Incoming state prosecutor apologizes for his sexist remarks, promises action

In op-ed, Amit Aisman says past comments unacceptable, don’t represent his worldview, won’t be repeated; report says his Haifa district has had lowest trial rate for sex crimes

Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman. (Justice Ministry)
Haifa District Prosecutor Amit Aisman. (Justice Ministry)

Amit Aisman, slated to become the next state attorney, apologized Sunday for two sexist remarks he made in the past and that have clouded his nomination, saying they do not reflect his 30-year career in public service.

The issue centers on two incidents, one 12 years ago and the other approximately six years ago, in which Aisman made sexually explicit remarks to subordinates. In 2018 then director-general of the Justice Ministry Emi Palmor ruled that though inappropriate for a civil servant, the comments did not constitute sexual harassment. Aisman was instead issued a warning as part of internal disciplinary proceedings.

He was chosen last week by a selection committee and then backed by Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, although a public backlash has persisted.

In a Sunday op-ed for the Haaretz daily, Aisman said those remarks had been mistakes and apologized.

“As someone who has been a public servant for about 30 years. I believe my duty goes beyond accepting responsibility and requires public accountability, alongside a public and direct apology for the crude remarks, which don’t characterize my conduct and my moral belief, which highlights unwavering upholding of human dignity,” he wrote.

“Both remarks made by me are inappropriate and unacceptable; they had and have no place in any discourse, definitely not in the discourse between a manager and employees in any workplace, not to mention the Justice Ministry,” he added. “I fully understand the criticism made toward me in this context, and I accept full responsibility. These are slips that haven’t repeated themselves since, and will not repeat themselves in the future.”

Aisman promised to collaborate with women’s rights groups to take steps that would prevent such occurrences and put in better mechanisms to ensure a safe and respectful work environment in public service.

However, the Kan public broadcaster reported earlier Sunday that for the past three years, the Haifa district, for which Aisman has served as prosecutor, has been the region with the lowest annual proportion of sex offense cases brought to trial.

A rape crisis center umbrella group subsequently warned that Aisman appeared to have a worrying attitude that could influence the state prosecution if his selection is approved by the government.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn seen during a visit at the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Citing data from the state prosecution, Kan reported that in 2019, just 13 percent of all cases brought to trial dealt with sex offenses, the lowest rate in the country, while the national average was 16%.

In 2018, 16% of trials in Haifa were sex cases, again the lowest in the country along with the southern district, which had the same rate. The national average was 19% for that year.

In 2017, while the national average was 17%, Haifa also had the lowest rate, with just 13%, Kan reported.

Orit Sulitzeanu, director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said that the figures are worrying as they indicate Aisman’s worldview has influenced his professional decisions and that if appointed, he may likewise influence the entire state prosecution, Kan reported.

Aisman took over the Haifa district in 2010, then in 2015 was transferred to another branch of the state prosecution before returning to head the Haifa branch in June 2017.

Last Tuesday, Nissenkorn met with Aisman and told him that although the sexually explicit comments he made in the past toward female subordinates were unacceptable, they did not disqualify him from the senior role.

Nissenkorn announced that he intended to bring the appointment of Aisman for government approval as soon as possible.

The meeting came a day after a committee headed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit selected Aisman out of ten candidates to fill the state prosecutor position, which has been vacant since Shai Nitzan ended his term in December 2019. Mandelblit has been serving as acting state prosecutor in the meantime.

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