SA women need to speak up
As an anti-abuse organisation supporting victims of all forms of abuse, Koleinu SA is outraged by the deafening silence of gender equality women’s organisations in response to the mass rapes of women and girls by Hamas on 7 October. Its goal was to instil terror in women, children, and other unarmed civilians. The head of the Israeli nongovernmental commission investigating crimes perpetrated against women and children on 7 October, Dr Cochav Elkayam-Levy, states, “The torture of women was weaponised to destroy communities, to destroy a people, to destroy a nation.”
According to experts, the calculated, planned, and systematic rape on 7 October has never been a practice previously used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These crimes cannot be denied as Hamas terrorists left behind documents detailing how they planned to rape as many females as possible – babies, children, pregnant women, elderly women, and adolescents – to “dirty and contaminate them” as described by one of the captured terrorists.
As part of their psychological warfare, they videoed their despicable acts for all the world to see, as well as posting them on the victims’ Facebook pages as a final means of degradation. Israel’s first lady, Michal Herzog, stated, “Our forensic scientists have found bodies of women and girls raped with such violence that their pelvic bones were broken. These acts were used as a form of torture before executing them.”
Rape and sexual assault as a terror tactic in conflict is a recognised war crime. The Geneva Convention states that “women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape or any form of indecent assault”. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court states that “rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, or any other form of sexual violence” is a crime against humanity. Many other international conventions demand that the global community must always safeguard women and girls, including and especially during armed conflict.
Yet in the aftermath of Hamas’s pure savagery, there has been complete and utter silence from all South African women’s organisations and across South African media. Where are the self-righteous sisters of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League? Where are the female leaders of this country? Where are the female TV presenters? Where are the female voices in the media?
There hasn’t been one word of condemnation from organisations which claim to represent the rights of women, regardless of race, colour, or creed. Every women’s organisation protecting the rights of women will have the following guiding principles when a rape is reported: always believe the victim; never doubt the truthfulness of their report; show them unconditional care and support; explain and reiterate that the rape wasn’t their fault no matter what the circumstances; and reassure them and ascertain what their needs are going forward. Clearly when it comes to the systemic rape of Jewish women, these principles fall away. Unfortunately the #MeTooUnlessYou’reAJew says it all.
While grave concern for the displacement of women and children in Gaza has been prevalent in all the South African media, there has been nothing but glaring silence about the displaced women from Be’eri, Nir Oz, Kfar Aza, Ashkelon, and Sderot who were attacked by Hamas just for being Jewish. Not a word about the Israeli mothers burying their mutilated daughters, sons, and husbands and about the Israeli women raped and left to be spat on while their naked bodies were paraded and celebrated throughout the streets of Gaza.
Adding insult to injury, some have even gone so far as to question the veracity of the accusations even though Hamas publicly posted and lauded its brutality on social media. After the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Ukraine, crimes against women were central to the international criminal indictments and prosecutions of men responsible for orchestrating and perpetrating the campaigns of rape. In light of the current blinding hypocrisy and unbridled antisemitism, it’s highly unlikely that a special prosecutor will be called to provide the same legal protection to Israeli women and children.
As we head into the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, which started on 25 November, and as a proudly Jewish anti-abuse organisation supporting victims of abuse in the rape capital of the world, we now turn the spotlight onto these so-called women’s rights organisations to emerge from their self-induced blindness and discrimination, and loudly condemn for all of South Africa and the rest of the world to hear the barbaric, sadistic, and wholesale rape of Jewish women and children by Hamas terrorists.
We call on the ANC Women’s League, People opposing Women Abuse, and Sonke Gender Justice, among others, to take the lead in expressing their purported support for all victims of sexual assault. This is Koleinu SA’s challenge to you.
In the words of Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the president of Shurat HaDin, a legal organisation fighting terror, “Those who spent their lives fighting for women and children but held their tongue when the victims were Jewish will have to answer for their hypocritical and tell-tale prejudicial silence.”
- Rozanne Sack is a co-founder of Koleinu SA, a helpline and advocacy organisation for victims of gender-based violence and child abuse in the Jewish and wider community.