Twelve young men accused of rape by a 19-year-old British woman returned home to Israel last week after she admitted to lying about the young men gang-raping her.
Confronted with video of her smiling during the alleged rape, the woman revised her testimony, Israeli media reported. She told police the sex in a Cyprus hotel room was consensual and she made up the allegations because she was humiliated by how the young men treated her.
Five of the Israelis had already been released from Cypriot jail on Thursday, and the final seven were let out after the woman changed her story Sunday. According to news agency reports, the woman, who has yet to be identified, was subsequently arrested on suspicion of making a false allegation.
Nir Jeslovich, a defense attorney who represents several of the young men, aged 15 to 22, said the woman had turned his clients’ vacation into a nightmare.
“As I have argued throughout the process, there was no rape in Cyprus,” Jeslovich told The Jerusalem Post. “The young men who went on a vacation that became a nightmare will go home today, and everyone will return to their homes and families.”
The young men’s ordeal started in mid-July when the woman told police that they held her down and took turns raping her in a room at the Pambos Napa Rocks Hotel in Ayia Napa, a resort town on the island nation.
“I do remember that until about 1 a.m., the friends I did not know raped me, some wore a condom, and some didn’t. They hurt my whole body — one of them held me down, and then I saw at least 12 faces — for an hour or so, one after the other,” the woman told police. “After they let me go, I fainted, and then I ran out of the room, met friends and they took me half-naked to the clinic.”
However, after police arrested the Israelis, the woman’s story began to unravel.
Nine of the them admitted to being in the room during the sex act, but they insisted it was consensual. The girlfriend of one young man produced a cellphone photo she took of him sleeping at the time.
“My girlfriend’s selfie saved my life,” he told Israel’s Channel 12 News. “I will never come back here ever again.”
How cellphone footage cleared Israeli teens of gang rape
According to The Times of Israel, investigators on Sunday presented the woman with the young men’s accounts of the night, along with cellphone footage from the boy’s phones that shows her smiling during the sex act. They also noted that she had consensual sex with three of her alleged rapists in the days beforehand.
At that point, the woman broke down in tears and admitted that she filed the complaint because she was humiliated that the Israelis filmed the orgy without her consent and then booted her from the hotel room in Cyprus.
“I went down from the room and met two of my friends. I told them what had happened and they immediately told me to file a complaint with police,” she told police.
The woman was placed under arrest and “is facing charges of giving a false statement over an imaginary offense” a police spokesman told Israeli media. She was slated to appear in court on Monday to be indicted.
A heroes’ welcome
As the last group of freed young men arrived at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport on Sunday, they celebrated their release by popping champagne bottles and chanting, “Am Yisrael Chai” (The People of Israel Lives) and “the Brit is a whore.”
They said they regretted nothing they had done, and several pledged to sue their former accuser.
“We will sue her for the anguish caused and for libel,” Yona Golub, who was among those released on Thursday, told reporters. “I am walking in the street and people are calling me a rapist. I was with two friends who were arrested and they straight away arrested me too. I know my friends were in the room, but I wasn’t, I don’t know the girl.”
“The truth is out,” Golub added. “I told myself, today finally this nightmare ends. I went through tough days. I was happy to hear they were being set free, I was going crazy at home.”
Yaniv Habari, a defense attorney representing some of the young men, confirmed that a lawsuit was forthcoming.
“We will proceed with legal action against the individual that made the false allegations, for damages, for every day and every moment they were in prison falsely,” he said.
Not rape, but still rape culture?
The woman’s allegation received heavy press coverage in Israel, which has not been exempt from the #MeToo movement.
Last Sunday, one prominent journalist, Channel 12’s Roni Daniel, joked on the radio about the woman’s sexual history with her alleged rapists: “Oh, she was used to two or three, suddenly [there are] 12, that’s the breaking point?”
Amid backlash, Daniel issued a clarification.
In response, Henriette Chacar argued Tuesday in the left-wing outlet +972 that Daniel was part of Israel’s militaristic patriarchy, which she blamed for perpetuating both rape culture and the occupation of the Palestinians.
“But Daniel is only one bad apple in a rotten orchard,” she said. “In a society dominated by male hierarchies, violence is not only a pervasive symptom but a defining feature.”
Meanwhile, international observers lined up largely along ideological lines, with some pro-Palestinian commentators rushing to condemn the young men.
Gideon levy says it besthttps://t.co/lk9D5KvC8T
— Leila Hatoum (@Leila1H) July 21, 2019
Even after the boys were exonerated and released, some liberal commentators were unhappy with the heroes’ welcome they received.
In a column Monday for the left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz, Hen Artzi-Sror said the Israelis behavior was still reprehensible even if they did not commit rape. He mocked the notion that they are “good boys.”
“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,” he said. “There’s no doubt, they are obviously good boys.”
In an interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth Monday, an unnamed friend of the British accuser suggested that the young men were partly to blame for their fate.
“Even if they didn’t rape her, it’s not okay to film someone without their consent and then upload it to social media. They humiliated and hurt her, which is why she made the rape complaint in the first place,” she said. “She should have told the truth from the beginning, because being filmed without your consent is a serious enough offense.”