Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A Skewed Sense of Right and Wrong

Deputy Health Minister, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (Ynet)
I almost feel sorry for him.  Despite my Hashkafic differences with him, I had  always believed that Israeli MK and Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman was an honorable and compassionate public servant who served all of Israel. He was held in high esteem even by Israel’s secular public. So good was he at his job as Deputy Health Minister, that he was offered and accepted the Cabinet position of Health Minister – later resigning over an ideological religious issue unrelated to his office.

But my view of him has changed.

Yaakov Litzman is a victim. A victim of (in my view) a skewed sense of right and wrong very likely based on his Hashkafos. He probably believes that what he did was absolutely required by Halacha. And now he is being persecuted for it. Ynet reports that after a lengthy investigation the police have recommended that criminal charges be brought against him.

In what Rabbi Litzman probably believed was a religious obligation he sought to help Malka Leifer, a religious constituent, who is an accused sexual predator declared mentally incompetent and therefore not to be extradited to Australia. Where she would tried in a secular court.

Israeli police just announced that they have sufficient evidence to recommend charges be brought against him for fraud, breach of trust and witness tampering.  He is suspected of exerting unlawful influence on psychiatrists working in his ministry, charged with evaluating Mrs. Leifer's competence to face an extradition hearing.

There is also evidence that this is not the first time he has helped pedophiles. He has sought preferential treatment and in some cases tried to get them an early release without the therapy  required of them while they were in prison. (He has not been charged because of insufficient evidence in some cases and the statute of limitation in others.)

Rabbi Litzman denies all the accusations. Including an unrelated one of of bribery and breach of trust in another case involving the business of a close associate.

His office has defended the Deputy Minister by claiming that all he ever tried to do was to help anyone that came to him seeking it - regardless of their level of religiosity or lack of it.  And that he never tried to hide anything – doing it all with complete transparency.

I understand that mindset. It is the same mindset that uses Halachic concepts like ‘Mesirah’ (informing secular authorities about the wrongdoing a fellow Jew). Mesirah is sometimes used by people as the reason to not report suspicions of sexual abuse  to secular authorities. They believe they are merely following Halacha and protecting innocent Jews from persecution in non Jewish courts. They might say things like ‘a survivor that is no longer observant has no Ne’emanus (are not Halachicly believable)’. 

That - plus their own observation about the pure how devout an accused member of the religious community is... how can he believe all those ‘lies’ about Malka Leifer who he sees as a devout Jew that no one could ever suspect of being a pedophile based on her very Frum public persona.

Should he instead believe some OTD person’s accusations that are probably false and could very well be the result of some kind of personal vendetta as a way of getting back at them?

That could easily be his mindset.  But he probably also realizes that the rest of the civilized world sees things a bit differently than he does. So as a Frum Jew with influence, he uses subterfuge – all for the greater good that he perceives as a Mitzvah of protecting a Frum Jew.

While it is true, this is all speculation on my part, I’ll bet it is not all that far off from the truth. But there is another truth here that supersedes Litzman’s truth. The high probability based on evidence and the testimony of victims that Mrs. Leifer is guilty of what she has been accused of. And that she will get away with it because of Litzman’s skewed religious ideology. Survivors of her sexual abuse will therefore never see justice.

Is Litzman even aware of the consequences of his ‘Mitzvah’? Does he not know that protecting sexual abusers is the same thing as saying that her victims are liars? Does he not know that when survivors of abuse are treated that way, they often feel like they have been ‘raped’ all over again? Is he not aware of the Pikuach Nefesh issues of survivors whose testimony is rejected? Does he not know about the high rate of suicide attempts made by survivors? Let alone the fact that they might just be OTD for the very thing he has been doing – treating convicted pedophiles with more compassion than their victims?

God forbid he should ever be tested with one of his minor (under Bar or Bat Mitzvah grandchildren). But I wonder how much compassion he would have for the accused if one of his grandchildren came home and said they were sexually molested by someone like Malka Leifer. Would he say, ‘Can’t be!’ ‘She is too Frum to have done that!’ ‘And I’m going to protect her from prosecution since you are too young Halachicly to be believed!’

I doubt it.

I wish I could say I feel sorry for him instead of saying ‘I almost feel sorry for him’. As I said he too is a victim. But other victims (survivors of sexual abuse) generate far more compassion in me than his victim-hood does.

That said, I believe the man has a right to have his day in court. Innocent until proven guilty. But justice has been denied way too long in the case of Mrs. Leifer. And who knows if she isn’t still the same sexual predator now on the ‘down low’ that she was back in Australia?