An Israel court has sentenced an Arab man named Sabbar Kashur to 18 months in prison for having consensual sex with an Israeli Jewish woman under the pretense that he was also Jewish. The case, brought by the Israeli woman, ended with Kashur being convicted of "rape by deception." It has drawn new attention to the culture of mistrust that persists between many Jews and Muslims in Israel, where race and religion often take the blame for years of complicated international conflict. Here's what a handful of Middle East watchers have to say.

  • What Happened  The Guardian's Jo Adetunji and Harriet Sherwood report, "According to the complaint filed by the woman with the Jerusalem district court, the two met in downtown Jerusalem in September 2008 where Kashur, an Arab from East Jerusalem, introduced himself as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The two then had consensual sex in a nearby building before Kashur left. When she later found out that he was not Jewish but an Arab, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault. Although Kashur was initially charged with rape and indecent assault, this was changed to a charge of rape by deception as part of a plea bargain arrangement."

[The case] highlights the open hostility with which many Israeli Jews view mixed relationships with Arabs, who make up one-fifth of the population of Israel. A poll conducted in 2007 by Israel's Geocartography Institute found that more than 50 per cent of Israeli Jews thought marrying an Arab was "equal to national treason". Jews are legally forbidden to intermarry in Israel.

The Sunday Times reported in 2009 on a squad of "vigilantes" in the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev. The group has patrolled the streets for more than a decade looking for mixed couples.

And in 2009, the town of Petah Tikva established a team of counsellors and psychologists to "rescue" Jewish women from relationships with Arab men. The Israeli daily Maariv reported in February that Tel Aviv had launched a similar programme.

  • The Judge's Emotional Ruling  One of the thee judges on the case, Tzvi Segal, said, "The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls. When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims – actual and potential – to protect their wellbeing. Otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled, while paying only a tolerable and symbolic price."
  • What If Genders Were Reversed?  Liberal Israeli pundit Gideon Levy is quoted byt the Guardian, "I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not."
  • 'Public Apartheid'  The U.A.E. National's Tom Gara fumes, "The tilt toward explicit public apartheid continues in Israel. ... They met, shagged in a 'nearby building' that night, and the judge is worried that he violated the 'sanctity' of her body and soul."
  • Ruling Assumes That Jews Shouldn't Sleep with Arabs  Israeli-Arab rights advocate and attorney Abeer Baker tells Al Jazeera that this is a "dangerous precedent" for Arabs there. "In this case, the ruling seems to say that if a 'reasonable' Jewish woman knew a man was an Arab, then she would not make love to him. ... It's interfering in a very intimate, personal decision. ... That should be made between two people. The court should not interfere."
  • In Israel, 'You Had Better Not Look Like an Arab'  The U.K. Telegraph's Adrian Blomfeld writes, "Israeli human rights activists said that Kashur's actions reflected the deceits many Palestinians practise when in Israel in an attempt to avoid official and private prejudice because of their background. 'It is very well known that Israeli-Palestinians living in Israel disguise themselves,' said Leah Tsemel, a human-rights lawyer. 'You change your accent and you change your dress because if you look like an Arab you face harassment. If you want to enter a pub, you'd better not look like an Arab and if you want to have sex with an Israeli girl, you had better not look like an Arab.'"