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How the U.S. helped Israel promote the ‘Hamas mass rape’ lie to justify mass murder in Gaza

Rape is a terrible crime. It can never be justified or defended. The natural inclination is to abhor rape and those who commit it.  However, because it is such a charged issue, false rape accusations, while in general rare, have been used time and again to whip up hatred against oppressed people. This has been seen in the United States with the myth of the “Black rapist” which launched countless lynch mobs.  

Today, the claim: “Hamas committed mass rape of Israeli women on Oct. 7 as a weapon of war” is another example. This claim has been shown to have no basis in fact; instead it’s an Israeli government propaganda campaign meant to manipulate public opinion in the west to justify genocide in Gaza.

To this day no rape victims from Oct. 7 have stepped forth. There is no forensic evidence. The sensationalized “eyewitness accounts” of “horrific sexual assaults” have been thoroughly debunked and discredited by independent news outlets. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even openly said the rape stories  help legitimize and extend Israel’s mass murder in Gaza.

Yet to this day, U.S. politicians and the corporate media regularly preface Gaza reports by mentioning “horrific atrocities” allegedly committed by Hamas.

U.S. promoted ‘mass rape’ fraud

This is because U.S. politicians and the establishment media are an integral part of this deception. The Biden administration, members of Congress and the mainstream media repeat the mass rape lie at every turn. A U.S. newspaper and a UN official have used their prestige to keep the rape story going after it had fallen apart by repackaging the debunked Israeli atrocity stories and claiming ‘independent investigations” found “new evidence.” 

This shameful exploitation of people’s horror at this crime that is committed mostly against women is meant to cover up the horror of genocide, where Palestinian women and children are the main victims. Some 70% of those killed are women and children. Women and children have been arbitrarily executed. With starvation used as a weapon of war, women are the last to eat and children the first to die. A Palestinian child is killed in Gaza every 10 minutes. Two mothers are killed every hour. Of the 1.9 million displaced, close to 1 million are women and girls.

Hamas and other groups in the Palestinian armed resistance have roundly denounced as “slander” the charge that they ordered fighters to rape women. They also point out that individual acts of sexual assault may have occurred, as others came through the fence later on Oct. 7 who were not under their discipline

Rape lie used to justify destruction of Libya

In November of 2023  many Palestinian women’s groups within historic Palestine and in exile came together and declared ending the Gaza genocide a feminist issue. They made an urgent call to all those truly interested in women’s rights to join feminists worldwide and others fighting for a ceasefire, to end the blockade and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza unimpeded.

Israel’s answer was a PR event at the UN on Dec. 4, 2023, that excoriated women’s and feminist groups that backed a ceasefire, claiming they were indifferent to the suffering of Israeli women because they did not condemn “Hamas rapes.” Among the speakers was Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has been especially helpful in propagating the “mass rape” falsehood under the guise of supporting “women’s rights.” She knows the drill. When she was Secretary of State her department fabricated a later-debunked story that Libyan leader Qaddafi gave his troops Viagra to rape rebels. This racist falsehood was used to justify NATO’s carpet bombing and total destruction of Libya.

No #MeToo for Palestinian women

“Believe women” these pro-Israeli propagandists said, hijacking for settler colonialism the words of the #MeToo movement.  Only there were no women to believe. To this day no Israeli women have stepped forth to say they were raped by a Palestinian fighter on Oct. 7. And contrary to the U.S. Congressional resolution saying there were thousands of women raped, not one “eyewitness testimony” has withstood scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the women who should be believed are instead ignored by the media and by politicians who do not speak out on their behalf. They are the many Palestinian women who have come forward, with credible witnesses,  to testify to rape and sexual assault at the hands of Israeli soldiers in Gaza and in Israeli detention.   

For example, to this date Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has ignored for months recommendations from his own staff to suspend aid to Israeli military and police units accused of abusing Palestinians, including interrogators accused of raping and torturing a teenager.

While ignoring the plight of Palestinian women, U.S. politicians loudly and often repeat debunked stories that resistance fighters committed mass rape. For example, in his March 7 State of the Union speech Pres. Joe Biden accused Hamas of “massacre” and “sexual violence” against 200 “women and girls, men and boys.” The House of Representatives passed a resolution in February falsely claiming there were “thousands of testimonies from eyewitness” of “countless instances of rape, gang rape, sexual violence” by Hamas.

