Filming the sex would have been illegal under Israeli law

Some in Israel uneasy with heroes’ welcome for teens cleared of gang rape

Journalists, others say celebrating release of group who ‘humiliated’ British woman by filming sexual encounter serves to perpetuate rape culture

Israeli teens who were cleared of rape allegations in Cyprus reunite with family members at Ben Gurion Airport on July 28, 2019. (Flash90)
Israeli teens who were cleared of rape allegations in Cyprus reunite with family members at Ben Gurion Airport on July 28, 2019. (Flash90)

Israeli journalists and social media users on Monday decried the heroes’ welcome extended to a group of teenagers who were released by Cypriot police after a British tourist recanted her claim that she was gang raped by them.

The seven teens were jubilant when they were greeted by their cheering families at Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday night.

In the arrivals hall, the teens, all wearing white yarmulkes, loudly celebrated their release by opening champagne bottles, chanting “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel lives) along with “the Brit is a whore.”

The teens were released earlier in the day after the 19-year-old British tourist voluntarily recanted her claim during questioning, saying there had been sexual contact with some of the Israeli suspects, but she wasn’t raped.

According to reports, the woman told investigators she filed the rape report because she felt “angry and insulted” when some of the Israelis recorded video of her having consensual sex with a number of them. The woman is facing a public nuisance charge in Cyprus for making the false claim.

In interviews given to Hebrew-language media outlets on Sunday, the Israeli teens said they did not regret or feel bad about the incident.

“I feel great. The truth came out and I am happy,” one said at the airport Sunday night. Another called it “a miracle from God,” and vowed to sue the British woman for libel.

But not everyone in Israel was overjoyed by the outcome of the case. On social media, journalists and many parents criticized the festive attitude surrounding the teens’ return home.

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily published a satirical cartoon likening the reception of the teens to the 1976 state ceremony to welcome back the released Entebbe hostages. In one of two op-eds in its Monday edition, columnists for the paper said hailing the boys as heroes trivialized the teens’ actions, even though Cypriot authorities determined it was not illegal.

“So what we have here is a group of teenage boys, who it turns out are not rapists, just the type of boys who would engage in group sex with a drunk girl, film it without her permission and then send it around to their friends. There’s no doubt, they are obviously good boys,” columnist Hen Artzi-Sror said.

Columnists in the Haaretz daily also took a jab at the festive welcome for the teens, saying that such displays only serve to perpetuate rape culture in Israel.

Haaretz’s Ariana Melamed slammed the teens for “showing up wearing kippas” days after they sent the video of the drunken encounter to their friends. She said Israeli media outlets that were swarming the boys when they arrived at Ben Gurion “forgot to ask the serious questions.”

Meanwhile on social media, many Israelis also pointed out that even though they were exonerated from the rape charges in Cyprus, they would have faced criminal charges for filming the sex if the incident had occurred in Israel.

Israel in 2014 became the first country to ban “revenge porn” in a bid to prevent the distribution of some pornographic content over the Internet.

The law, which targets sexually explicit media posted without the depicted person’s knowledge or consent, also covers content shared on social media. It stipulates that those found guilty of posting such content will be prosecuted as sex offenders, and that the offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.

On Monday, one of the of the British woman’s friends also condemned the Israelis for filming the sex without her knowledge.

A British teenager, hooded, who accused seven Israelis of gang rape arriving at the Famagusta District Court in Paralimni in eastern Cyprus, to face charges of making a false allegation, July 29, 2019. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)

“Even if they didn’t rape her, it’s not okay to film someone without their consent and then upload it to social media,” the unnamed friend told Yedioth. “They humiliated and hurt her, which is why she made the rape complaint in the first place.

“She should have told the truth from the beginning, because being filmed without your consent is a serious enough offense,” the friend was quoted as saying.

The British woman was remanded into custody on Monday for 24 hours as Cypriot police prepare to file charges against her. The Famagusta District Court in Paralimni is expected to indict her on Tuesday.

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