Silence of the sisters
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT
The date 25 November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ushers in the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. This is a critical campaign that highlights the horrific gender-based violence that affects women and young girls around the world.
Around the world – except for Israeli victims. Since the atrocities of 7 October, in which Israeli women and girls of all ages were humiliated, brutally tortured, raped, murdered, and taken hostage by Hamas terrorists, there has been a deafening silence from women’s organisations, nongovernmental organisations, activists, and celebrities.
The sisters have gone silent.
When the horrific images of Shany Louk were circulated, clothes ripped, legs broken, lying on the back of a truck, and paraded through the streets of Gaza while she was spat on and kicked by Palestinian men crowing over the war trophy they had, we should have heard outraged and angry condemnation.
When we saw footage of Naama Levi, now held hostage in Gaza, pulled by her hair, arms bound, and bleeding from her crotch into a Jeep by an armed terrorist, which confirmed our worst fears, immediate condemnation should have resulted.
As the weeks following the attacks of 7 October unfold, we have heard the accounts of the barbarism and depravity inflicted on Israelis on 7 October, and they are worse than our most frightening nightmares. We’ve heard consistently from first responders, soldiers, eyewitnesses, forensic pathologists, and Chevrah Kadisha volunteers preparing bodies for burial how rape was used as a weapon of war. The accounts are excruciating of how women, children, and the elderly weren’t only raped, they had limbs or body parts cut off. Hamas terrorists have admitted to it in interrogation interviews for the world to see, without a single expression of remorse. In fact, they enjoyed it.
One terrorist was asked during his interrogation, “And why take the kids and babies?” He replied, “To rape them.” They admitted to receiving orders to “dirty the women and children”.
The sisters remained silent.
Women’s organisations in Israel, including the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO), the foreign affairs ministry, activists, and many more have and continue to write letters, OpEds, address forums and media, pressure the United Nations (UN) and its agencies like UN Women, and have launched campaigns like “#MeTooUnlessYou’reAJew” and “Believe Israeli” women. When the #MeToo movement took off around the world, women felt that finally we were being heard and gender-based violence and rape was on the agenda.
Our First Lady, Michal Herzog, penned an OpEd for Newsweek magazine.
Until the atrocities of 7 October. Women are heard, unless they are Israeli women. Jewish women.
It took a campaign of tremendous pressure for UN Women, 50 days after the attacks, to tweet that it remained “alarmed by gender-based violence reports on 7 October and call for rigorous investigation, prioritising the rights, needs, and safety of those affected”. It wasn’t disgusted, appalled, or outraged, but simply alarmed. It has since gone silent. What a failure of its mandate!
The Israel Police’s Lahav 433 National Crime Unit collected the testimony of a young woman who survived the massacre at the Supernova music festival in Reim: “As I am hiding, I see in the corner of my eyes that [a terrorist] is raping her,” she said of another victim while demonstrating the terrorist’s violent grasp with her hands. “She was alive beforehand; she stood on her feet, bleeding from her back. But then the situation was that he was pulling her hair. She had long, brown hair,” she was quoted as saying.
The witness saw the woman bleeding from the back, she said, first bent over, then pulled back up by combatants. One man pulled the woman’s long hair and raped her, the witness said, then passed her onto another man, who also raped her before shooting her in the head.
“He didn’t pick up his pants,” the witness said. “He shot her while inside her.”
As a Jewish woman, an Israeli, I can say that the message we have received loud and clear from our so-called feminist sisters is that our lives and experience doesn’t count. Women’s organisations, activists, and feminists haven’t only failed their Jewish sisters, but future victims as well as they have now established a precedent based on identity politics and prejudice.
Israeli women are raising our voices, and we won’t stop. We’ll continue to be the voices of our women and children. Most of them have been murdered or taken hostage.
The sisters remain silent.
- Rolene Marks is the head of public diplomacy and hasbarah for World WIZO.