Israel  directs  media to unreliable sources

The most horrific descriptions of mass rape and other alleged atrocities against Israeli women and children on Oct. 7 come  from ZAKA. This ultra-right religious group collects bodies and body parts from sites of “unnatural” deaths and transports them to morgues. Its founder, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, attempted suicide after he was implicated in  dozens of rapes and sexual assaults of teens, women and children.  

ZAKA’s members have no professional training and are not qualified to make assessments about rape on the bodies they collected. Their testimonies have no details: no age, no location, and no time. There are no pictures or videos to back up their claims. The bodies they describe were buried quickly without examination for forensic evidence. All one has is their word.

ZAKA atrocity stories have even been debunked in the Israeli press. The source for the widely publicized beheaded babies, children tied together and burned, a child ripped from its mother’s womb and other debunked  atrocity stories, is one ZAKA official, Yossi Landau. Recently Landau admitted that his claim of “executed children” were a lie.

ZAKA volunteers are not credible. Yet when the international media wants to know what happened on Oct. 7 the Israeli Government Press Office sets up an interview with ZAKA.

ZAKA testimony praised for giving Israel ‘maneuvering room’

The director of the Israeli Press Office, Nitzan Hein, called ZAKA “remarkable, valuable, and effective,” and “extremely important in hasbara.” Hasbara is the Israeli word for propaganda that justifies government actions, often portraying Israel as the victim.

Netanyahu praised them  for helping to legitimize and extend Israel’s war on Gaza.   He told ZAKA, “We need to buy time … by turning to world leaders and to public opinion. You have an important role in influencing public opinion, which also influences leaders. We are in a war; it will continue. The war is not only to take care of the 1,400 people…but also to give us the maneuvering room.”

Relative says NY Times’ invented’ the rape of a victim

Independent media, including The Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss, along with the Intercept, have written many articles thoroughly exposing the alleged “eye witnesses to rape” on Oct. 7 as unreliable, debunking their atrocity stories, and revealing their links to the Israeli government. This information has been widely circulated on social media. However, CNN, the BBC, the New York Times and other major media have ignored these exposes, choosing to report as fact whatever the Israeli government presents.  

No U.S. media outlet has come to Israel’s rescue more than the New York Times. On Dec. 28 it showcased an article headlined, “‘’Screams Without Words’: How Hamas  Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.”  Claiming to have done its own investigation, the Times found “new details” that Hamas “weaponized rape and sexual violence against Israeli women on Oct. 7.”

The Times Is a major influencer of the 24-hour news cycle, often determining what and how issues are covered by other major news outlets like BBC, The Washington Post and CNN.

But the article began to unravel the very next day when the family of an alleged rape victim said the Times interviewed them under false pretenses.

About a third of the Times article covers the alleged rape of Gal Abdush, who the Times called “The Woman in the Black Dress.”  On Dec. 29, Etti Brakha, Abdush’s mother, said that the family knew nothing about the sexual assault issue until the piece was published. Nissim Abdush, Gal’s brother-in law, said his brother’s wife was not raped and that “the media invented it.” Abdush’s sister, Miral Alter, said  the Times reporters “mentioned they want to write a report in memory of Gal, that’s it. If we knew that the title would be about rape and butchery, we’d never accept that.”

Two teen sisters the Times also said were raped and murdered in their bedroom in Kibbutz Be’eri, were not raped either. Be’eri spokesperson Michal Paikin said: “They were shot and were not subjected to sexual abuse.”

Experts call the Times investigation ‘disgraceful’

None of the media repeating ZAKA atrocity stories has bothered to call in independent experts to examine these stories for veracity. MENA Rights Group, a legal advocacy NGO representing Middle East and North African victims of human rights violations, stepped forward to do just this after the Times article was published  MENA calls the Times investigation “disgraceful” in a statement signed by 16 organizations and 1,000 individuals from 50 countries. The statement cites lack of forensic evidence,  no victim involvement or testimonies  and sensational testimonies that were not fact checked.

MENA denounced the Times for “its exploitation of women’s bodies and struggles as a means to fabricate assault incidents and push propaganda for an unlawful occupation, thereby abetting the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.” 

No major media has covered the MENA statement.

Writer could find no rape victims

There is a backstory to this article. Anat Schwartz, who the Times hired to do most of the on-the-ground investigation, is an inexperienced writer with a pro-Israeli bias. She had served in Israeli Air Force intelligence, and on social media she liked a tweet saying Israel needed to turn Gaza into a “slaughterhouse.”

