The #MeToo movement plays out live on air in Israel

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israel sexual harass liebermann_00004923

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Jerusalem (CNN)Oshrat Kotler sat behind the anchor desk, unable to calm her pounding heart. Her breaths came in staccato gasps. After 25 years spent presenting the news on camera, Kotler found she could hardly control her nerves.

And when she started speaking, her story -- hidden for a quarter century -- began pouring out on live television.
Earlier this month Kotler, an anchor for Israel's Channel 10 news, told her viewers about the time she says she faced an indecent proposal as a young, aspiring journalist.
"[CEO of Keshet Media Group] Alex Gilady interviews me. The interview goes well. He likes my portfolio. A few hours later, I get a phone call and Alex Gilady invies me for dinner, and when I try to evade and to suggest lunch, he clarifies to me, 'No, no, dinner. And make sure you keep the evening free too.' And then I tell him, 'Mr. Gilady, I'm really flattered that you invite me for dinner, but you know, I'm married.' And then he explains to me, 'What has this got to do with it? Don't you know how they advance in TV in Hollywood?'"
    Israeli TV anchor Oshrat Kotler took to the airwaves to level a charge of sexual harassment.
    Kotler called it an indecent proposal that never went any further.
    It was the #MeToo campaign reaching Israel, not in its original form -- a viral social-media campaign empowering women to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse -- but playing out on live Israeli television.
    Kotler admitted she was skeptical of the movement at first, but said she changed her mind after reflecting on why she had so much trouble coming forward years before.
     Alex Gilady, seen in a 2015 file photo, has denied allegations of sexual misconduct.
    "When this Hollywood affair burst, I admit that my first instinctive reaction was, 'Well, what is this self-righteousness?' All those who wanted a career in Hollywood, they knew that the price of their career goes through bed. Where were you 30, 40 years ago? My first instinct was to say, 'Why now?'," Kotler said on TV.
    Gilady, now the president of the Israeli media giant Keshet and a member of the International Olympic Committee, denied the accusations through his lawyer. Gilady stands accused by at least three other women of rape or sexual misconduct. He has temporarily stepped down from his position, he said, to focus on proving his innocence.
    "Mr. Gilady denies all accusations, and will vigorously defend his name and his reputation in any relevant proceedings," his attorney Amir Tytunovich said in a statement to CNN.

    #MeToo 'isn't over yet'

    Israeli politician Merav Michaeli has watched the #MeToo campaign unfold across Israel and beyond.
    "It's a bursting out of things that are just there and have been forever actually," Michaeli said, "and now there is some kind of movement that women just feel that they can't hold back anymore."
    Michaeli said this wave echoes a similar Israeli movement in the early 2000s of women speaking out, including making accusations of sexual misconduct against a government minister that led to his indictment and resignation. In the intervening years, former Israeli President Moshe Katsav was convicted of rape, and served five years in prison.
    "What you see in Israel now is yet another wave, which is extremely important, as it is in the [United] States, but it's not over yet," Michaeli said. "It's not the end -- just another wave which will move us forward -- and we will also have to suffer backlash and deal with it. That's how we go on."
    This message gets lost in the #MeToo movement
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    In Michaeli's eyes, the #MeToo campaign is part of a process of reforming and updating cultural norms about sexual harassment and misconduct.
    But defense attorney Lior Epstein cautioned about the goal of that process, since the campaign has often involved public shaming of the accused before they have stood trial.
    "If shaming is for the purpose of sanctioning, for the purpose of annihilating a person, then I see it as a lynching per se, a virtual lynching," Epstein said. "But if this process is done in order to float and to clarify and to say 'we were living in a sick norm and we are building a new norm and we are powerful enough,' we will not collapse from it."
    In her comments on live TV, Kotler reflected on why it took her so long to come forward.
    "The time to speak has come, maybe too late, and I can only regret that I didn't have the courage to speak 15 years ago," she told viewers. "Maybe I could have saved anguish to a few other women who came looking for work at Keshet broadcasting."