OPINON: After the horrors of rape, the indignity of not being believed

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OPINON: After the horrors of rape, the indignity of not being believed

The people behind women’s organisations lost their voice, and 70 days later, they remain to be found, writes public affairs director Rachel Blain for Jewish News


I’m writing to lend my voice, to tell you I have shed tears, to add my name to the list of those who believe Israeli women.

It is inconceivable I have started an article this way and incomprehensible that the world has stayed silent; failing to lend their voice to support Israeli women, to speak out against the barbaric sexual violence committed by the terrorist group, Hamas.

The 7th of October was the worst terror attack Israel has ever faced, with the largest amount of Jewish deaths in a day since the Holocaust. It underscored Hamas’ capabilities, but also highlighted that Jewish women are alone.

In the wake of the Me Too movement, and the cruel kidnapping of 276 girls by Boko Haram in 2014, hashtags followed and social media campaigns dominated the feeds of women and their allies. But not the 7th of October. There was silence then. The people behind women’s organisations lost their voice, and sixty days later, they remain to be found.

Hamas, after meticulously planning their bloody massacre complete with maps and instruction manuals, live-streamed their terror attack using go-pro cameras.

The signs were there straight away. Shani Louk, 22-years-of-age was paraded in her underwear in the back of a truck in Gaza. Another female was recorded with red stains on her shorts. But still the world said nothing.

Rachel Blain, Conservative Friends of Israel

On the 25th November, the United Nations marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, coinciding with 50 days since Hamas’ deadly terror attack and 50 days of women and girls being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Still there was no statement, just silence.

In the past week, witness testimonies have started surfacing from victims of the Hamas terror attack, as well as from members of Zaka – the volunteer organisation helping to identify bodies. Their accounts are harrowing, their experiences traumatic.

Most rape and mutilated victims are dead, and some believed to be held in Gaza, remaining in captivity so their stories aren’t shared.

Yaacov Shabtai, Israel’s police chief, has said that “18 young men and women have been hospitalised in mental health hospitals because they could no longer function”, after witnessing Hamas atrocities including sexual violence.

We have now finished the UN Women’s ’16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence’ campaign. There was no news stories on their website, no press-release of condemnation. It took until the 1st of December for UN Women to “unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October”, on social media, adding that they are “alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks”.

It wasn’t a standalone post, like #MeToo or ‘Bring our girls home’, but rather a post hidden behind an assertion “that all women, Israeli women, Palestinian women, as all others, are entitled to a life lived in safety and free from violence”.

Now this is completely true, I wouldn’t suggest otherwise, but what seems to be at play is a reluctance to condemn sexual violence against Israeli women in its entirety.

Aside from the utter horror faced by Israeli women of all ages, the world has bestowed upon them a further indignity, of not being believed, of not being worthy enough to shout condemnation from the rooftops.

Women’s movements, who have stayed silent for close to two-months after Hamas’ deadly massacre, who subtly post a condemnation hidden behind a wider (more general) condemnation of violence against women, are doing themselves a disservice.

It is clear they do not speak for all women, it is clear that they don’t speak for Israeli and Jewish women, but I promise you, I will.

I lend my voice to all Jewish and Israeli women who suffered, I share my voice with the Jewish community worldwide who feel more alone than ever, and I call on the international community to hold the terrorist organisation to account and condemn Hamas’ violence against women and girls, without drawing on ‘also’ and ‘but’.

Let’s not allow ‘Israeli/Jewish women’ to join the excuse catalogue of rapists who argue that ‘her skirt was too short’ and ‘she asked for it’. No one asks for it, but the world’s deafening silence is excusing Hamas’ behaviour, legitimising sexual violence as a weapon of war. In turn, this does not only effect Jewish and Israeli women, but women worldwide in future conflict.

A standalone statement in support of Israeli women is actually in support of all women. Women’s movements just need to leave behind their prejudice to realise that.

  • Rachel Blain, Public Affairs Director, Conservative Friends of Israel
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