Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grappling with the Katsav verdict

December 30, 2010 - 4:48 PM by David

Does today’s conviction of former president Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape as well sexual harrassment and committing indecent acts show Israel in a positive or negative light?

After all it’s not everyday that a leading public figure is found by judges to be a criminal, guilty of heinous acts. It doesn’t cast a glowing light on the state of our leaders, the neanderthal views toward women by a certain segment of Katsav’s generation of males, or our ability to suss out the bad apples in the barrel.

On the other hand, Katsav’s conviction is a testament to Israel’s vibrant democratic process, in which even the most powerful in the land are not above the law. Most reactions to Thursday’s court findings commented on this dichotomy.

While calling it “a sad day for Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also said that “the court today delivered two clear messages, one being that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and the second the right of every woman to be in control of her own body,”

The state prosecutor Ronit Amiel also referred to the sadness surrounding the event but asserted that the verdict represented a “badge of honor for Israeli democracy.”

And Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said at a swearing-in ceremony for new judges that the verdict “demonstrates the value of equality before the law.”

Speaking at the same ceremony, President Shimon Peres said: “There are not two States of israel. There is only one State of Israel. There are not two justice systems in Israel. There is only one justice system. There are not two types of citizens in Israel. There is only one type of citizen, and all are equal before the law.”

And the Katsav case is not the only example of the good, bad and ugly of Israeli society. Since 2008, courts have indicted former PM Ehud Olmert for fraud, sentenced former finance minister Avraham Hirschson to five years imprisonment for theft and money laundering, and convicted former health minister Shlomo Benizri of taking bribes.

While we Israelis feel the bile and nausea over the realization that our former president committed depraved acts in the very halls which represent the country’s independence, we can also stand tall amid the legal process that brought him to justice. It was indeed, the worst and the best of days.

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