Update: The judge who said “some girls enjoy being raped” announced that he will leave his position effective immediately. According to an announcement by Israel’s courts administration and justice minister, retired Judge Yeshaya said he wished to “immediately conclude his tenure as chairman of the appeals committee.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni released a statement which said, “The judge announced his retirement and this is the right and fitting thing to do in this serious case.”
“Only this way, will the public’s faith in the justice system be restored. This wasn’t just some expression, but an invalid and twisted perception that women have fought for years, that lays the blame on the rape victim. Such a statement from the mouth of judge may, even if unintentionally, give legitimacy rape to warped minds,” she added, according to Haaretz.
A judge in Tel Aviv was hearing testimony on Monday regarding a case in which a 13-year-old Israeli girl was gang raped by Palestinians when, according to one of the lawyers present, he said in open court, “There are girls who enjoy being raped.”
Politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, government ministers, members of Knesset as well as Israel’s Bar Association quickly condemned the remarks of retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Nissim Yeshaya within hours of the story first being reported by Army Radio on Wednesday.
The case being heard revolved around whether the rape victim should be categorized by Israel’s Defense Ministry as a victim of terror, according to Israeli media accounts.
According to Israel Hayom, the rape occurred in 2007 when the girl, who was then 13, was attacked by four Palestinian men from the Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem.
The paper further reports that the four Palestinians were “convicted and imprisoned for the assault and the woman later petitioned the Defense Ministry and asked to be recognized by the state as a victim of an act of terrorism. The Defense Ministry denied the request and the court convened on Monday to hear the woman’s appeal.”
Roni Aloni-Sadovnik, the attorney representing the victim, told Army Radio that she was making her case that the incident fell within the category of nationalistically-motivated attacks, “when [Judge Yeshaya] suddenly said, aloud and in earshot of everyone present, ‘There are some girls who enjoy being raped.'”
“Everyone in the room sat there in stunned silence,” the attorney recounted.
“Even the other judges on the panel fell silent for several minutes. It looked like he did not understand what he had just said and why everyone was silent all of a sudden,” she added, according to Israel Hayom.
On Wednesday afternoon, Yeshaya spoke to Army Radio to contest some of the details of the story. “Everything is distorted,” he said. “It wasn’t even a rape trial. It was a panel of the National Insurance Institute [Israeli version of Social Security]. The public has gotten the wrong impression.”
“I gave an example, that if no damage was done to the rape victim, then she does not deserve [National Insurance Institute] compensation,” the judge added.
According to the National Insurance Institute website, those categorized as “victims of hostilities” are “entitled by law to monetary remuneration and various benefits that are designed to assist and support them in their recovery, such as monthly benefits, rehabilitation, annual grants and lump-sum grants.”
Netanyahu said according to the Hebrew website Maariv-NRG, “If this was said, it is a statement that was out of place. A person that expresses himself this way is not fit to serve as the head of the Likud court.”
Haaretz reports that Yeshaya was being considered to serve as president of the legal body associated with Netanyahu’s Likud party. Israel Hayom describes the position as “judicial arbitrator” for the party.
The Chairwoman of the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women, Member of Knesset Aliza Lavie is now asking Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to prevent the judge – who though retired still serves in certain cases – from serving on future judicial panels.
Though the Israeli newspaper Ynet says the girl – now 19-years-old – was not present at the hearing, Israel Hayom quotes the attorney as saying her client became distraught by the comment.
The rape victim’s lawyer said, “I have no doubt that he meant nothing malicious by it, but the problem is that it expresses a state of mind which is prejudice against victims of sexual assault.”
“When judges have such slips of the tongue, expressing what is really in their hearts, it is just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.
The Courts Administration released a statement: “Things were said in the heat of the debate. There was never any intention to hurt or belittle the plight of rape victims and the judge apologized for his words. The Court Administration will review the matter and the retired judge has been asked to provide [the administration] with clarification.”
Other politicians are weighing in, including Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, who heads the Ministerial Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women. Livnat asked the Courts Administration to remove the judge from any cases in which he is serving and bar him from serving in future judicial panels.
“This remark is appalling and utterly unacceptable, more so when it is said by someone who can rule in rape cases. The victims of sexual assaults suffer enormous trauma and it is hard to measure the damage this miserable statement has inflicted and how much it will deter other rape victims from pressing charges,” Livnat said.
The Israel Bar Association says it’s planning to file a complaint in the matter, according to Israel Hayom.
This post has been updated.