October 29, 2007
No winners in dragging on the Katsav case
The High Court of Israel announced that on Tuesday it will hold a hearing to review six petitions against the plea bargain former Israeli President Moshe Katsav made with the government regarding a criminal probe for his alleged sexual misconduct and other crimes. The Association of Women’s Support Groups in Israel as well as other organizations have been furious over a decision in late June by Israeli Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to offered to drop all charges and suspend any prison time for Katsav. Mazuz offered the deal citing a lack of evidence in the case, on the condition that Katsav would plead guilty to sexual harassment and resign his post as president.
Katsav, who had originally defended himself against the allegations of sexual misconduct, was mocked in the world media over the case. He was also embarrassed for pleading guilty in the Iranian Jewish community in the U.S.—the group of his main supporters, as he hails from an Iranian Jewish ancestry. My article in the L.A. Jewish Journal covered the shock Southern California Iranian Jews felt after Katsav agreed to plead guilty and resigned his post. Katsav’s ascension to the presidency eight years ago marked the first time an Iranian Jew was elected to such a high political office in any government. The achievement served as a source of pride for many Iranian Jews worldwide. Yet the community really turned their backs on Katsav after this scandal broke out.
Many average folks and other Jews are unaware of the tremendous impact shame and embarrassment have on an individual living in the Iranian Jewish community. Since the Iranian Jewish community is so tight knitt and close, everyone is held to a high standard not to let any of their friends and family down. In a way, many Iranian Jews look down upon anyone from among their ranks for their shortcomings and this rejection can almost be more painful than any kind of physical punishment. I can say for certain that the embarrassment and rejection Katsav has encountered from his own community must be unbearable, especially after he rose to such a high ranking in Israeli society. Now I have not passed judgment on Katsav regarding this case nor am I a supporter of Katsav. Yet as a neutral journalist, I can say for certain that the Israeli groups’ decisions to drag on Katsav’s case in the High Court is not beneficial to anyone. If they want Katsav to go to jail, he’s already suffering a worse isolation after being dejected by many of his friends and supporters in the Iranian Jewish community. If they want Katsav to suffer financially, he has already lost his government pension after pleading guilty and his entire savings to pay for this attorneys. Lastly, he has received immense and irreversible damage to his reputation. Their decisions to continue fighting this case only takes up the High Court’s precious time on a ridiculous case where the alleged wrongdoer has been punished and continues to suffer in the public eye.
Instead of beating a dead horse in this instance, those who are upset with Katsav’s plea bargain should channel their energies into something productive. For instance they could begin an educational campaign to help end sexual harassment in the work place and in government. Worst of all, keeping this scandal alive in the media is only serving to maintain the black eye Israel received to its image in the world. Israel’s enemies like the Iranian mullahs and Hamas are cheering at this infighting among Jews and they are pleased to see that the Israeli society’s real focus has been turned away from them. The purpose of plea bargains are to expedite justice and to allow the court to move onto other pressing issues, so the High Court in this instance should reject the calls for the plea bargain to be set aside and move on!