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Israel’s Keshet Rocked by Sexual Harassment Allegations

The sexual harassment scandals roiling the entertainment industry have now hit Israel, with media powerhouse Keshet Broadcasting shaken by allegations against its founder and a high-profile producer.

Two prominent Israeli journalists, Neri Livneh and Oshrat Kotler, have come forward to accuse Alex Gilady, who founded Keshet Broadcasting, of unwanted sexual advances. Gilady is currently president of the company, which today is the Israeli arm of international production and distribution giant Keshet Media Group, and served as CEO from 1993 to 1999.

Kotler, a journalist with Israel’s Channel 10, came forward first, announcing during a broadcast late last week that during Gilady’s tenure as CEO of Keshet, she met him to audition for a position on a morning show. Not long afterward, she said, he called her and offered an “indecent proposition” – to have dinner and spend the night together. According to Kotler, when she replied that she was married, Gilady brushed it off, saying: “Don’t you know how they get ahead in television in Hollywood?”

Livneh, in a column in the Haaretz newspaper, wrote of a run-in with Gilady in 1999. She said she met the Keshet executive for dinner to discuss a potential job, and after the meal he took her to his home. There, Gilady exposed his genitals to her and asked her to “talk to it,” Livneh wrote.

Gilady has issued a statement saying he had no recollection of the incident described by Kotler, adding that at the time in question, Keshet had no morning show. As for the accusation by Livneh, he said that her remarks were “largely correct,” but he framed the interaction as one between two consenting adults. “What adults do in their lives, their private homes, in the context of personal relationships, is their private matter,” Gilady said.

In a separate allegation Monday, Hadas Shtaif, a journalist with Israel’s Army Radio, posted on her Facebook page an office-wide e-mail written seven years ago by Yoram Zak, the producer and director of Keshet’s “Big Brother.” The explicit email, which contained references to genitalia and masturbation, was sent to all Keshet employees but was addressed to “the seductive girls of Keshet, the devilish ladies of Mako, the girls of Channel 24 who go with the flow, really all the girls in the building, and also the guys.

In her Facebook post, Shtaif wrote: “This e-mail is old…but read it and vomit….Before we point fingers at other people, in other countries, we have to clean up ourselves first.”

Zak has now apologized in a memo to Keshet employees that was widely published in Hebrew-language media. “I thought at the time it was funny,” he wrote. “Reading it now, seven years later, makes me cringe with embarrassment….I didn’t intend to hurt anyone, just to make them laugh. Of course I was wrong.”

Drorit Wertheim, the chairwoman of Keshet’s board, issued a statement Monday on behalf of the company in which she pledged to address sexual harassment in the workplace and to ensure a safe environment for all employees.

“The testimony of the female journalists about the improper behavior attributed to Alex Gilady is upsetting and painful,” she said. “Without addressing the specific instances, circumstances or the passage of time, I would like to offer strength to anyone who felt hurt or humiliated by improper and unacceptable conduct.”

Lawmaker Zehava Gal-On also issued a statement on Monday, saying that Gilady “knew he was protected” when he acted as he did, thanks not just to the culture within the entertainment industry in Israel, but from the culture of Israel as a society. That culture is starting to change, she said.

“To all the harassers and assaulters who are sitting there, still protected,” she wrote, “did your chair just move a little? That’s the earth shaking.”

(Pictured: Alex Gilady and John Coates)

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