This article provides a thorough analysis of contemporary sexual harassment case law in Israel and presents the first systematic study of all reported court opinions on sexual harassment that have been issued following the enactment of The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law in 1998, 222 opinions in all. The main goal of this research is to explore the manner in which courts of all instances “talk” about sexual harassment and conceptualize its harm.
From a global perspective, Israel’s sexual harassment law is particularly interesting and deserves a close analysis for two main reasons. First, it provides an intriguing example of an effort to use the law as an effective tool for social change. Sexual harassment legislation in Israel was inspired and promoted by feminist activists and academics, whose cooperation with members of Parliament facilitated the successful enactment of the law in 1998. Second, the rationales underlying the new legislation in Israel reflect contemporary doctrinal and normative challenges to sexual harassment law in the U.S. and in Europe. The feminist idea behind the Israeli legislation was to offer a new conceptualization of sexual harassment, compared to the American example. The goal was to carefully examine U.S. sexual harassment law, to identify its drawbacks and devise a new and better formulation for the Israeli context. One major implication of this feminist effort to improve the traditional legal framework of sexual harassment law was the re-conceptualization of the phenomenon as a dignitary harm in addition to its discriminatory aspects. Taking in consideration these unique aspects of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law in Israel, this article explores the various consequences of the Law’s dignitary paradigm and examines whether the new law has fulfilled its promise in promoting a more progressive understanding of sexual harassment, and what lessons can be learned form this contemporary feminist effort to correct some of the major drawbacks of American sexual harassment doctrine.