Stern raises anger by telling IDF he has shredded anonymous complaints


Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) sparked controversy on Sunday after he said he shredded anonymous complaints filed against officers while leading the IDF Manpower Directorate.

Stern, the main coalition candidate for the head of the Jewish Agency, made the comment in a radio interview about an anonymous complaint of sexual harassment filed against “R”, the new head of the Shin Bet ( Israeli Security Agency). People who have something to say about others should “do it openly,” he said.

“We cannot support a culture of anonymous accusations – not at the expense of encouraging complaint,” Stern said.

A video of a female soldier complaining that Stern banned her from following up on a sexual harassment complaint aired later Sunday on Channel 13.

“I was a soldier in Bahad 1 [the IDF’s officer school] between ’95 -’97, “said the soldier, who identified himself as G, in the video in an electronically altered voice.

“One of the non-commissioned officers tried to pick up on me and sexually harass me,” she said. “We were in the room, me, Mr. K. Elazar Stern, my personal commander and the non-commissioned officer who tried to harass me. [Stern said] in these words: “If you talk about what happened in this room, if you mention what happened in this room or what the non-commissioned officer tried to do, your days in the army will be dark and bitter. You will be the worst in the world. You will no longer stay in the military. ‘”

“There are no such things in the world,” Stern said in response to Channel 13’s question. “There isn’t a single case that I know of, and I’m sure there are. maybe now that are made up. If you say I summoned them into the room, both the stalker and him, then they’ve addressed the problem. Again, the incident may not have happened. not been well managed, ”he said.

Stern added that he didn’t believe he actually said those words to the soldier.

“The point is, the incident has been dealt with. And I think the focus is on treatment,” he said.

Stern’s office then released an official response.

“Complaints filed with Minister Stern have always been dealt with. In addition, the military has a protocol for these complaints,” the response read, referring to the fact that each unit has a person assigned to deal with all matters related to the military. gender, including complaints of sexual misconduct. .

“[Stern] has always acted, and still does today, to curb the phenomenon of sexual harassment, and Stern does not recall this specific case. ”

Stern’s comments drew fierce criticism and sparked speculation about the viability of his candidacy for the presidency of the Jewish Agency. Sources close to Stern said he sent the text of the interview and spoke to many people on the agency’s selection committee, and everyone accepted his clarification.

A veto of two members of the 10-member committee is sufficient to disqualify a candidate. Stern already had no guarantees that he would receive support from members of the Likud committee, Blue and White, and the Zionist religious movement World Mizrachi.

An anonymous letter published Wednesday accused “R”, who was approved as head of the Shin Bet by the government audit committee on Friday, of two unspecified incidents of misconduct. During Friday’s confirmation hearing, “R” was able to convince the committee that the allegations against him were false.

Stern was quick to point out that he always “encouraged every soldier, woman or man, who suffered sexual harassment to complain.”

“I have said many times in the past how the cultivation of sex in authority relationships is destructive to the IDF’s moral resilience,” he said. “Each soldier’s complaint about sexual harassment has been thoroughly investigated. “

MK Elazar Stern (Credit: COURTESY / OFFICE OF MK ELAZAR Stern)

Later on Sunday, he explained and said, “I want to deeply apologize for the way my comments were understood, especially to those who may have felt hurt in any way. It’s important to note that I never once said that I shredded sexual harassment complaints. The opposite is true.

“From my first day as head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, I completely reviewed the way and the manner in which complaints of sexual harassment were handled and ensured that each case be treated with the utmost seriousness. In the interview in question, I was referring to a culture of bogus complaints made against someone on the eve of their promotion after a completely blank case, unrelated to sexual harassment complaints, ”Stern said.

Helena Glaser, former president of the International Zionist Women’s Organization and a member of the Jewish Agency’s presidential selection committee, said she intended to ask Stern how he handled anonymous harassment complaints sex in the IDF when he has his official interview for the post on Wednesday.

“Elazar hasn’t been interviewed yet, and when he does, I’ll ask him the question,” Glaser said. “As a woman who has worked most of my life to promote and protect women, I have done a lot. But I can’t express my opinion now because it wouldn’t be fair. Further, of course, I will.

It wasn’t the first time Stern had gotten into trouble for making a controversial statement. Three years ago, he heckled then-minister Miri Regev (Likud) in the Knesset, alleging that her military career had been favored by sexual favors.

“I don’t want to talk about how you progressed in the military,” Stern said at the time.

Regev took his revenge on Sunday, saying it was now clear how he had progressed in the military. She called him “superficial, chauvinistic, valueless and ashamed of the kippah he wears.”

Regev said she was shocked that feminist, left-wing and centrist ministers and MPs did not speak out against him.

The only coalition MP who spoke out against Stern was Gaby Lasky (Meretz). Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, who will head the Knesset Committee on the Advancement of Women, tweeted: “The time has come for men in positions of power to understand that when a woman complains about a powerful man, she not only risks her entire future, but she puts herself in a position to become the target of further assault and claims of denial. “

Hagit Pe’er, who heads the Na’amat women’s organization, condemned Stern.

“It is a shame and a shame that a publicly appointed government minister chooses to spread this message to the Israeli public,” she said. He “should remember that the law requires that complaints of sexual assault be fully investigated, even when they are anonymous.”

Yael Sherer, head of the Israel Lobby Against Sexual Violence, who served under Stern’s leadership in the IDF’s Workforce Directorate, said she was “not surprised by his remarks.” He confessed to breaking the law and cooperating with offenders to avoid disciplinary action against them. “

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