Israel: Important mobilizations following a case of gang rape
A 16-year-old girl was gang raped in the city of Eilat on the Red Sea (Israel). The girl was vacationing there with friends. The perpetrators took advantage of her drunkenness and reportedly lined up in front of her room to rape her, while other men
videotaped or applauded. The events were reported in the media on August 19.
When the news broke, it provoked a large wave of rage among the Israeli population; immediately after the facts were made public, spontaneous and massive demonstrations took place in many cities. On Sunday, August 23, a women's strike took place (Sunday being the first day of work in Israel) and thousands of people participated in the strike.
Hypocritically, some international companies and corporations also participated, even though some of them are directly responsible for the sexual harassment that exists in their own workplaces...
Demonstrations took place from August 20 to 23 and lasted until late into the night. Several roads were blocked as demonstrators participated in a spontaneous march in Tel Aviv, as well as in Haifa. It is important to note that young people and women were the most active in these initiatives: for many, it was the first time they had been in the struggle.
As the days went by, more and more shocking details became known. It seems that some of the victim's friends were also involved in the crime, that the facts were filmed, that the videos could be used to blackmail the victim.
However, the great wave of reactions and demonstrations has put a lot of pressure on the authorities who are conducting a very active investigation and are looking for the videos to prevent their circulation online. At the same time, the word "Eilat" in Hebrew has been searched many times on Pornhub, and this shows the extent to which gender-based violence is present in society.
In recent years, Israel has experienced frequent protest movements. The economic crisis is worsening due to the Covid-19 health crisis : unemployment has increased, wages have decreased, and this in a country where public services are already underfunded. The country is experiencing a recession of more than 6%. And all this coupled with a very deep political crisis: three consecutive elections in a year and a half have resulted in a very fragile government.
This is why the Israeli population took to the streets en masse as soon as this crime became known: especially young women, enraged and full of energy, flooded the streets of many cities to demand justice, but also to openly accuse the government and the political system of the lack of sex education in schools, as well as the lack of public services, especially those providing help and support to victims of sexual violence.
They accused the establishment of promoting rape culture: one of the most popular slogans was "Rape culture begins in the corridors of government”. The demonstrators demanded the strengthening and refinancing of public services; for example, the hospital in Eilat does not have facilities for emergency treatment of rape victims. The health system is largely neglected, especially in the province.
Demonstrators also demanded harsher punishment for perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault. They were also very clearly opposed to the victim-blaming of the victim, pointing out that the culprits were those men who lined up to rape a minor, filmed and applauded a horrible crime.
Demonstrations and other actions are still being organized in front of the court that is in charge of judging this crime, putting pressure on the political and judicial system: charges have already been brought against 11 men.
In Israel, as in Belgium and in all countries, the whole system is guilty of sexism, violence against women, the culture of rape and harassment. In all countries, women are overrepresented in the lowest paid jobs, are more affected by unemployment, and are the first to see their living conditions deteriorate due to budget cuts. At the same time, they experience violence; they have difficulties leaving a violent partner due to financial constraints; they face sexism and guilt if they decide to report rape or harassment; and they are forced to go through a bureaucratic maze to see their case brought to justice. And often they see the perpetrator of the violence they have suffered escape with a minimum sentence or even get away with it "for lack of evidence".
Rape culture is omnipresent in our society. This particular case proves how misogynous and sexist opinions are present and even accepted: the men who participated in the events at Eilat thought that what was happening was 'normal', and no one helped this girl. This was also the opinion of all those who did the research on the Pornhub site: rape culture is deeply rooted. A profound social change is needed: we need to build a society in which such crimes are not accepted, in which the perpetrators cannot get away with it, a society that solemnly condemns rape and respects women.
The only way to combat sexism is through an organized struggle to demand funds for public services such as justice, health, victim support services, as well as sex education that addresses the issue of consent, gender and sexual orientation at all levels. We must also fight for quality jobs and decent wages. In the end, the fight against sexism is coupled with the struggle for a radical change in society, for the overthrow of the capitalist system.