middle east, politics

“Passing” in the Jewish State

Published on:
http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=525

Just when you thought things in Israel couldn’t get much worse for its Arab citizens, it was recently announced that Sabbar Kashur, an Israeli Arab, has been sentenced to 18 months of prison time for posing as a Jewish man in order to have consensual sex with a Jewish woman.

“When the woman found Kashur was not a Jew but an Arab, she filed a police complaint that led to charges of rape and indecent assault,” reports Haaretz, Israel’s largest news outlet. The verdict came as the judge presiding the case frankly admits that “If she [Kashur’s sexual counterpart] hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated.”

Since his arrest in 2008, Kashur (married with two kids) has been under house arrest.

Also since 2008, the Israeli High Court has set a precedent (in an earlier case) regarding these types of cases—ones involving deception and sex. As reported by Haaretz: “High Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said a conviction of rape should be imposed any time a ‘person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him.’”

The application of this principle has elicited a mixture of responses from Israeli civil society, many of whom believe that the approach take by legal officials in the case of Kashur was much too severe. It is quite true, as stated by Dana Pugach of Israel’s Noga Center for Victims of Crime, that an individual deserves the truth before going into a sexual relationship or a fling with someone. This principle should apply across the board: diseases, class, occupation, etc. However, Kashur’s case is useful in the sense that it is illustrative of the unveiled racism present in Israeli society today.

It is quite obvious that the Jewish woman who sued Kashur would not have been so indignant if Kashur, who used the moniker “Dudu” when talking to the woman, was actually Jewish. The lady has a right to have sexual relations with whomever she chooses, but the fact that she decided to have Kashur arrested due to a lie based on his ethnic background is highly illustrative, if not exceedingly disturbing. Had the issue been one of say, HIV/AIDS, a stiff sentence would have been understandable.

But this woman, although deceived, certainly thought that Kashur looked Jewish enough to have sex with him. It was only after that the two went to bed together, when she found out the horrific truth that the man she just shagged was—gasp—an Arab, that she reported this “criminal travesty”. One cannot help but think of the numerous women who were tricked into the sack based on lies of say, social status or even money. After all, what’s Vegas good for anyway? This is not to whitewash deception, but to tease out the racist connotations of the contemporary Israeli social and legal systems.

The court ignored the community service option, and gave Kashur 18 months in prison, in addition to the years of house arrest.

Juan Cole of the massively popular “Informed Comment” blog draws the analogy between Kashur’s case and the phenomenon of “passing” during the Jim Crow era of American history.

The similarities are troubling to say the least.

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