera and telling the viewer in Hebrew, “Who needs this silliness? We have the Israel Defense Forces, the best soldiers in the world. Happy New Year to all the soldiers and the people of Israel.”
“The choice of Defense Minister Liberman to present an act of sexual humiliation of Muslim women as a blessing for the new year is distorted,” said Orit Suliteanu, director general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI).
Suliteanu said the film was a criminal offense.
“Instead of worrying about the safety of women, Liberman encourages sexual harassment and exposes it as a routine act, and the defense minister must immediately apologize and take down the video that leaves a very bad taste for viewers,” she said.
Liberman’s office, which has not apologized for the video, said "it is a humorous video for the new year and should be treated as such.”
His office did not reply when asked by The Jerusalem Post
if the defense minister thought sexual harassment was funny.
According to Suliteanu, Liberman’s comment is not enough.
“The minimum he could do is apologize,” a spokeswoman for ARCCI told the Post. “We are not calling for his firing, but he must remove the video and issue a formal apology.”
In the past year, ARCCI has received more than 5,000 calls to its hotline. In 2016, it received 802 reports from female soldiers, a 33% increase from 2011.
According to IDF figures, there were 40 cases of rape in the military in 2017 and a 43% increase in complaints of sexual assault over the past five years.
According to the figures provided to the Post
by the IDF, there were 13 cases of abuse of authority, 165 cases of obscene acts, 263 cases of physical harassment, 349 cases of verbal harassment, and 63 cases of peeking or photography without permission.
A senior IDF officer told the Post that 49% of the complaints reported to the military were from conscripts, while 29% were reported by career soldiers.
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