A Call for Justice A Degel Menashe Editorial

Last week’s 16-minute exchange on the Knesset floor between Miri Regev and Pnina Tamano-Shata has electrified the B’nei Menashe community. Within a week, the YouTube video of the debate has garnered over 2,300 viewers and 125 comments, nearly all of them from B’nei Menashe. These comments reflect the split in our community between the supporters and opponents of Shavei Israel. To Shavei’s supporters, Miri Regev is an irresponsible politician who has besmirched a worthy organization. To Shavei’s opponents, she is a determined fighter who has spoken the truth on the Knesset floor about Shavei’s misdeeds.


There is one thing, however, that both sides should be able to agree on, which is that the rape of a young child is a terrible crime. Referred to by Regev in her remarks, the sexual assault on the then 10-year-old daughter of Sarah Baite, which Sarah tells about in this week’s Newsletter, should not be a matter of controversy. It should not divide us into pro-Shavei and anti-Shavei camps. It should be condemned by us all, and we should all want to see its perpetrator punished.


The accused rapist lives today in Israel. His name, which we have concealed from our readers for legal and other reasons, is known to many people. He made Aliyah with the complicity of cronies who sought to protect him and spirit him out of India so that he need not fear facing prosecution. The Indian judicial system, they reasoned, would not ask for his extradition from Israel even if the case reached the Indian courts, which they were sure it would not. Sarah Baite, they were confident, having been intimidated into not filing a police complaint in the first place, would not dare take action now.


But Sarah Baite is a braver woman than they realized. She had the courage in 2020 to write a letter to the Minister of Immigration relating what had happened to her and her daughter, and she has had the courage to speak up again now to our Newsletter.


Nor is it true that the alleged rapist can only be prosecuted in India. This is his cronies’ second miscalculation. Israeli law provides for his prosecution in Israel, too. To be sure, this is not a simple matter. Charging an Israeli citizen with a crime committed outside the country’s borders is a procedure that requires the approval of the Attorney General. The crime has to be considered sufficiently serious to justify it.


But are there many crimes more serious than the rape of a 10-year-old child?


What Sarah Baite and her daughter have suffered and still are suffering can never be compensated for. At the very least, they deserve the satisfaction of seeing the man responsible brought to justice. It can be done.