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Rape deception charge is racist

Sabar_Kashour_Arab_rapeA guy talks his way into a girl’s bed by claiming he’s something he isn’t. Who hasn’t heard that story before? Isn’t it just another – melancholy – aspect of the human condition? Well, in Israel these days this sort of escapade is not just a slice of life, it’s a ticket to the Big House, writes Judy Mandelbaum.

This is what 30-year-old Arab Israeli Saber Kashour found out earlier this month. Earlier this month, the young married father of two was sentenced to 18 months in prison, a 30-month conditional sentence, and $2,800 in compensation for “having defrauded and thereby raped and committed indecent acts upon a Jewish young woman, who only yielded to him because she thought he was a Jew.”

According to the Israeli court, back in September 2008 Kashour met an Israeli Jewish woman while leaving a convenience store in Jerusalem. They came to talking and he told her in Hebrew that his name was Dudu (his actual nickname, which is usually Jewish), that he was single and interested in a long-term relationship.

Just 15 minutes later the couple - who were both 28 at the time - engaged in consensual sexual relations on the roof of a nearby house. “After having carried out his scheme, he departed from the building and left her naked, on the top floor of that building.”

It was only weeks later, after the woman learned that her one-time lover was really an Arab, that she called the police and accused Kashour of rape. During the trial, she first claimed that he had used force against her during intercourse, but then told the judge that she had agreed to have sex with Kashour because she believed he was Jewish.

Eventually, Kashour agreed to a plea bargain. The judge’s ruling: the Arab was guilty of rape and indecent activities as the result of fraud.

“If she hadn’t thought the accuser was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” Judge Zvi Segal stated in his argument. “The Court must protect the public interest against sophisticated criminals with a smooth tongue and sweet talking, who can lead astray innocent victims at the unbearable price of the sanctity of their bodies and souls.”

Both Kashour – who has already spent the last two years under house arrest – and other Arab Israelis are outraged. In an interview with CNN, Kashour asked: “If I told the woman I was a pilot and later she finds out that I was not a pilot, then she goes and says that ‘He raped me’? If I told her that I was a millionaire and it turns out that I am a poor man, then she goes and says that ‘He raped me’?” Or as Salon’s Tracy Clarke-Flory asked a few days ago, “How do you draw the line between sexual seduction and fraud?”

Today Kashour, who has no criminal record, formally appealed the sentence. According to his petition, "It appears that we, in Israel, would also feel a sense of unease had we heard that a Jew was convicted of raping a Christian woman abroad - even though they engaged in consensual sex - just because he did not reveal his Jewish roots.”

Moreover, the petition states, the mentality behind the ruling represents "an outdated, patriarchal worldview whereby only a man can enjoy sex, while the woman cannot enjoy it at all and would only consent in exchange for a promise of a relationship, and only as long as this relationship involves a man of identical ethnicity."

Outdated and patriarchal is right - not to mention stark raving racist. In the 1980s, Israeli-American firebrand Meir Kahane unsettled average Israelis by proposing to make sexual relations between Israeli Jews and gentiles a criminal offence.

Nothing ever came of his efforts, but the way things seem to be heading in Israel it wouldn’t surprise me if this idea reappeared on the agenda one day soon. It looks as if some people are determined to prove that Judaism really is a "race" after all. Thanks for nothing, Judge Segal!

Aside from the distasteful racist overtones, the judge's distinctly un-Solomaic decision may represent a step backward in the struggle to bring genuine perpetrators of violence against women – and they are legion – to justice.

As an editorial in Haaretz this week reminds us, “Kashour's conviction, in light of the circumstances that have been made public, is likely to harm the critical struggle to convict and punish rapists to the full extent of the law. For the act of rape, it is worth keeping in mind, is not sex; it is sexual violence. The problem with the Kashour case - on top of the issues of racism - is the blurring of this significant border.”

Don’t get me wrong: Mr. Kashour is not entirely “innocent” in this matter, and as far as I’m concerned he deserves everything his wife has been throwing at him.

And yet, I would like to keep the police and courts as far as possible away from my courtship activities, thank-you very much. If everyone who is guilty of making amorous advances under less-than-forthcoming pretences can be charged with “rape,” prosecutors would be swamped investigating on-line dating services alone.

Women might as well stay home and only venture out when their husbands and brothers give them their permission. Hmm, now where have I heard that before…?

Judy Mandelbaum, a regular contributor to Open Salon and other blogs, is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Drawing on her years of experience in overseas development and equality issues, this compulsive writer and backpacker is always on the lookout for the stories that tell us who we really are and not just what we would like to believe about ourselves.

Image: Gil Yohanan via



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