Even in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much-anticipated annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly was sidelined by the Super Bowl of politics: the spectacle known as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.
Full disclosure: I set aside my bowl of popcorn for a few hours and instead went to a killer yoga class by the sea in Tel Aviv. Thursday night, after all, is our Friday night in Israel, the kickoff of the weekend, and decompression was much-needed.
I emerged to a frantic Twitter feed of cliff-hanging, moment-by-moment reports of her testimony, then his. Part of me could not bear to watch it live, I think. As important as these hearings are, on so many levels, the sordid voyeurism is about so much other than judicial integrity and jurisprudential competence. Public life these days seems to be more about the ugliest avarice, feeding an apparently insatiable, not-so-inner beast in us all.
The tragic outcome of all this is that no one sane will ever subject themselves to the savage scrutiny of such proceedings. We will get what we deserve, as a society.
That is not to acquit or convict either Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I and everyone else, no matter how much they bray and posture, have insufficient facts to judge this sorry mess. And, callous as it may sound, facts really are important, particularly following a thirty-six-year silence.
Like Blasey Ford, I am a professional woman in my mid-50s and have endured more than my share of disgusting male conduct, both in my private and business lives. And, I could not agree more with Jane Eisner: “Christine Blasey Ford is Every Woman,” read the title of her piece in The Forward. “This Happens When You Push Us Too Far.”
However, we seem to have forgotten that there are multiple variables in this equation. Judge Kavanaugh is a person, too. And we pile on in such an unseemly manner and at our peril because it is a clear reflection of an erosion of simple decency and respect.
Even in Israel, where politics is an exceptionally brutal vocation, commentators and regular folks alike are taken aback by the nasty brutishness of it all. The #metoo mentality is here as well, but not with nearly the zeal that has gripped America.
This country has had and has its share of sexual-political scandal, most recently involving a senior aide to PM Netanyahu, Israeli-American communications expert, David Keyes, but there still seems to be a modicum of respect for institutional oversight and decisions. For one, the core principle of innocence before proven guilty is still considered the jurisdiction of courts of law.
Having been subjected to weeks of headlines in the U.S. and Israel regarding his alleged conduct with women, the legal exposure Keyes faces was substantially diminished when the Israeli Civil Service Commission found that his relevant conduct did not meet even the threshold for a civil, workplace investigation.
Character assassination and career toxicity, however, are another matter. That sort of “collateral damage” is rarely considered. If a woman alleges sexual impropriety or harm, well, then, it is true.
We tend, these days, to mush together civil and criminal allegations very breezily, in political institutions as well as the media. Twenty years ago, what passes for serious investigative reporting would not have made it past the worst editor. Today, the more salacious the droppings, the quicker they make it to print. Due diligence comes later.
There will be a reaction to these extreme actions. I have no pretense to prescience but am haunted by the dystopic Margaret Atwood novel adapted recently for television: The Handmaid’s Tale, in which a coup in America by theocratic tyrants leads to the extreme subjugation, and worse, of women and the merest dissenters. Atwood’s terrifying vision began with campus extremism, the crucible of much of the unhinged political movements that have seeped into every aspect of national life today.
An earlier version of this piece asserted that Keyes had been “exonerated” by the Israeli Civil Service Commission.