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Editorial Article

Coerced sex, the IDF and the dark side of feminism

Seth J. Frantzman
August 1, 2008

On July 30th, 2008 it was revealed that Israeli police had opened an investigation of Eyal Ben-Ari a professor of Sociology and Anthropology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It turned out this professor was alleged to have been forcing his female doctoral students who he was advising to have sex with him over a fifteen year period. In addition he is accused of misappropriating funds for research to buy these students gifts, including, allegedly, a vibrator. Those students that kept their honor and did not comply with this predator’s wishes were denied funding and “treated miserably and quickly dropped as advisees.” But what is most jarring about this case is that Mr. Eyal Ben-Ari was a respected feminist, a known critic of the ‘militarization’ of Israeli society and a harsh critic of the IDF. He was also the advisor for Tal Nitzan, a graduate student in anthropology who wrote a thesis six months ago that received high marks and awards from the department. In her thesis entitled ‘Controlled occupation: the rarity of Military Rape in the Israeli Palestinian Conflict’, Nitzan claimed that the absence of ‘military rape’ in the IDF reflected Israel society’s racism because Israelis were conditioned to view Arab women as so inhuman that they refused even to rape them while on duty in the Palestinian territories. Hebrew University’s Shaine Center listed the thesis among its top works as a Shaine Working Paper no. 12. There is no evidence that Nitzan was one of the many female victims of the predator, Ben-Ari, but if she were it might lead to an interesting conclusion. If Nitzan was being sexually assaulted by her advisor, Ben-Ari, then she may have reasoned that this represented his acknowledgement of her ‘humanity’ because he had ‘selected her’ as being pretty enough to rape. This may have led to the conclusion that because Israeli soldiers did not behave as Ben-Ari did, raping their way through the territories, that they were thus not recognizing the humanity of the Arab women. Using the Nitzan thesis one might also conclude that because Ben-Ari is only accused of sexually abusing his female Jewish students that he is a racist because he didn’t also assault Arab women.

But the most disturbing part of the entire story is the way Feminism hangs over it. Ben-Ari and Nitzan were believers in the fact that the Israeli military, and military in general, is a patriarchal, chauvinistic negative culture. This culture is in direct contrast to the enlightened and progressive culture found at the university. Yet it turns out that raping and sexual assault were not taking place in the barracks but perhaps in the very hallowed halls of the ivory tower, right at the center of feminism, sociology and anthropology at Hebrew University. Furthermore the rumors were there.  According to the Jerusalem Post, “Sociology Department chair Prof. Zali Gurevitch told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that the first rumors had reached his ears some time ago.” This is the same Zali Gurevitch that defended the thesis of Nitzan in January of 2008. If the allegations prove true and the extent and period of Ben-Ari's activities is correct then we see that while the pashas of feminism at Hebrew University were busy critiquing the military they were ignoring the stench of sexual depravity and indecency under their very noses where women were being subjected to the most degrading and disgusting predatory male lurking in the halls of the academy and wrapping himself in the mantle of feminism and progressive thought. The best female minds in sociology and anthropology were being subjected to gratuitous sexual perversion by those same people who dared preach about the immoral chauvinism and ‘militarism’ that supposedly infected Israeli society.

This is not a coincidence. The fact that Ben-Ari was a leading light in the critique of the IDF and that one of his students claimed the IDF’s lack of rape meant it was racist while all the while the real raping and sexual harassment was taking place at the university in an open manner where many were aware of it is not a coincidence. It points to the heart of a disturbing feature of modern feminism. A recently published book, Dearest Anne: A Tale of Impossible Love by Judith Katzir, tells the story of Rivi and her love affair with Michaela. According to a review by Rifka Dzodin “Katzir glamorizes the student-teacher affair…[it] seems more like some sort of soft-core porn male fantasy than a tale worthy of being published by The Feminist Press.” The Feminist Press is located at the City University of New York. The connection between the Ben-Ari case, Tal Nitzan’s thesis and Katzir’s book is very real. It points to a disturbing trend in feminism that seems to have romanticized and at the very least tolerates the subjugation of women in a sexual manner, especially between teacher and students or between soldiers and civilians.

How did this happen? Did Feminism and the university come to tolerate the most inappropriate of behaviors and the assault on female students? Did people knowingly ignore rumors that should have been checked and followed up on? How did we come to the point where our best and brightest female students are subjected to forced sexual intercourse by those preaching that society is being ‘militarized’? Society that has abandoned the ‘old’ moralities seems to not understand right and wrong. Such a society then fosters a university environment where, absent of the notion of right and wrong, turns a blind eye to rape and harassment of the most vile nature. Such a society finds it can be seduced by the idea that ‘absence of rape’ is evidence of racism. This is a tragedy, not only for the university environment but for feminism as well. The fact that Ben-Ari was not ferreted out of his office of immorality sooner points to a moral failure. Sociologists and feminists have much soul searching to do. At the very least this should cast doubt on extremist works such as Nitzan’s ‘rarity of military rape’ thesis.

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Op-Ed articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il