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The Rapist Ex-President of Israel

It was not exactly uplifting to read about the conviction of Moshe Katzav, the former president of Israel, on several counts of rape and other accusations of sexual depredation. And, to tell the real truth, the Jewish state has had a rash of such offenders at high and middle levels that bring no glory to what is otherwise a highly cultured and civilized society - kind, demanding of standards, even sweet.

The sordid picture of Katzav lying in court and out--a powerful figure who achieved the highest honorific the commonwealth could bestow--painting himself as a victim of ethnic prejudice and legal chicanery is a sign of the disrespect he has not only for women but for the very polity of which he became so ugly a symbol.

Born in Iran, he clung to the racial stereotype of the mizrachi, those from the east, that has otherwise been outdated for decades. Nothing was too low for him to grasp at in his desperate attempt to evade the truth and its consequences. The fact is that the only vestige of this stereotype was that the rightist Likud party in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, plucked him from its ranks in a bid for the religious vote to defeat Shimon Peres, a puffy but historic figure in his own right, in the race for president.

Two observations:

1. The court that rendered the verdict of guilty consisted of three senior judges. Two are women and the other is an Arab who read out the long opinion. This, too, is representative of the Israeli system of justice.

2. In many Muslim countries, among them societies in the Arab Middle East, such a proceeding would be unthinkable. In fact, women who pressed such charges against any man, let alone one so powerful, would probably be stoned to death. This is one reason there are few accusations of rape in the world of Islam.