In March, it looked as if Israel’s sexual harassment law was finally baring its teeth when a Jerusalem court convicted army general and former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordecai of sexually assaulting two women, one of whom had been a soldier under his command. But it was too soon for Israeli feminists to rejoice: as LILITH was going to press. Associated Press reported that a panel of three judges gave Mordecai merely an 18-month suspended sentence for his crime. According to AP, one judge—a woman—thought he should have gone to jail. But the other two, both men, said that they took into account Mordecai’s public achievements. His supporters, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency earlier reported, had objected that such acts with which Mordecai was charged—which included forcing the soldier to walk back to the army base alone at night after she refused his advances—”were a norm in the Israeli army and political circles for decades.”
Previous LILITH reporting has also mentioned the growing public awareness of sex slavery in Israel, after a highly critical Amnesty International report last year catapulted the subject into embarrassing international headlines. As a result, last July Knesset member Yael Dayan helped push through a law that makes trafficking in humans a crime. In March, the Israeli news magazine. The Jerusalem Report ran a story about Victoria, a young woman from Moldova who, after first being trapped into prostitution, was then jailed by the Israeli government because she was an illegal alien. With the backing of a Tel Aviv-based advocacy group for illegal foreign workers, Victoria is now suing both her procurers and, in an unprecedented move, the Israeli government.
The fact that Israeli lawyers are helping one brave victim fight back, both civilly and criminally, is of tremendous importance,” wrote activist Phyllis Chesler in the current issue of Bridges: The Jewish Feminist journal. “Such lawsuits do not yet exist in Saudi, Egypt, Abu Dabi, or Pakistan, or further away in Russia and Thailand, where similar trafficking is sickeningly rife.”