In Israel on Monday, an Arab man was convicted of rape for engaging in consensual sex with an Israeli woman (retains anonymity) who thought he was Jewish. It wasn’t a misunderstanding: He did, in fact, deceive her, though the extent and importance of the deception is being hotly contested.
Al Jazeera reports:
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.
Other reports, like this one over at the Telegraph, claim that the deception was by implication, as Sabbar merely introduced himself by the name “Daniel.” Personally, I’m curious about how she believed him enough to have sex with him, but then figured that she had better check out that back-story about his ethnicity (suspicious sex?).
More importantly, though the court determined that the sex was consensual, it also references the Israeli criminal code, which lists “deceit” as an aggravating factor in sexual assault cases. One of the judges, Tzvi Segal, said of the woman: “If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” and as such it took place under false pretenses. She added that it’s the law’s responsibility to protect women from “smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price,” and further said:
When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims – actual and potential – to protect their wellbeing. Otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled, while paying only a tolerable and symbolic price.
Paternalism aside, the statement and sentiments only highlight the discriminatory nature of the ruling, which is predicated upon a 2008 case wherein a man was convicted of impersonating a housing ministry official and promising women apartments and benefits in exchange for sex. In that case, the high court said that a rape conviction could be upheld if “a person lies [or] does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman.” That statement alone has considerable weight, since the application of the prior ruling as precedent means that to a “reasonable” Israeli woman, Sabbar’s Palestinian descent would preclude sex. And while that may or may not be true on the ground, the court’s reification of it is bold and dangerous, especially since race is the deciding factor.
There is legitimate debate about the role of deception in rape cases, though other, similar cases have resulted in acquittals thus far. This case is particularly interesting because it calls into question the judgment of consenting adults and the extension of consent into racial preference when both parties were clearly of (mostly) sound mind. Still, it would trivialize tensions in Israel to compare this case to priors, wherein a man impersonated his twin brother to have sex with her wife, and a Syrian pilot walked free from a Swansea court after telling a woman that sex would cure her of an STI. The assumptions here are undoubtedly charged and offensive, and though the man’s deception, whatever it was, is disgusting and reprehensible, human rights lawyer Leah Tsemel says:
It is very well known that Israeli-Palestinians living in Israel disguise themselves. You change your accent and you change your dress because if you look like an Arab you face harassment. If you want to enter a pub, you’d better not look like an Arab and if you want to have sex with an Israeli girl, you had better not look like an Arab.
For all of its lofty goals of protecting innocent women, the court ruling has left Israeli legal experts and citizens disquieted and uncomfortable.