Women’s rights groups and activists on Wednesday rapped Sara Netanyahu for claiming she experienced “sexual violence” from demonstrators rallying against the premier and for branding herself and her children as “battered.”
In a rare interview with Channel 12, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed, “I am a battered woman and my children are battered,” referring to the growing protest movement calling for the resignation of Israel’s longest-serving leader, who is currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Hagit Peer, the head of the Naamat women’s group, criticized Netanyahu, who is a psychologist by profession, for using the term.
“Mrs. Netanyahu is not a battered woman. This is a cheapening of the concept and Mrs. Netanyahu, who has visited women’s shelters in the past, knows this,” she told Channel 12.
The Kulan feminist group, in a tweet, further accused the Netanyahus of turning a blind eye to the issues of sexual and domestic violence.
“Plain and simple: Sara Netanyahu is not a battered woman. The choice by the Netanyahus to cynically exploit the fight against violence against women — while they continue to socialize with Natan Eshel and Alan Dershowitz — makes us despair,” it tweeted.
Eshel is a former aide to the prime minister who was forced out over sexual misconduct, but continues to advise the premier. Dershowitz is a US law professor allegedly linked to Jeffrey Epstein.
“Women’s organizations, who are fighting to protect all women, have become a punching bag for the prime minister, who has been ignoring our outcry for years,” it added.
Journalist and former Labor lawmaker Shelly Yachimovich also dismissed the remark.
“You’re not a battered woman, your children are not battered,” she tweeted.
Yachimovich said she generally refrains from “picking on” Sara Netanyahu, because “he’s the prime minister, not her.”
“But enough, enough,” she added. “We can’t take any more of the couple’s zero empathy for sexual assault, combined with this ugly attempt to ride on their backs.”
Sara Netanyahu on Tuesday filed a police complaint against alleged sexual harassment by protesters, citing sexually explicit slogans and symbols waved at the demonstrations outside their Jerusalem residence, as well as threats to harm her.
“I certainly feel that I have experienced sexual violence,” she said in the interview Wednesday, noting “the terrible march of the balloons [shaped like sex organs] and the [social media] post to rape me, which used explicit and crass language.”
The Netanyahus have recently complained of threats of murder as the weekly protests against the prime minister’s corruption cases and handling of the coronavirus pandemic have swelled to include tens of thousands of demonstrators.
Netanyahu and some of his allies have sought to portray the demonstrators as violent and as “anarchists,” and several people have been arrested for allegedly threatening the premier.
The prime minister’s wife said she expected wall-to-wall condemnation of the threats against her and her family, including from left-wing lawmakers.
“The condemnation of what they did to me must come from all women, all men. It must come from all sides. I would expect the MKs who tut-tut over women’s rights, like [Meretz MK Tamar] Zandberg and [Labor MK Merav] Michaeli, to also speak out against it.”
Zandberg later said that Netanyahu was engaged in a campaign of mud-slinging and accused her of belittling actual victims of sexual violence.
She said, however, that some of the displays did cross a line.
Michaeli told Channel 12 that “I’ve never tut-tut,” and noted that she had condemned threats of sexual violence from both the right and left.
“With all due respect to Mrs. Netanyahu, she’s not the issue. The issue is sexual harassment,” she said.
The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) responded to Netanyahu by saying that it “condemns every display of violence and aggression, both in the public and personal sphere, and urges the public to remove violent and sexual messages that are disrespectful and don’t reflect societal values from the discourse.”
The prime minister’s wife claimed she felt unsafe and was concerned about her welfare.
“The security is not so tight,” she said. “Don’t forget that I’m not home all the time. I’m not protected like the prime minister, who has more security. I’m not protected like Defense Minister Gantz. A few weeks ago, at one of the violent rallies, they really tried to fire torches at our home and broke the legs of a police investigator.”
During rioting that took place during an anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem on July 14, two men (19 and 29) beat an officer, who required subsequent treatment for a serious leg injury, police said. They were later arrested. It was unclear what incidents of torches being shot at the residence she was referring to.
Recent weeks have also seen some incidents of violence by right-wing supporters of Netanyahu. Protesters have also accused police of using excessive force during the demonstrations.
“I don’t wish upon… anyone who is watching, or any of the TV stations — which support these protests — the things they are writing about me and my children,” she continued. “They describe how they will murder us. I read about how they’ll dismember my children, terrible things. So why don’t I hear condemnation?” added Sara Netanyahu.
The prime minister has also protested media coverage of the protests, which he claims blow them out of proportion.
However, in an interview earlier this month, the Netanyahus’ son Yair said he and his father found the costumes and displays amusing.
“I try not to show him too-crass things from the protests, because in the end it is unpleasant, but you know, it entertains him, the truth is that it even gives him some strength,” Yair Netanyahu said on August 3.
The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis who have little history of political activity but feel that Netanyahu’s scandal-plagued rule and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have robbed them of their futures. The prime minister is currently on trial for corruption in three probes, but denies any wrongdoing.
Several loose-knit movements have joined forces to portray Netanyahu as an out-of-touch leader, with the country’s most bloated government in history and seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax benefits for himself at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is raging and unemployment has soared to over 20 percent.
With the focus in Jerusalem, smaller protests have been held across the country.
Header: Workers from the culture and art industry protest outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in jerusalem, on August 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Source: TOI, AGENCIES