December 11: Katsav behind bars

Former president of Israel insists he is innocent. The president of Syria claims he is innocent and not responsible for horrible atrocities.

Sir, – Two stories on Page 1 of your December 8 newspaper, one next to the other, stand out in my mind (“‘You’re burying a man alive,’ says Katsav before beginning his first day behind bars,” “Assad: Only crazy leaders kill their own people”).
The former president of Israel insists he is innocent and finds it hard to believe that the court says he is a liar and a rapist. The president of Syria claims he is innocent and not responsible for the horrible atrocities that are occurring in the streets of his country.
The common denominator seems to be that being a president gives one the right to turn around events to suit his needs, and to hell with the truth.
Sir, – The Katsav circus reached a new low when reporters camped out in front of his yard and in front of the prison, like vultures, so as not to miss the final humiliation. To this day I feel that plenty of questions were not satisfactorily answered before the man was thrown to the carrion- pickers.
Many years ago in the US, Gerald Ford became president when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace over Watergate. Ford attracted “stupid” jokes. But he was smart enough, in a very controversial decision, to pardon Nixon. He said the United States didn’t deserve the humiliation that would accompany the jailing of a former a president. How wise he was.
Sir, – This is a very painful and embarrassing experience for the whole country, which many know could have been avoided.
The choice of a president solely by the members of the Knesset has major limitations. We would be wise to establish a more objective, non-political body to make such an important choice.
Sir, – Yehudit Collins’s op-ed piece “Seven years too long for Katsav” (Comment & Features, December 6) begins with a question: “Am I possibly the only woman in Israel... to still believe in his innocence?” I have been thinking that, too.
So many things have not been explained satisfactorily, including the very affectionate love letter, quoted in the newspaper, wherein one complainant assures Katsav that “someone” loves him, plus a lot of other sweet and suggestive comments dated long after the date of the “rape.”
Then there is the testimony of one of the complainants recounting her experience after entering Katsav’s hotel room, noting that he wore no pants. She went in, closing the door behind her.
What was she thinking? And the testimony wherein the woman describes being disrobed with one hand and restrained with the other. Katsav is no Schwarzenegger. A well placed kick while his hands were occupied would have gotten her out of his clutches. And what about yelling “Rape!” or “Help!” That would have done the trick.
I am sure that Moshe Katsav is not pure as the driven snow, but he isn’t a rapist.
In short, no, Yehudit Collins, you aren’t the only one.
Sir, – Yehudit Collins argues that Moshe Katsav’s sentence is disproportionate both because he may actually be innocent and because it could offer an incentive for aggrieved staff members to use blackmail by claiming rape.
If Katsav is innocent, then any sentence is too long. But suppose the court correctly found him guilty. He has done life-long harm to the women he violated.
As to Collins’s fear of blackmail, perhaps she means we should sentence famous, powerful men to lighter sentences. But that would be totally unjust and would lead such men to commit crimes with impunity.
Collins criticizes the women for taking too long to voice their complaints. Rape victims often seek to forget their horrible experience and move on. She admits that she “was not privy to the evidence the court heard,” yet she still says that the details of the women’s stories are “highly suspect and dubious.”
Rape victims want to avoid the type of criticism and questioning of their character that permeates Collins’s piece. They wish not to be “raped” a second time.
Contrary to Collins’s assertion, the court that tried Katsav almost certainly began with a subconscious assumption that a man with a previously spotless record must be innocent. The fact that the judges changed their minds is a strong indication of just how convincing the evidence must have been.
If anything, Katsav’s sentence is much too short in light of the suffering he inflicted on his victims and the embarrassment he caused the entire country.
Zichron Ya’acov
The writer is a retired US diplomat who, during the the latter part of his career, investigated allegations of sexual harassment brought by Department of State employees
A different light
Sir, – As my 19-year-old daughter read in shock your article “Gov’t ordered to explain why it still pays income supplements to kollel students” (December 8), she was very angry, wondering why “they” are always eligible for scholarships just by agreeing to sit and learn all day while she and we must beg, borrow and steal to pay her tuition.
It so saddens me that something as important as Torah learning has been given a “bad rap.”
Back in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe, there were awesome yeshivot and academies. There were very high standards of admission. The communities were in full acceptance and shared the financial burden of supporting these Torah scholars, who gave back to their communities and to Judaism at large.
To me, acceptance as a full-time kollel student should have the same strict admission standards as Harvard, Yale and the Technion. Worthy candidates should be able to pursue full-time studies and receive generous stipends to enable them to live appropriately before giving back to their communities.
I yearn to see the day when not just those in the small, tight-knit Torah communities, but all my children and their peers refer to a brilliant Torah scholar with as much enthusiasm as they do to an investment banker, a physicist, an engineer and a computer genius.
Holocaust studies Sir, – We have just learned that Sheldon Adelson gave a large sum of money to Yad Vashem, which focuses on teaching the lessons of the Holocaust (“Adelson donates $25m. to Yad Vashem,” December 8).
Germany has spent a great deal of money teaching Holocaust history to its citizens. But perhaps teaching is not enough (“Anti-Semitism among Left and Right grows in Germany,” December 5). Maybe Yad Vashem should use this money to explore psychological aspects of what Jews and Judaism stand for, and why there is Jew hatred.
This hatred has very little to do with economic factors. It has very little to do with political beliefs. Perhaps it has something to do with the ultimate of desires of people not to have any moral restraints, a desire to go back to paganism.
Yad Vashem now has a golden opportunity to really explore the non-Jewish mind and make a difference for the future.
Sir, – Some survivors of the Holocaust may be offended by the comparison between Pearl Harbor and the Shoah (“A day of infamy,” Comment & Features, December 7).
Pearl Harbor was an act of war while the Holocaust was a horrible crime. Infamy is too mild a definition for that crime.
East Brighton, Australia