Yalla Peace: The Katsav verdict and Arab gloating

In the Arab world the oppression and rape of women is not always considered an offense but a male right.

katsav enters court 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
katsav enters court 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Many in the Arab and Muslim world are gloating at the news of the conviction of former president Moshe Katsav on charges of rape and sexual harassment. To them, it is proof of Israel’s corruption and helps them maintain their campaign for Palestinian justice and point fingers at the country without being in the crosshairs of world opinion themselves. Clean and clear blame. Proof that Israel is bad.
The Katsav headlines, they claim, show how corrupt Israel is and how uncorrupt the Arab world is. That’s far from true, of course.
The Arab world has always used Israel as a distraction for the public from its regimes’ own corruption. When Saddam Hussein launched unprovoked wars or persecuted minorities and became the target of Western anger and military assault, he wrapped himself tight in the Palestinian cause. Many Arab tyrants have used Palestinian suffering similarly.
The truth is that the Katsav conviction actually shines a bright spotlight on the corruption in the Arab world, corruption that, unlike in Israel, goes unpunished in most Arab countries.
How great would it be if a court in an Arab country, or even in a Muslim country where laws are held in such alleged high esteem, were to announce the conviction of an Arab tyrant or dictator the way Israel’s prosecutors have taken on Katsav?
KATSAV WAS convicted for sex crimes, while sadly in the Arab world the oppression and rape of women is not always considered a crime, but a male right. And when women protest, they are punished and sometimes killed. There are laws to protect male abuse of women, laws dubbed “honor crimes.”
The truth is the Katsav prosecution is yet another example of how Israel, despite its occupation and unfair treatment of the Palestinians, is a much more legally just nation than any other in the region.
For all the claims by those in the Arab world that the Palestinians deserve justice, there is very little real justice in their own countries.
That’s not to say that there are no crimes in Israel or that the country is right in its obstinate refusal to recognize Palestine as a state without extracting ridiculously unfair and unjust concessions. But there are lessons from Israel that many in the Arab world could learn. And this is one of them.
THE REAL tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that issues of justice become political. Real crimes in our own backyard as Arabs are hidden or brushed aside as if they do not exist.
We have lost the sense of true justice, the principle that a crime is a crime regardless of how it might impact a political environment or a political conflict.
I wonder how many presidents or kings in Arab countries would face such accusations. My guess is the prosecutors or witnesses in such cases would be silenced. The media would not be permitted to publish such heresy. Newspapers reporting it would be shut down. Anyone in the Arab public caught repeating the charges would be jailed or worse. Instead of shining a light on the criminals in power, those crying for justice would be punished.
And that’s a tragedy for civil rights in the Arab and Muslim world. Because until they can prosecute a corruption case of such similar magnitude, they cannot claim to be better than Israel.
That kind of justice is the justice that all Arabs and Muslims should strive to achieve – prosecuting anybody who violates the rule of law, regardless of who they are.
The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com