Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday castigated human rights groups, women’s organizations and the United Nations for failing to speak out about the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli women.
Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu noted he met earlier with released hostages and with relatives of those still held in Gaza, a gathering described as hostile and stormy by those present.
“I heard heartbreaking stories of abuse,” he said. “I heard, as you have heard, about sexual abuse and unprecedented cases of cruel rape.”
But, Netanyahu said, he has not heard women’s and human rights groups “scream” against the sexual violence by Palestinian terrorists who invaded southern Israel on October 7, and he asked if they were “silent because it was Jewish women.”
Switching to English, he added: “I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?”
“I expect all civilized leaders, governments, nations to speak up against this atrocity,” he added, before switching back to Hebrew.
During a fundraiser in Boston, Biden echoed Netanyahu’s condemnation of international organizations.
“Reports of women raped — repeatedly raped — and their bodies being mutilated while still alive — of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them. It is appalling,” he said.
“The world can’t just look away at what’s going on. It’s on all of us — government, international organizations, civil society and businesses — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception,” Biden added.
International human rights organizations have faced intense scrutiny from public figures and rights organizations in Israel and the Jewish state’s supporters abroad, who have urged them to acknowledge and investigate the testimonies of rape and sexual violence committed during the October 7 onslaught in which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists killed more than 1,200 people and seized some 240 hostages.
The United Nations in particular has been the target of criticism by Israeli rights groups, after close to eight weeks went by before they issued a condemnation and committed to launching an investigation into the allegations.
On November 30, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres broke his silence on allegations of sex crimes and called for the allegations to be “vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
The following day, 57 days after the brutal Hamas attacks, the women’s rights group UN Women released a statement condemning the events of October 7, but drew criticism after leading with “regret” that fighting had resumed between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
“We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October. We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks,” the statement continued.
It then went on to laud the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel, for “opening its call for submissions on gender-based crimes since October 7.”
On Monday, Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN led a special session at the UN headquarters in New York to raise awareness about the crimes committed against Israeli women and girls.
“On October 7, Israel suffered its most brutal massacre since the Holocaust; the atrocities were more barbaric than ISIS, some say more than the Nazis,” said Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan at the outset of the event. “Families were burned alive, children executed in front of their parents and parents executed in front of their children.
“But the crimes didn’t end there: Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. These were not spur-of-the-moment decisions to defile and mutilate girls and parade them while onlookers cheered; rather, this was premeditated,” Erdan said. “Sadly, the silence of international bodies who are supposedly defenders of women has been deafening.”
Graphic accounts from survivors of the attack and those who prepared bodies for burial detail acts of gang rape and mutilation carried out against women and girls, and an ongoing police investigation has been exploring evidence of post-mortem mutilation.
The police investigation was hampered initially by the fact that physical evidence of sexual assault was broadly not collected on the day of the attacks due to complications posed by the evidence being located in an active warzone.
Rape kits, which need to be used in the first 48 hours following an assault, could not be used, and many of the bodies arriving at the emergency morgue set up at the Shura military base were so badly mutilated that collecting physical evidence of sexual assault, such as semen or DNA samples, was not possible.
Additionally, many of the women who experienced the sexual assault and rape firsthand, however, were either killed or taken hostage, and so cannot provide the firsthand information that some are demanding.
A report published by the BBC on Tuesday shared the account of a survivor of the slaughter at the Supernova music festival, where some 360 people were killed.
In the testimony, the anonymous survivor referred to only as Witness S. recounts watching a group of terrorists shoot and kill a woman at the same time as they continued to abuse and assault her body.
In the face of mounting evidence of their crimes, Hamas claimed on Monday that the accusations of sexual violence were part of “Zionist campaigns which promote unfounded lies and allegations to demonize the Palestinian resistance.”
Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.