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July 28, 2010

"Passing" in the Jewish State

Just when you thought things in Israel couldn't get much worse for its Arab citizens, Sabbar Kashur, an Israeli Arab, has been sentenced to 18 months 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,” reported Ha’aretz, Israel’s largest news outlet.

The verdict came as the judge presiding the case frankly admitted: “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.”

Kashur, married with two children, had been under house arrest since 2008.

Also in that year, the Israeli High Court had set a precedent in an earlier case regarding these types of cases—ones involving deception and sex.

As reported by Ha’aretz: “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 mix 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.

In defence of the verdict, Dana Pugach of Israel’s Noga Center for Victims of Crime said a woman deserves the truth before having sex with someone. But the issue of deception is beside the point.

Kashur’s case illustrates the open racism of Israeli society; it was only after this woman found out that “Dudu,” as Kashur called himself, was a (gasp!) Arab that she reported a “criminal travesty.” She would not have done so if Kashur were a Jew.

One cannot help but think of the all the men who have ever tricked a woman into having sex based on lies of, say, social status, occupation or money. Are they all guilty of rape by deception?

In the end, the court ignored the community service option to give Kashur 18 months in prison, in addition to his years of house arrest.

Juan Cole, of the highly popular blog “Informed Comment,” draws the analogy between what happened to Kashur and the phenomenon of blacks “passing” for whites during the Jim Crow era of American history.

The similarities are disturbing.

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