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Is being Arab Israel's criteria for rape?
Sherine Tadros, Al-Jazeera blog
21 July 2010
Consider this scenario – a girl meets a guy while out shopping. They make eye contact, they flirt, he tells her he’s a business mogul about to close on a billion dollar deal. she’s the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, he’s been searching for her all his life, etc etc, you know the drill.
They go to a nearby building and have sex. Both adults, both consenting.
Days pass and the girl realises she wasn’t the woman of his dreams and he is never going to call her - in fact his name is Bob and he works at the newsagents around the corner.
The girl then proceeds to file a criminal complaint against the guy for rape and indecent assault. The judge, while admitting the sex was consensual, accuses the guy of misrepresenting himself and sentences him to 18 months in prison for rape.
Incredible right? But what if what the guy "misrepresented" was not his feelings, his job or his wealth, but rather his ethnic background – would that make it understandable or fair?
Rape by 'deception'
According to Israeli law, the answer to that question appears to be 'yes'.
And it's the reason Sabbar Kashur, a 30-year-old Palestinian, was this week given an 18-month sentence for 'rape by deception'.
The scenario is exactly the same as I outlined above, except what Sabbar lied about was being Arab and the girl he had sex with was Jewish.
Handing down the verdict, Tzvi Segal, one of three judges on the case, said that although not "classical rape by force", the woman would not have consented if she had not believed the man was Jewish.
The sex therefore was obtained under false pretences, the judges said. "If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated," they added.
Some may argue that a woman agreeing to have sex (hours after meeting a guy) on the top floor of a nearby building may not send the right message that she's interested in a long term relationship. Nevertheless, lets put that aside.
'What if ...'
It's not the first time Israel has convicted someone for rape by deception (in 2008 Zvi Sleiman was convicted for pretending to be a housing ministry official and promising to exchange housing benefits for sex). But this does appear to be the first time the determining factor is race.
As Gideon Levy, an Israeli commentator, said after the ruling: "I would like to raise just one question with the judge. What if the guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not."
Israel claims to be the only true democracy in the Middle East. The rule of law, it argues, is the backbone of this democracy and is upheld by the court system.
20% of Israel’s population – almost 2 million people – are Arabs like Sabbar Kashur. Where were his rights? This case, like so many others where Arabs are stripped of the rights and privileges afforded to other citizens of Israel, highlights a major flaw in Israel’s claim to be a democracy.
If the definition of democracy is equal rights for all people then surely the selective application of the law against Arabs is just plain racism.
Israel jails Arab for 'deceit rape'
22 July 2010
An Arab living in Israel has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for having consensual sex with an Israeli woman who apparently believed he was Jewish.
Sabbar Kashur was sentenced on Monday after being convicted of "rape by deception".
According to the court, Kashur met a Jewish woman in Jerusalem in 2008 and introduced himself as a single Jew looking for a serious relationship. The two had sex in a nearby building.
The woman filed a criminal complaint after learning Kashur was Arab, not Jewish.
Prosecutors acknowledged that the sex was consensual, but accused him of misrepresenting himself.
The court agreed, sentencing Kashur despite acknowledging that his case was not "a classical rape by force".
"If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated," the judges said in their ruling.
"The court must protect the public interest against sophisticated criminals with a smooth tongue and sweet talking, who can lead astray innocent victims."
The Israeli criminal code mentions "deceit" as a possible aggravating factor in sexual assault cases and the verdict in Kashur's case is not the first time an Israeli court has sentenced a man for "rape by deception," according to several Israeli lawyers.
The most notable case was in 2008, when Israel's high court of justice upheld the conviction of Zvi Sleiman, a man who impersonated a housing ministry official and promised women apartments and benefits in exchange for sex.
A rape conviction sentence could be upheld, the court ruled, when "a person lies does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman".
Several other men have been convicted of "rape by deception" since that ruling.
But the Kashur case appears to be the first time a person's race has been used as the determining factor.
"In this case, the ruling seems to say that if a 'reasonable' Jewish woman knew a man was an Arab, then she would not make love to him," Abeer Baker, an attorney with Adalah, an organisation that advocates for Arab rights in Israel, said.
Baker called it a "dangerous precedent," saying it would allow the Israeli government to interfere in the private lives of citizens.
"It's interfering in a very intimate, personal decision," she said. "That should be made between two people. The court should not interfere."
Similar laws have been controversial in other countries, as well. A man in the United States was convicted in 2007 of impersonating his brother in order to have sex with his girlfriend. That conviction was overturned on appeal, though, after an appellate court ruled that rape laws apply only to non-consensual sex.
Kashur's case also highlights the open hostility with which many Israeli Jews view mixed relationships with Arabs, who make up one-fifth of the population of Israel.
A poll conducted in 2007 by Israel's Geocartography Institute found that more than 50 per cent of Israeli Jews thought marrying an Arab was "equal to national treason". Jews are legally forbidden to intermarry in Israel.
The Sunday Times reported in 2009 on a squad of "vigilantes" in the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev. The group has patrolled the streets for more than a decade looking for mixed couples.
And in 2009, the town of Petah Tikva established a team of counsellors and psychologists to "rescue" Jewish women from relationships with Arab men.
The Israeli daily Maariv reported in February that Tel Aviv had launched a similar programme.
Gideon Levy, a liberal columnist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said the "rape by deception" law would have been applied differently if a Jewish man had sex with an Arab woman under false pretences.
"Would he have been convicted of rape?" Levy asked. "The answer is: of course not."
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