Right From Wrong: Sexual-harassment hypocrisy?

The exception to this rule, it turns out, is a woman whose accusations could cause problems for the only candidate who poses a threat to Netanyahu’s continued premiership.

By
March 7, 2019 22:11
Leader of Blue and White party Benny Gantz speaks on February 28, 2019

Leader of Blue and White party Benny Gantz speaks on February 28, 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

 
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When Israeli ex-pat Navarone (Nava) Jacobs came forward on February 27 with a Facebook post about having been sexually victimized by Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz some 40 years ago, the only person who seemed to respond without stammering was the alleged perpetrator himself.

Indeed, while the Israeli #MeToo movement barely blinked over the allegations – and said that there is “no corroborating evidence” to back up Jacobs’s account – Gantz immediately filed a NIS 500,000 ($142,000) libel suit against her at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court. The suit claims that Jacobs’s accusations are “false from start to finish,” and that she “acted at the behest of, or with the help of political parties that seek to humiliate and discredit Gantz,” ahead of the April 9 Knesset elections.

In her social-media post, the New York-based Jacobs, who has been living in the United States since 1980, wrote that when she was a 14-year-old freshman at Hakfar Hayarok boarding school in Ramat Hasharon, Gantz — who was 17 or 18 at the time and a senior at the same institution — cornered her in the cowshed and exposed himself.

According to Jacobs, although Gantz did not touch her, because a mutual friend intervened, “For many years, I remembered the terrifying and threatening eyes when he looked at me and held his erect penis in front of me… Everyone sees Benny Gantz, the man and the commander, and I see Benny Gantz the pervert, who did not take pity on a frightened little girl.”

The Blue and White Party promptly released a statement calling Jacobs a liar and blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party for “political incitement [that] has reached a new low.”

Likud denied being behind the revelations, though Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev confirmed that Jacobs had contacted her office weeks before going public, and requested that a staff member connect her with a reporter from Channel 12. From there, Jacobs and the reporter spoke directly. Nevertheless, neither Channel 12 nor any other media outlet ran the story until after Gantz issued his denial. Hmmm.

Once it was out there, however, it aroused skepticism across the political spectrum. This is not merely because the Left is engaged in a concerted campaign to criminalize Netanyahu and replace him with Gantz. Nor is it due solely to the Right’s belief in the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

A few other factors cast doubt on Jacobs’s veracity and motives.

In the first place, while Hakfar Hayarok CEO Kobi Naveh confirmed that Gantz and Jacobs had indeed attended the school at the same time, he said that Gantz – whom he called a “person of morals and integrity” – had never given “even the slightest indication of sexual misconduct” during his time there.

“We are very proud of him,” Naveh added.

Of Jacobs, on the other hand, Naveh said that “no one remembers why she left” after the ninth grade, her only year at the school, and she never reported the incident anyway.

Secondly, though Jacobs continues to declare that her reason for going after Gantz has nothing to do with politics, and that she won’t even be voting in the upcoming elections (as Israel does not have an absentee-ballot system), her Facebook page is full of praise for Netanyahu. In addition, her cover photo is of US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania.

Third, in a November 29, 2017 post – possibly relating to NBC’s ouster of Today host Matt Lauer – Jacobs wrote: “A famous television broadcaster was fired from his job today in the United States on charges of sexual harassment. It is unbelievable and wrong that when a young woman comes with no proof and just says that she was harassed without a clear sentence, without checking it out, they throw a person out of his work and create a stigma around him. It is simply delusional. Any woman who decides to take revenge for something will come with a story!!”

Naturally, then, many observers consider her to be unreliable, at best, and possibly unstable.

WHEN JACOBS WAS asked by every print and broadcast journalist who has interviewed her in the past week why she waited so many decades before complaining – and said nothing in 2011, when Gantz was appointed IDF chief of staff – Jacobs said, “When you’re talking about sexual harassment, you don’t know how it’s going to erupt … You can’t explain it if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

When he became IDF chief of staff, I also felt sick, but when a man’s going to become prime minister, those are two different things.”

Jacobs, who has wept convincingly during a number of interviews, has also said that she did not report the incident when it happened because she was ashamed. “I am the victim here,” she told Army Radio on February 28. “I stand by my truth, even if I stand alone.”
She did not “stand alone” for too long, however. Soon after the story broke, another allegation against Gantz surfaced.

A man who attended Hakfar Hayarok school in the 1970s told Israel Hayom that his seven-year-old sister had been similarly victimized by Gantz when she came there on a family visit.

The accuser, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Jacobs’s story spurred him to come forward, because it indicated “habitual behavior” on Gantz’s part.

Gantz denied the second allegation as forcefully as he had the first, and accused Regev’s office of orchestrating it as well. He also filed a NIS 1 million lawsuit against Israel Hayom.

Nevertheless, former Israel Radio and Yediot Aharonot reporter Yehudit (Judith) Yehezkely, too came to her defense, telling The Jerusalem Post that “her good friend” Jacobs is “trustworthy” and “believable.”

Yehezkely said that she had warned Jacobs of the backlash that would follow if she went public against Gantz, but her friend decided to release her tale of sexual-harassment anyway.

That’s the #MeToo spirit. You know, the one that has been conspicuously missing from the rest of the Israeli women’s movement these days. The one that would be riotous if Jacobs had recounted being traumatized in her youth by, say, Netanyahu.

Channel 20 co-host Yinon Magal, a different member of the Right, can attest to that. Magal was forced to resign from a short-lived stint as a Jewish Home Party MK in 2015, when a number of women accused him on Facebook of sexual harassment.

The allegations came from employees of the Walla news website, where Yinon served as editor-in-chief. The complaint, which led Magal to apologize and then quit the Knesset, was about a remark that he had made months earlier to Walla journalist Racheli Rottner during an office going-away party, prior to his entering the political arena. According to Rottner, Magal leaned over and said, “Now I can tell you, because I’m no longer your boss: the entire time that we worked together, I had the hots for you… Did you also feel the sexual tension?”

Whether Magal and so many others who have lost their livelihood over such exchanges deserve to be put through the professional and personal wringer is disputable. Also a matter of debate is the statute of limitations on a complaint. But not for #MeToo activists and fellow travelers, whose credentials state that all females claiming to have been sexually victimized – in the broadest interpretation of the word – should be believed regardless of the circumstances, no matter how much time has passed. Period.

The exception to this rule, it turns out, is a woman whose accusations could cause problems for the only candidate who poses a threat to Netanyahu’s continued premiership.

Nothing like celebrating International Women’s Day with a little ladylike hypocrisy.

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