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Woman sues ex-MK Dov Lipman for sexual harassment in counterclaim

Former Yesh Atid lawmaker has been seeking damages, after plaintiff and another accuser warned others about him in private #MeToo Facebook group

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Then-MK Dov Lipman during a Yesh Atid party meeting in the Knesset, January 6, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Then-MK Dov Lipman during a Yesh Atid party meeting in the Knesset, January 6, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former MK Dov Lipman has been sued for sexual harassment, after he filed libel suits against a pair of women who made allegations against him in a private Facebook group.

The two women’s accusations against the DC native — who served in the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party from 2013 to 2015 — were first made in response to a 2019 post in a closed forum called #GamAni. The description of the group, which has 1,300 members, states that “we’re here to share personal experiences of #gamani [Hebrew for “me too”] at Jewish communal organizations.”

The 2019 post warned communities against inviting Lipman for speaking engagements, as he is “actually a predator who has taken advantage of his position,” according to court documents obtained by Haaretz, which broke the story on Sunday.

The first of the two women sued for libel had commented on the post that Lipman had made repeated unwanted sexual advances at her when they worked together on a public campaign against ultra-Orthodox extremism in their hometown of Beit Shemesh.

Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid votes at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting, September 2014 (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

The second woman sued by Lipman had posted a comment echoing the sentiment from the original post and accused the former MK of abusing his power and of bullying, according to court documents.

In November 2020 — four months after Lipman filed his libel suits — the first woman decided to submit a sexual harassment countersuit, which presented in further detail the allegations made against the former lawmaker in her initial comment in the private forum.

The allegations against Lipman in the harassment suit refer to conduct that took place both before and during his time in the Knesset.

Since leaving parliament, Lipman has remained involved in public service, serving as an advocate for new immigrants and giving talks to communities abroad about Israeli politics and Israeli-Diaspora relations. He provides regular analysis on English-language news sites, including The Times of Israel, where he has a blog.

Lipman currently serves as secretary-general of the World Confederation of United Zionists, part of the World Zionist Organization. His public Facebook page has almost 32,000 followers.

Hours after Haaretz published its report, Lipman issued a statement on Facebook thanking a supporter and claiming that the paper had written “a smear story about me without even asking for my side.”

He went on to confirm having filed a libel suit against “a woman who wrote false and defamatory words about me about something which in her words allegedly took place in 2014.”

Lipman pointed out that no criminal complaint had been filed at the time and claimed he had never been alone with the woman.

Then-Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, center, in brown cap, and then-Knesset member Dov Lipman, in jacket and tie at right, at a protest held by American and Israeli Orthodox and Conservative Jews outside the Chief Rabbinate offices in Jerusalem, July 6, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Now it is in the hands of the civil court and I am confident that the decision in my law suit against her will bring the truth to light. In the meantime, I will continue to work day and night to help olim and to tell Israel’s story to the world,” he said.

In his libel suit, filed in July 2020, Lipman demanded NIS 100,000 ($30,943) from each of the women, claiming that their allegations against him were made “with the goal of destroying his life.”

“The false statements, the twisted facts and the bald-faced and evil lies were meant to accuse the complainant of acts, behavior and negative qualities of a sex criminal who harasses and assaults women, taking cynical advantage of his public stature,” the lawsuit states.

It appeared that Lipman had decided not to sue the woman who made the original post because she is not an Israeli and lives in the US, where the legal burden of proof required in libel cases against public figures is far higher than in Israel.

Lipman had been serving as Yesh Atid’s English-speaking representative after failing to make it into the Knesset in the 2015 election. But in 2018, the centrist slate abruptly announced that he would no longer represent the party at all, without providing any additional information.

In their joint legal response to the libel suit, the women included text messages Lipman sent to one of them in which he indicated that his departure from Yesh Atid had to do with their allegations against him.

“I have suffered immensely for my behavior… I stepped down from Yesh Atid which I had given 5 years to,” Lipman wrote in the text message, which was among the court documents first obtained by Haaretz.

US-born Rabbi Dov Lipman, right, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid (photo credit: Yaakov Lederman)
Dov Lipman, right, and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. (Yaakov Lederman)

The women also noted in their response that they had made the accusations in a private forum where Lipman is not a member.

“My clients behaved with the utmost restraint and did not detail [Lipman’s] actions. Their behavior demonstrates their noble intentions and personal code of values in a situation that not only justified what they wrote, but required it,” the women’s lawyer wrote in her response to the libel suit.

The subsequent sexual harassment suit filed by the first woman demands NIS 120,000 ($37,132) in compensation.

That lawsuit states Lipman and the accuser had worked together as activists against religious extremism in Beit Shemesh before the former became a member of Knesset. The complainant sought out his assistance, figuring that he would be able to use his new position of greater authority to advance their cause. But rather than simply offer his assistance, the lawsuit states that Lipman “repeatedly, in a completely inappropriate way, including repeated offers of contact, repeated requests for hugs and kisses, declarations that he needed and missed being hugged, intimate insinuations, evening invitations to one-on-one meetings in empty apartments, linkage of assistance in advocacy to intimacy, and other inappropriate and terrible behavior, particularly in view of his public role as a rabbi and a Knesset member.”

In his legal response to the sexual harassment lawsuit, Lipman again branded the accusations patently false and accused the woman of engaging in a “conspiracy” and “witch hunt” against him.

His defense acknowledged that Lipman did share intimate details of his married life with the complainant but that the repeated requests for hugs were not intended as sexual advances but rather a yearning for moral support, according to the court documents.

MK Rabbi Dov Lipman sitting in the plenum hall of the Knesset during an introduction day for new parliament members, February 03, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman sitting in the plenum hall of the Knesset during an introduction day for new parliament members, February 3, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The second woman has not filed a similar harassment suit against Lipman and her Facebook post did not make mention of a personal interaction with him.

According to the court documents, before posting her comment that led to the libel suit, the woman became aware of other allegations against Lipman and decided to meet with him to discuss the matter.

During that meeting, Lipman begged the woman not to speak publicly about the allegations and subsequently promised that he would never again in his role as a public figure engage in work on behalf of women or girls.

In subsequent texting conversations with the second woman, Lipman acknowledged having sent inappropriate messages to the first woman, who went on to file the sexual harassment suit against him.

“What I wrote was wrong. I take responsibility for it. But I am not some dangerous monster who is out there hurting women and I won’t be engaging in any ‘friendly’ communication with any women other than my wife,” he stated, according to the court documents.

Believing Lipman’s sincerity, the second woman chose not to go public with the allegations. However, after subsequent Facebook posts by the former MK showed him still working with young women, she decided to post her comment against Lipman, over which he then sued her for libel.

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