TEL AVIV – Twenty-eight out of 32 female members of Israel’s Knesset said they have been sexually harassed or assaulted, with at least two saying the incidents occurred in the Knesset itself, according to a new survey by Channel 2.
The survey comes on the heels of a scandal in France in which 17 female French politicians exposed widespread sexual harassment in their workplace.
“Even today, the fact that I’m a single woman in the Knesset puts me in unpleasant situations,” said MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu). “Sometimes people make comments. … I don’t want to elaborate, but there was a situation recently in the Knesset, and I took care of it.”
Rachel Azaria, also of Kulanu, told of her experiences as a Jerusalem City Council member.
“There was an incident that repeated itself in the planning and building committee, of which I was a member,” Azaria said. “Another city councilor would make remarks of a sexual nature regarding things that I said, and the whole room would burst out laughing. I consulted with the legal adviser and other officials, and they all said there was nothing to be done. It interfered with my ability to function, and I was very distressed.”
In December, interior minister and vice premier Silvan Shalom (pictured), resigned after nearly a dozen women, including one of his former employees, revealed that they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted by Shalom.
In 2011, former Israeli President Moshe Katsav was sentenced to seven years in jail for rape.
Cases of sexual harassment are prevalent in the army too. The IDF military has opened 250 investigations of sexual harassment charges in the past two years alone.
Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) recounted that as an immigrant teenager “there was a period when I could hardly go out into the street because of the harassment. Sometimes they would touch my hair and come at me with sexual suggestions. At a certain point I dyed my hair brown so they’d stop touching me, so I’d stand out less. It was a combination of chauvinism and racism.”