A good friend of mine, Edva Naveh of Sha'arei Tikva in Samaria, made an interesting observation recently concerning the gang of Beduin youths who, according to their indictment, committed a series of rapes in the Galilee area. She was struck by reports in the Hebrew media - YNET, for instance - saying that the rapes were perpetrated as a form of nationalist vengeance against IDF operations in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Post headlined its March 1 report: "Police make new arrests in 'terrorist rape' case." Now if it's true that these were "terrorist rapes," Edva wondered why feminist organizations in Israel which devote themselves to combating rape, harassment and trafficking in women appear to have ignored the entire matter. These organizations also deal with sexual abuse, pay-scale disparities and other economic and social issues. Many have been active in protesting President Moshe Katsav's continued tenure, despite the fact that he's not been formerly charged. Haim Ramon's kissing episode also deeply disturbed the feminists - not to mention the rest of us. HOWEVER, Edva asked, why hasn't the feminist community addressed - or at the very least investigated - the matter of Jewish women allegedly being raped out of nationalist motivation? Millionaire Ofer Glazer and MK Yoram Marciano have been pilloried by them for reported sexual improprieties. Actor Rami Heuberger is being criticized. But the behavior of the young residents of Galilee has been largely ignored by the feminists. Where are the feminist voices of MKs Ruhama Avraham and Zahava Gal-On? Surely it can't be that "rape as resistance" is judged as being less of a crime than the standard criminal variety? What about humanitarian groups here and abroad which define themselves as liberal, left or progressive? They've been rightly vociferous in condemning rape used in the course of war, as in Bosnia, Rwanda, the Congo and Darfur. Why the apparent silence in this instance? Sociologists suggest that rapes carried out against the background of political violence are intended to show the affected men that they cannot even defend their women; that they are worthless. The tactic is used to fragment societies. HISTORIANS TELL us that during the American Civil War, in April 1863, Francis Lieber, a Columbia College professor, wrote instructions (promulgated by president Abraham Lincoln) in the code of military conduct. Article 44 stipulates: "All wanton violence committedâ€¦ all rapeâ€¦ of such [civilian] inhabitants, are prohibited under the penalty of death." Both Edva Naveh and I wonder whether Gal-On, Shulamit Aloni, Avraham and Shelly Yacimovich would support a similarly severe form of punishment for these young men, were they found guilty? Meanwhile, won't they, at the very least, speak out on the issue and stop ignoring it? Why the double standard? Why ignore a behavior pattern that is surely criminal and, if the reports prove accurate - and the defendants' words and actions shown on the news broadcasts seem to confirm police suspicions - would be an offshoot of the terror campaign that Arabs have practiced against Jews for over 80 years in the land? LET US consider some possibilities that explain the feminists' silence:
They are not convinced that the assertions are true. After all, the trial hasn't begun and the accused are innocent until proven otherwise.
On the other hand, no one has seen any solid evidence against Moshe Katsav, and yet demonstrations have been conducted outside his residence and demands made for his ouster.
Feminists might see protesting as inherently prejudicial given the low socioeconomic status of the Beduin accused.
But since when is socioeconomic status an excuse for feminist silence? Haredim (like those who live across the Green Line) don't seem to get a feminist pass because of their lack of social and economic wherewithal.
Maybe feminists do accept that the "occupation" - as they call it - was a contributing factor. Which gets us back to: Is sexual violence less of a crime even if, using the prevailing "progressive" feminist worldview, the rapes were impelled by an immoral, oppressive situation and carried out by a deprived population?
What seems to be at work here is an aberrant form of Israeli post-feminism: a sick twist on the "she asked for it" excuse - not because of being provocatively dressed, but because of the provocation of being a Jewess and representing the larger - "oppressive" - state.
LEFT-WINGERS have for years been promoting the theory that violence in Israeli society, and especially violence directed at women, is somehow connected with the IDF service of their husbands and boyfriends. The theory's proponents assume that the soldiers are either frustrated, or have become numbed by the force they must use against the civilian Arab population in the disputed territories. This pent-up anger is eventually released, the argument goes, at home against children, mothers and girlfriends.
This post-Zionist outlook has insinuated itself inside the feminist mindset. And when you mix radical feminism with an ultra-left view of the Arab-Israel conflict, I'm not surprised that the feminists are immobilized by reports that the Galilee rapes might have been motivated by an Arab animus toward Jews.
Whatever the reason for the silence of Israel's women's movement, it is a blemish on those parts of its ideology that mainstream Israel embraces, not to mention immoral from a Zionist standpoint.
It is still not too late for women's groups to raise their voices on behalf of rape victims of the Galilee. Let them do so.
The writer comments on political, cultural and media affairs and blogs at www.myrightword.blogspot.com