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The haredi community is characterized by being mysterious and secretive in its rituals and practices
RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
Al Qabas, Kuwait, November 3
One of my female relatives recently started volunteering at a nonprofit, operating a support line for women – teenage girls, mothers, wives – who experienced sexual assault. The stories she shared with me were jarring. The stories are particularly horrible when they happen in closed religious societies that hide such crimes under the veil of religion.
The haredi community, often described as the “Jewish Taliban,” is characterized by being mysterious and secretive in its rituals and practices. The Lev Tahor or “Immaculate Heart” sect is one of the most radical of these groups, and its leaders have previously been arrested for assault-related charges.
The most recent arrest took place in a Mexican town, where the group established a home base. Several of the sect’s leaders, including Israelis from Canada and America, were arrested. A few days ago, an Israeli court sentenced the leader of a sect, charged with polygamy and assault, to 30 years in prison, and convicted him of sexual charges related to his wives and daughters, in addition to the charge of claiming divinity.
Lev Tahor is far from the only sect where such crimes take place. Sexual assault occurs even in places where women are forced to wear black cloaks that cover their entire bodies. I have also heard and read about sexual crimes committed against children and minors in some Christian churches, mostly Catholic ones.
Most of these crimes have been documented through lawsuits and criminal prosecutions in several European and American courts. Many of these crimes were covered up by the Vatican and even former popes. Churches paid hundreds of millions of dollars in financial compensation to victims after years of silencing and suffering.
In Kuwait, authorities recently charged a religious teacher with sexual assaults on several school students. Many of the teacher’s acts were documented through surveillance cameras. This is not the first crime of its kind; many preceded it and, sadly, it will not be the last.
Of course, sexual assault can take place even in the most open, secular and liberal societies. But there is something about extremist religious sects that provides for a dangerous environment in which these crimes can unfold. The ability to detect, investigate, or talk about these issues in such societies is very limited.
Furthermore, when senior clergy members are suspected of such acts, the sect and its institutions often work to cover up the crime to deflect the attention and scrutiny of authorities. A good example of this is the reports of the Audit Bureau, which are overflowing with violations of religious bodies and ministries. Yet no one wants to open this can of worms and investigate the reports. – Ahmad al-Sarraf
NETANYAHU IS BACK. WILL HE CANCEL THE BORDER DEMARCATION AGREEMENT?
An-Nahar, Lebanon, November 4 Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the election and succeeded in avenging his political defeat that led to the downfall of his previous government. But what will happen after his victory? Will he be able to form a stable government and implement his electoral promises and threats?
At the outset, it must be recalled that Netanyahu vowed to cancel the agreement on the demarcation of the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. He led a violent campaign against the agreement and described it as a concession of Israeli sovereignty to Hezbollah. Netanyahu also made sure to criticize his successor’s stance on the Iranian nuclear file, the infiltration of Iranian forces into Syria and Lebanon, and the smuggling of advanced weapons into the hands of Hezbollah.
However, the maritime border with Lebanon remains the most important and recent threat, especially since the agreement was achieved and signed at the peak of Israel’s election campaign. This issue could be explosive if Netanyahu fulfills his electoral pledges. It may push Iran’s forces in Lebanon over the edge and lead to an escalation, beginning with a psychological war and continuing with an armed one.
But there’s also reason to believe that Netanyahu will maintain the agreement as it stands. First, because the US serves as a guarantor of the agreement, and any step taken by Netanyahu to withdraw from the agreement may lead to a crisis in relations between Israel and the Biden administration. Another factor standing in Netanyahu’s way of breaking the agreement is that the Karish field has begun production, and most importantly, that Israeli society, which brought Netanyahu to power again with a clear majority, isn’t pushing for war.
The right-leaning Israeli vote is directed primarily against the Palestinians. In no way does it represent a license for Netanyahu to get involved in a war over the border demarcation problem with Lebanon. The signing of an agreement to demarcate the borders between Israel and Lebanon with the permission of Iran, specifically the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is an achievement for Israel. Therefore, it has a positive impact on Israel’s security, political and economic interests.