Yacimovich defends victims after Sagi quits Labor

Sexual harassment victims cannot be forced to come forward, Labor leader tells primary panel, advocates equality in Labor.

Shelly Yacimovich at Labor Central Committee 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Shelly Yacimovich at Labor Central Committee 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Leaders cannot tolerate sexual harassment, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich told female party members on Friday, days after former OC Military Intelligence Brig.-Gen. (res.) Uri Sagi dropped out of the Labor primary over sexual harassment allegations.
“There’s a moral standard, not just a criminal standard. As leaders, our standard is higher than criminal law, even if it hurts us politically,” Yacimovich told a panel of female Labor primary candidates in Tel Aviv.
According to Yacimovich, most women have experienced something on the scale from harassment to rape.
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The Labor leader came to the defense of women who are sexually harassed, assaulted or raped but decide not to seek justice through the criminal system, “even if it sometimes opposes our desire to bring justice,” explaining that they are often afraid of the reactions of the people surrounding them.
“She knows she’ll face hell if she [comes forward] and be accused even though she’s the victim,” Yacimovich said of women who are sexually harassed or assaulted. “We can’t force the victim to do something she does not want.
She knows what it’s like to not have control over her situation.”
A woman approached Yacimovich last week and told her Sagi sexually harassed her nearly 40 years ago. On Wednesday afternoon, Labor sent out a message that Sagi was withdrawing from the primary for “reasons of family health.”
Announcing his resignation on Thursday, Sagi lamented, “I was told there are rumors and I found myself in a situation where I cannot respond, because I don’t know who said what and what their motives are.”
“It is important for me to say this today, this week, and in front of all of you,” Yacimovich told the audience, hinting at Sagi’s departure from the race.
Yacimovich discussed feminism, saying she adopted the ideology at a young age, when her eighth grade class was split by gender – boys to agriculture class, girls to home economics – and was told by a teacher that a woman’s job is to do laundry, cook and raise children.
“I remember it like it was yesterday, the feeling of injustice when I saw the list. I left the class, and refused to come back,” Yacimovich stated.
The Labor leader emphasized the importance of feminism as something that touches “everyone, of all social classes,” pointing out that while women have made great strides in recent decades, there is still work to be done.
Friday’s conference of female primary candidates was organized by 2011 social protest leader Stav Shaffir, who is running for a slot on the Labor list for the next Knesset.
Eighteen women participated in the panel, including former MK Nadia Hilu and Kadima MK Nino Abesadze, who switched to Labor two weeks ago. Each candidate introduced herself and told the audience who is the woman who most influenced her. The most popular answer was “my mother.”