July 21, 2010

The Global Search And Replace Test Of Bigotry

From the Beeb, one of the bigger stories making the rounds today:
An Arab man convicted in Israel of rape because he pretended he was a Jew when he had consensual sex with a Jewish woman has called the verdict racist.  [¶]  Sabbar Kashur, 30, was found guilty of "rape by deception" by the Israeli court and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  [¶] According to the complaint filed by the woman, the two met in a Jerusalem street in 2008 and had sex that day.  [¶] When she discovered he was not Jewish, but an Arab, she went to the police.  [¶] Kashur was arrested and charged with rape and indecent assault, but the charges were later replaced by a different charge of "rape by deception".
A story about a random hook-up leading to a one night stand (or, one day stand in this case) followed by post-encounter regret is very common.  Such a series of events culminating in an accusation of rape for what was actually a consensual act is disturbing, but common, enough as well.  Adding the explosive elements of race, religion, and international politics to the mix of sexual politics gives this story real legs.

Seduction is, when examined closely, a sometimes ugly business involving not only deception of one's quarry, but also the preying upon the target's psychological vulnerabilities, a deliberate compartmentalization of the emotional richness of sex from the physical pleasure of the act, and choosing to empower one's own narcissism and physical aggression over one's morality and empathy.  Despite all this, seduction is not (or rather, ought not to be) a criminal act.  My first impulse, then, is say to the woman here, "Your story isn't one of rape, it's one of seduction.  You consented.  I'm glad you didn't get physically hurt.  Don't believe everything some random dude says when you've only just met him for the first time."

On the other hand, it's also the case that we should allow individuals to make intimate decisions on whatever basis they choose, and that includes race and/or religion.  One should be free to choose dating, sexual, or marriage partners of a favored group and no explanation need be offered -- Caucasian guys who really dig Asian women do not need to justify themselves and are not committing a crime by refusing to date, for instance, Latina women.  You and I might not approve of someone else using an explicitly racial filter to screen potential partners out, but we're not talking about government or even employment decisions here.  And I'm not ready to say that having a racially-explicit dating preference is something that contains enough malice to conform to the common understanding of the term "racist."

Maybe she pursued him and he just went along for the ride.  Or maybe (which seems most likely to me) they met and had one of those youthful prolonged conversations-with-sudden-infatuations and when things started to get all kissy-kissy, he didn't bother to correct her assumptions about what side of the tracks he came from.  Or, maybe he went way over the top with a line like "Oh yeah, baby, I'm like, totally in the tribe; I was awarded the Medal of Valor after my stint in the Second Lebanon War, but now I'm a pediatric cardiologist in at Tel Aviv Children's Hospital," and she believed it.  Does it matter?  Even if she was lied to in order to further the seduction, that ought not to be a crime -- not that I condone using deception to get sex, but let's keep it in perspective.  And at the end of the day, my perspective is not about the woman accusing the man of rape -- it's about the court convicting him.

Consider, for a moment, the fact that some people of sub-Saharan African descent have light enough skin that, to use the terminology of a fortunately-bygone era here in the United States, they could and sometimes did "pass for white."  Bear that in mind as I substitute some words in the story and produce this result:
A n Arab Black man convicted in Israel New York of rape because he pretended he was a Jew Caucasian when he had consensual sex with a Jewish Caucasian woman has called the verdict racist.  [¶]  Sabbar Kashur, 30, was found guilty of "rape by deception" by the Israeli New York court and sentenced to 18 months in jail.  [¶]  According to the complaint filed by the woman, the two met in a Jerusalem Greenwich Village street in 2008 and had sex that day.  [¶]  When she discovered he was not Jewish Caucasian, but an Arab African-American, she went to the police.  [¶]  Kashur was arrested and charged with rape and indecent assault, but the charges were later replaced by a different charge of "rape by deception".
...Which makes seeing the event, viewed as a whole, as an exercise in bigotry by the Israeli justice system that much easier, doesn't it?

Courts are supposed to serve not only as neutral arbiters of fact but also dispensaries of justice.  Laws are supposed to address real problems in society.  Prosecutors and judges and juries are not required to check their common sense at the door; they ought to think about what they are doing, particularly before sending someone to prison for a heinous crime.  Someone along the way should have looked at this and put a stop to it.  That did not happen for Mr. Kashur, and it is difficult indeed to imagine that the complex stew of race, religion, violence, history, and international politics -- all factors which had nothing to do with a peaceful, consensual seduction -- did not play a substantial role in what appears to be a miscarriage of justice.

1 comment:

Hortensio said...

Excellent summary. I especially like the word-substitution exercise, which is always useful in situations like this if you aren't sure if plain bigotry is taking place.

I would add that people typically aren't allowed to decide after the fact that they didn't consent to a sexual act, barring special circumstances. Lying about your ethnicity is a bit like lying about your natural hair colour: not exactly the best example of "special circumstances".