Sunday 12 September 2010

Zionism, chauvinism and rape culture

For months, feminists have been trying to untangle the complex knot of racism, imperialism and misogyny that is the Sabbar Kashur case, in which an Arab man was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for 'rape by deception' by a Jerusalem district court after he supposedly tricked a Jewish woman into having sex with him by posing as a fellow Jew. That an Israeli court could convict on such a charge - and that an Israeli woman could file such a claim in the first place - caused international outcry, seeming to illustrate a poisonous culture of prejudice against those of Arab descent. Compared to such a clear-cut case of racism, how could the disdainful treatment of one rape claimant by the press be of any significance whatsoever? Fresh details emerged this week, however, that seemed to throw an entirely new light on the case.
Extracts from the unsealed testimony of the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, reveal that she initially alleged that Kushur had forced himself upon her, leaving her naked and bleeding in a doorway, but the charge was changed to one of rape by deception following a plea bargain after the woman's sexual history was revealed. The victim, it is claimed, had alleged rape on several other occasions after being subjected to a lifetime of violent sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father. She had worked as a prostitute, had fled to a women's shelter, and was so traumatised and bewildered that the prosecution were worried about putting her on the stand to face-cross examination about her past.
This changes much about the story – but nothing about its racist ramifications. Even if the victim herself could be conclusively shown to have told the entire truth about her experiences, this would not for a second change the fact that the verdict given by the Jerusalem district court was scored with ugly cultural assertions about race, religion and fear of miscegenation.
The judge in the case declared that the sex was consensual, but that the woman never would have agreed to it had she known that Kushur wasn't Jewish. He added that the state of Israel had a duty to protect victims from "smooth-tongued criminals" who sought to defile "the sanctity of their bodies and souls". It speaks volumes about the relationship between racism, sexism and imperialism in Israel that a district court was quite prepared to convict on the basis that an Arab had defiled a Jewish woman's bodily 'sanctity' simply by putting his penis inside her, but unprepared to countenance the notion that a woman who had been abused by men throughout her life might have been telling the truth when she claimed to have been brutalised yet again.
...(read the rest at New Statesman)


  1. You are right that the racism of the sentence still stands - he was after all charged for sex without declaring that he was an Arab.

    As for the notion that he should have been tried in full for the original offence - I think its time for a reality check. I mean lookk, a jewish woman accuses an Arab of violent rape in Israel - even patriarchal notions of ownerhship would stimulate the authorities to push for the maximum possible sentence if their was a realistic chance.The fact is that the prosecution decided not to was because her testimony was "confused and contradictory". And this was in a situation that was already one person's word against another. In the absence of proof beyond doubt an acquittal is not a sign of "rape culture" but the only legitimate outcome.

  2. I am certain that the court would not have convicted him if he had been Jewish. Plus, in this case, I am not sure I would believe the victim's story (if I were on a jury) and that is something I don't say lightly.

    But it does raise the general question of men who lie to women they want to have sex with. It's bad, but is it criminal?

  3. So in this woman's distorted world is consensual sex with a Muslim Arab worse than being raped by a famous Jew?

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