i was wrong.
*a warning – this post contains graphic descriptions of rape that are potentially triggering. (and my deepest apologies to those who read this post before I put up this warning and were triggered)
You might remember that a while ago I wrote a post about the Palestinian man who was convicted of rape by deception. Well, it turns out that I, like many others, completely misunderstood what had happened. As Lisa Goldman explains, following the publication on September 3rd in Ha’Ir (The City), a weekly magazine distributed in Tel Aviv, of an article by Lital Grossman which included excerpts from the testimony of the woman who was raped (her testimony wasn’t published in any other media sources)…
A few weeks ago, a story about a Palestinian man convicted by an Israeli court of raping a Jewish woman made headlines around the world. Sabbar Kashur, a 30 year-old resident of East Jerusalem, was convicted not of rape by physical force, but rather of rape by deception: according to the verdict, he presented himself as a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious relationship, when he was in fact a married Muslim Arab looking for a quickie.
A very brief summary of the piece [in Ha’Ir] is as follows: the plaintiff, identified in the article as “B*,” was an emotionally traumatized woman in her 20s who had been raped by her father from the age of six. On the day she met Kashur, she was living in a women’s shelter. Before that, she had worked briefly as a prostitute and spent some time living on the streets. Kashur lured her into the building on Hillel Street with the claim that he worked there and wanted to show her his office; he then assaulted her and raped her, leaving her naked and bleeding – which is how the police discovered her.
B. was later hospitalized in a psychiatric institution, where the police questioned her about the rape, which led them to Kashur. During the trial, after it became apparent that B’s past, combined with her emotional state, made her a vulnerable witness, the prosecution came up with a plea bargain of rape by deception.
And she provides these excerpts from the testimony…
“At first he told me his name was Daniel (and not Dudu, the nickname his friends use, as Kashur claimed in interviews; LG)… he didn’t want to tell me his last name… after a few minutes he like said ‘Cohen.’” B. also said that “he asked me if I have a boyfriend and I said no, and then he asked me if I want to be his girlfriend. I asked him if he’s married, and he said no, and then I asked him if he has children and he told me he doesn’t have children.” Later in that conversation, according to the testimony, Kashur asked B. for a kiss. “He wanted me to give him a kiss on the cheek and then he gave one back.” According to B., they also exchanged phone numbers.
At this point, according to the testimony, Kashur invited B. to see where he works, supposedly in the building at 13 Hillel Street, outside of which they were standing. “He said he wanted to invite me for coffee and show me his workplace there,”said B. The reason she gave for agreeing to leave with an almost complete stranger was “I looked for someone to put my trust in… I know that strangers, you even don’t contact them… but because I was, like, as you know, when I told you that I came from a place where there’s no, I lived on the streets for a while too… I thought that if I am with him, I’ll feel safe, and I’ll have, I’ll be financially secure. I really, like, trusted him.”
Right after they entered the building, B. claims, Kashur began forcing himself on her. “We were in the staircase, like in the first stairs of the building, where we entered and then he asked for a hug… so I hugged him because he said that he wants a hug for warmth and love because he didn’t have a relationship in a while, like, a girlfriend… and when I felt that he was too clingy, I tried pushing him away, so he used force a little, like, got a little aggressive.”
According to B., Kashur wouldn’t let go. “He lifted my shirt and the bra and kissed my chest,” she said. But then, a blond woman entered the stairwell, and Kashur stopped. He decided to move from the stairs to the elevator. “When I was with him in the elevator he also touched me and started acting like some psychopath. I was so scared of him… I started sensing that something strange was happening, because I noticed that I wasn’t going to any workplace and I don’t see any coffee cups, and I don’t, then I began to panic and started like, I also screamed when it started happening.”
When they left the elevator on the top floor of the building, according to B., Kashur took her to the stairwell that led to the attic. There, according to her, he raped her. “He took off my pants and underwear,” described B., “and all of this was done with force, I didn’t agree to anything… I was left in just my shirt. Then he took off his clothes… then he put saliva on his penis and then, it was like full penetration, like, it wasn’t with consent as he claims. He laid me on the floor… and asked to kiss my chest too and then like when I asked him to stop and tried to push him away, he started pressuring me with his arms forcefully on me… when I tried to push him with my hand in his stomach, this happened in a more advanced stage, when he was already inside of me, then he said that if I stay silent and I don’t resist, then it would like end faster and it wouldn’t be, like, he wouldn’t use force. I still resisted him and it was forced.”
Quite clearly, this was rape. Not “rape by deception”, but rape. So why was he convicted of “rape by deception”?
So the point made in Lital Grossman’s article is that Kashur was not unjustly punished because he was an Arab, but the opposite: that he managed to avoid the punishment he deserved because his ethnicity made it possible to plead guilty to the lesser charge of rape by deception, thus avoiding jail time. Everyone knew there was no way of convicting Kashur of violent rape based on B’s testimony, but the judges and the prosecution were sympathetic to the plaintiff and wanted Kashur to pay at least a little, so they cooked up a deal.
Which brings me to the question of: why did I respond in the way that I did? Why, for all my feminist politics and anti-rape activism, my experiences of being with women who have been raped, did it not ever occur to me that he might have been convicted of this lesser charge because of a plea bargain? why was my gut instinct, and my thought out response, that this man was persecuted? what image do I have of Israeli justice, and particularly Israeli justice towards both Palestinian men and Jewish women, that I was so quick to believe this was a case of racial/ethnic/religious/national persecution? And what can we now learn about the Israeli justice system, and the fact that this man was convicted of rape by deception, rather than rape as rape (whatever that means), in relation to the ways in which the raping of Jewish women is thought of? It seems surprising, I suppose, that it was thought that a conviction would be more easily secured for rape by deception. Why was a traumatised woman considered an unreliable witness, but the idea of a Palestinian deceiving a Jew into having sex would be a reliable story? What messiness of gender and nationality is exposed in this new story?
I don’t think I have answers to these questions. All I can say, I think, is that I’m disturbed by my response, and the response of many many others.