Amid outcry over silence, UN Women posts, then deletes, condemnation of Hamas attack

UN body says statement was issued by mistake, was replaced by call for release of hostages; activists have decried UN failure to address evidence of rape, sexual abuse on Oct. 7

Women protest outside the UN Headquarters in Jerusalem over its failure to condemn Hamas violence against women during its October 7 onslaught, November 27, 2023. (Flash90)
Women protest outside the UN Headquarters in Jerusalem over its failure to condemn Hamas violence against women during its October 7 onslaught, November 27, 2023. (Flash90)

JTA — Nearly 50 days after Hamas’s brutal massacres in Israel left some 1,200 dead and over 240 kidnapped, and after weeks of criticism over its silence about evidence of sexual violence during the attack, the women’s rights group UN Women issued a statement condemning the terror group on Friday.

Then it deleted the post.

“We condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7 and continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” read the initial statement, posted on UN Women’s Instagram page. It was soon replaced with a statement that dropped the condemnation of Hamas and only called for the release of the hostages.

Word spread quickly among Jewish and Israeli activists and others, reigniting their contention that UN Women — an official arm of the United Nations focused on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment — holds a double standard when it comes to gender-based violence against Israeli women.

Some of the critics — including Israel’s First Lady Michal Herzog and Sheryl Sandberg, a former top Meta executive — have lobbied openly on the topic. Many have used the hashtag “#MeToo_UNless_UR_A_Jew.”

Reached for comment, UN Women told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Instagram post had been scheduled in advance and was deleted because the message in it no longer reflected where the organization wanted to put its main focus.

“In any social media team managing multiple campaigns and during a very busy time like the one we are now with 16 Days of Activism, mistakes can occur,” a representative for UN Women said in a statement sent to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Illustrative: A woman stands with a symbolic zipper around her mouth and a sign identifying some of the hostages abducted by Palestinian terrorists during the October 7 attack at a vigil demanding government action for their return, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 7, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

In particular, said the media specialist, the release of some hostages over the weekend as part of a temporary truce changed the organization’s priorities.

“UN Women social media team had pre-planned days in advance this particular post, but then the news broke on the release of hostages and we really wanted to focus on that,” she said. “UN Women has condemned the attacks by Hamas and the deaths of Israeli civilians from the beginning as well as called for the release of hostages, and we will continue doing so until the conflict ends. We have also called for all allegations of gender-based violence to be rigorously investigated, prioritizing the rights, needs, and safety of those affected.”

In late October, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but voted down a provision condemning the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught. On Monday, the Knesset held a session on crimes against humanity committed against women during the assault.

After an initial statement on October 13 condemning the attacks on civilians in Israel, all of UN Women’s public comments about the war and its impact on women had centered only on Palestinians. Last week, Sima Bahous, the group’s executive director, called for an extension of the current temporary truce into a permanent ceasefire and for the release of all hostages.

The National Council for Jewish Women, which had previously criticized UN Women’s silence on sexual violence against Israeli women, said the group’s second statement last week was inadequate.

“The delayed issuance of a statement that fails to explicitly address the severity of Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel — such as the brutal murder of over 1,200 people in Israel, torture, and rape of women, as well as the targeting of civilians and families — is equally reprehensible,” the statement said. “Immediate and unequivocal acknowledgment of these atrocities is imperative, given the blatant violation of international law.”

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