Sexual Harassment: Israel’s Walter Cronkite And A New Israeli Religious Ruling

Interesting employment discrimination news from Israel under the heading “the times they are a changing.”

First, it has been reported that the 83-year old retired newscaster known as “Israel’s Walter Cronkite” is the subject of multiple accusations of sexually harassment by female employees after he said during a newspaper interview that:

“Once there was a much freer atmosphere. If you said something, or patted or hugged or even kissed, it was semi-legitimate. Today, we would have all been accused of harassment. But l was fonder of women’s reactions back then. If you grabbed a woman’s behind, she would slap you in the face. Today, they run to a lawyer. I’m in favor of being slapped and getting it over with.”

That was then

One former employee said that he had groped her 15 years ago:  “One day I met with Haim at work and he suddenly touched my bra. He took my breasts in his hands against my will. I pushed his hands away and said, ‘Put your hands back where they belong; stop this immediately!’”

A second employee said that he “caressed my buttocks as I was making him up.  I jumped backwards and said, ‘Get your hand away.’”  And a third said that “there wasn’t a [woman] who didn’t get a comment or a touch from him. He would caress women’s buttocks, and one said to him that he should be careful or she would complain.”

He has denied all of these accusations.

But his comments about sexual harassment, above, which resonate with an “anti-political correctness” tone harkening back to the Mad Men 50’s in the US, which now appears to be the fashion, caught my attention, as well as the comments of those who used to work with him.

But wait!  This is now. …

He has expressed remorse, commenting that “It’s very good that things have changed since then.  I live and respect and support full equality between women and men with all rights. If I hurt any man or any woman, I apologize.”

As if to underscore the changes in Israeli society highlighted by Cronkite’s morphing comments, and “[i]n the wake of several recent scandals involving well-known figures from the religious public,” Israel Hayom reports that “A comprehensive halachic document compiled by the Puah Institute for fertility, medicine, and Jewish law cites five halachic sources and determines that it is not only permissible, but an obligation, to complain about sexual harassment (emphasis added).”

Wow – it is an obligation to report sexual harassment!

Takeaway:  Making our point, the Israel Hayom article states that “The Puah document itself notes that times have changed.”


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 152 other subscribers
Posted in

Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]