Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A rapist who dodged jail, or a Palestinian man unjustly accused?: A Discussion, Part Two


A little background in case you haven't been following along: My post about the case of Sabbar Kashur, the Palestinian Israeli man charged with "rape by deception" of an Israeli Jewish woman was inspired by a post on the blog/online magazine +972 (subtitled "Independent commentary from Israel and the Palestinian Territories") written by Lisa Goldman. As I wrote in Part One Goldman, a Canadian-Israeli based in Jaffa, responded to a cover story about the case by Lital Grossman that ran in the Tel Aviv weekly magazine Ha’Ir (The City), in which she questioned the role of anti-Arab racism in Kashur's sentencing. Goldman suggested that since the lesser change of "rape by deception" was a plea-bargain Kashur actually benefited from being Palestinian by using his ethnicity to avoid jail time. The subtext, that excessive Israeli compassion for Palestinians blinds them to their criminality, is a familiar--if mournful-- refrain among "Liberal Zionists", and it was the red flag that drew my attention in the first place.

Before writing about it here at the POMEGRANATE I responded to Goldman on the comment thread following her post at +972. When our interaction went past a few posts I tried to opt out--in my experience the internet often inspires an obsessive tit-for-tat that kills potentially productive discussions. So, rather than dominate her comment thread I wrote my own post and told Goldman she was welcome to continue our interaction here. Unsurprisingly she did not take me up on my offer but I want to reproduce our final exchange anyway as a folow up because it was fruitful in teasing out the multiple threads--gender, race, Orientalism/Islamophobia (which she dismissed as "hackneyed terms" Ha.), sexism , nationalism etc.--that are tangled together in this case. Anyone interested in reading our exchange in its original context should refer to the comment thread following Goldman's post.

ME: Lisa, I don’t want to bicker with you and clog up your comment thread. But: of course I am not suggesting that it is impossible for Kashur to be guilty because he is Palestinian– I am arguing only that the case for rape against him could not be proved. However, once B’s testimony was made widely available Grossman and you (and others around the net) decided that it was credible, despite her universally understood mental instability, which is a bit unnerving. You wrote , “B’s story sounds believable”… Why? And what makes you conclude that Kashur may be guilty of rape after all because he served time on a lesser charge? As I have said, that makes no sense to me. In fact, the only way I can think of to justify your conclusions in the above post is anti-Arab racism.

[...] If you feel I have misrepresented your argument please let me know and I’ll happily note that. In your last response you made a distinction between Grossman’s take on the case and your own that is not clear to me from the original post. I do not want to attribute opinions to you that are better described as Grossman’s, even if I ultimately disagree with the rest of what you have written. I appreciate that you have responded to me and I’ll publish any comment you make over at VS the POMEGRANATE. Does that seem fair?

LISA GOLDMAN: [Responding first to another commenter who'd critiqued my earlier post.] Maayan, you and Joseph are exactly the same types. If you had been born a Palestinian-American, you would have chosen his argument. Neither one of you is capable of seeing beyond your biases to examine a case based on facts. You are both blinded by your agendas and your prejudices.

LISA GOLDMAN: Joseph, if Sabur Kashur had been a Jewish Israeli man, the charges against him would have been dismissed.

However, the charges would have been dismissed not because he was innocent, but because he could not have been charged with rape by deception.

The defense attorney wanted to question the plaintiff about 14 previous incidents of rape and incest. Neither her attorney nor the judge thought she capable of maintaining her composure while she was questioned about previous rapes. At that point, seeing that he was about to lose his conviction, the prosecutor charged Kashur with rape by deception. And even here the ‘deception’ was not only the odious charge that Kashur presented himself as a Jew, but that he presented himself as a *bachelor* Jew, when he was in fact a *married* Palestinian.

My comparison between the judge’s wording of the plea bargain and EM Forster is not sarcastic, by the way; it is literal. The transcripts show that the judge would have convicted on the evidence, but could not legally override the defense’s request to question the plaintiff about her past. But his dissatisfaction with the plea bargain does not make his racist, colonialist wording acceptable.

The physical evidence against Kashur was solid. Police found the victim battered, bleeding and naked in a stairwell. She was taken to a hospital, examined and given a rape kit. Based on that evidence and her statement to the police, charges were brought against Kashur. Based on the transcripts of the trial, her testimony sounds very credible. If the defense attorney had not insisted on his right to question the plaintiff about her past, Kashur would most probably have been convicted on the original charges.

ME: Lisa, Thank for your last response to me (Sunday , December 26, 4:09)– In it, you were much more clear than in your original post, which conflated Grossman’s conclusions with your own. As promised I will integrate it into my own post.

However, based on your response it seems you missed an opportunity with your original post. The fact that the Defense has the right to question an accuser about her past in a rape trial is the point here, *not* the ethnicity of the alleged perpetrator. Under these terms an Israeli Jewish man would have gotten off completely so Kashur’s ethnicity actually worked against him here, which is the exact opposite of what Grossman (and you) suggest. But if you had focused on the fundamental sexism of Israeli rape law and its subsequent role in earning Kashur a reduced sentence you might have really had something here. I cannot help but wonder why you centered your post around Kashur then? Do you blame me for wondering about your motives when, given the opportunity to critique a sexist Israeli law you instead blamed the Palestinian guy? Especially given that Kashur’s conviction was predicated on his ethnicity, since a Jewish Israeli man committing the same crime would have gone free in the same circumstances?

I appreciate your devotion to “facts”, even if you framed your concern for the truth as a dig at me. If your original post about Kashur had been that straightforward and factual I wouldn’t have commented in the first place. But it wasn’t. And that you became so extraordinarily defensive when I pointed out the blind spots and inconsistencies in your post (some of which you still have not addressed) is telling. You have entreated me to “research” your past positions as a way to contextualize this post but if you had written it in such a way that was consistent with the kind of analysis you are clearly capable of, I wouldn’t have to.

Look, you live in a racist society. As an American, so do I. Any analysis of a case involving members of a privileged majority and an oppressed minority that does not engage with that simple fact is flawed at the root, even if it pretends toward “objectivity.” That has been my only point here.

Couple things tough:

1) I am not a “type” I am a man–singular. Don’t you think it is bad form to erase my humanity so summarily? Please note that at no point did I do this to you.
2) I am not Palestinian or Palestinian-American. Or Muslim, if you are wondering.
3) I do not have an “agenda” here beyond holding you accountable for being clear about what you are trying to say.
4) I don’t hate anybody. I’m just not an idiot–when liberals from racist societies (however unintentionally) reproduce racist ideologies in their work I notice. Sometimes if it is important enough I am compelled to comment. That’s all.


  1. So if a man (of color) knowingly and willingly deceives a person for the express intent of getting laid, it's "rape by deception", huh? Hm.


    - Height
    - Income
    - Penis size
    - Mental and/or emotional soundness
    - Children, present or impending
    - Employment status
    - Penis size
    - Marital status
    - STI/STD history
    - Sexual experience
    - Relationship status
    - Penis size

    Somebody call the cops. No, but for real - for REAL? I can't help but feel like if homeboy had been a married Israeli Jew this would have been laughed out of court.

  2. Not to undercut the seriousness here... but how exactly do you lie about your height? I mean, what kind of Jedi mind trick is that? "Even though I am staring you in the eye I am actually 6' 3"..."