(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz warned that sweeping, generalized and destructive criticism of the law enforcement agencies could deter them from acting, thereby threatening the rule of law in Israel.
Mazuz also warned that the delegitimization of the decision to investigate the complaint against Kadima MK Haim Ramon for allegedly forcibly kissing a female soldier could discourage women from complaining to police when they are victims of sexual harassment.
Mazuz was speaking at a session of the Knesset Law Committee.
"Intimidating the police investigators and the law enforcement system is dangerous because it is not something that is restricted to one specific case or another," said Mazuz. "If we reach the point where the police are afraid to investigate and the prosecution afraid to indict powerful people, it will be the beginning of the end of law enforcement in Israel."
Mazuz was talking about the criticism and the allegations of a conspiracy against Ramon after it emerged that the prosecution had failed to hand over to the MK's defense attorney transcripts of conversations that the police had taped during its investigation.
"One can criticize the police, the state prosecution and the attorney-general but whoever does so must distinguish between criticism of a given decision or act, and criticism which delegitimizes the entire law enforcement system," said Mazuz.
He added that the police and the state prosecution had not tried to cover up the failure regarding the wiretapped conversations, but, on the contrary, had investigated how it had happened and published their findings.
He made a parallel protest regarding the criticism that has been leveled at the prosecution's decision to investigate the complaint against Ramon and to put him on trial on charges of committing an indecent act.
"The decision has triggered a public and media campaign to delegitimize the very decision to enforce the law in the area of sexual harassment," said Mazuz. "This broad public campaign threatens to cause us to regress many years in the battle to raise public consciousness about this issue and the importance of dealing with it. In Israeli society, which has a male-centered, machoistic culture, the question of sexual harassment was not considered one that had to be addressed. It was treated with tolerance. But in the past 10-20 years, thanks to systematic and consistent effort, public awareness has greatly increased regarding the importance of respecting the individual's will and autonomy."
These achievements have been imperiled by the alleged campaign, continued Mazuz. "They will result in a situation in which the woman who has been harmed by sexual harassment will ask herself, after she hears and reads [about the criticism of the Ramon case] what do I need it for? In essence, they are telling me to turn my back, bend my head, stay at home and not complainâ€¦This campaign 'encourages' women not to complain and avoid confrontation, and the confrontation is not an easy one. Every woman who complains goes through a process which isn't simple - socially, within the family, within society, within the environment, and, if it involves a public figure, in the media as well. I think it is important to encourage the individual to complain about every alleged crime. This is true for all crimes, and particularly true for this one."