In a Jan. 20 interview with Israel’s Channel 12 ,she explained that she tried to find rape victims by calling the 11 Israeli hospitals that examine and treat potential victims of sexual violence. “They told me, ‘No, no complaint of sexual assault was received,’” she said.  The manager of the sexual assault hotline in south Israel’s told her they had no reports of sexual violence either. She found no corroborating evidence at alleged places of sexual attack. Schwartz said she then turned to Israeli officials, police, soldiers and witnesses being managed by the Israeli government to write the article.   

Media interviews with the unnamed paramedic who falsely said he saw “evidence” that two teenage girls had been raped at Kibbutz Be’eri, were being handled by a spokesperson for the Israeli government, Eylon Levy,.

Schwartz spoke extensively with ZAKA members. Yossi Landau, originator of the debunked “40 beheaded babies” and “pregnant women shot and stabbed with her stomach ripped open” fabrications, is featured in the Times article.

UN report recycles debunked stories

When the Times article lost credibility a new source brought the “mass rape” falsehood back to life.  A March 5 report by Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, claimed that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas had committed rapes on Oct. 7. The media spun the report as if it backed Israel’s claims.

But the report didn’t support Israeli claims. Her report says it couldn’t find one direct testimony of sexual assault on Oct. 7. It found “no digital evidence specifically depicting acts of sexual violence.” It was “unable to establish the prevalence of sexual violence.” It says a “full-fledged investigation is needed,” and notes that Israel won’t permit UN agencies with an investigative mandate to make independent assessments.

The report based its dubious conclusion of “reasonable grounds” for Hamas rapes not on evidence but on information “sourced from Israeli national institutions” — the Israeli military, the internal intelligence agency Shin Bet and the Israeli national police, the same forces committing genocide in Gaza. In Be’rre, Patten was accompanied by Yossi Landau of ZAKA.

There is a backstory here as well. Far from being neutral, in each meeting that she attended in the settlements near Gaza, “Patten consistently expressed her solidarity, empathy and sympathy towards Israel,” the Israeli newspaper YediothAhronoth reported.

Patten’s position, UN Envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict, is an advisory, not investigative, position that was created by Hillary Clinton in 2009. Patten has used this position to advance a pro-western agenda before. In October 2022 she claimed that Russian soldiers were being supplied with Viagra to rape Ukrainian women. A month later she admitted this was a fabrication. 

While Patten could not find one victim to interview, one Israeli former hostage has recently come forward to say she was sexually abused while she was held in Gaza.  She is Amit Soussana, who was released from Gaza in a prisoner exchange on Nov 30 after being held for 55 days. She said on March 26, in another detailed Times article, that she was made to perform a sexual act at gunpoint while captive. 

Hamas, while skeptical, has offered to investigate the allegations, but said an inquiry was not possible in the current circumstances. Surely a ceasefire and an alleviation of the suffering Israel has inflicted on the Palestinians in Gaza and the reestablishment of government institutions there to conduct an inquiry would be a minimum prerequisite to any meaningful investigation of Soussana’s claims.

But Israel will not allow this and is, in fact, spinning hostage rape allegations to justify the continuation of the genocidal war that makes a meaningful investigation impossible.  

 Politicians and media have discredited themselves

The Biden administration, elected officials and the media have worked overtime to create and keep alive this racist trope. Certainly it has had an effect, but at the same time, in the eyes of many, the media and the politicians that go along with and promote this false narrative  have only discredited themselves.

From college campuses to work places, to churches to trade union halls, hundreds of groups and hundreds of thousands of individuals are taking to the streets to demand a ceasefire, many also demanding a free Palestine. Hundreds of thousands have voted “uncommitted’ in state Democratic primaries rather than endorse the U.S. president, dubbed “Genocide Joe.” Activists are confronting politicians everywhere.

These activists see fraudulent claims of ‘mass rape” as a  loathsome U.S.-Israeli manufactured atrocity meant to detract from the real atrocities being committed against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. They detest this exploitation of women’s oppression for imperialist ends. They are revolted at the phony feminism of the Hillary Clintons, and sickened by blatant misuse of feminism by the Israeli and U.S. governments as a tool to silence those who would speak out against the genocide in Gaza

These protesters are listening to the voice completely left out of the corporate media and ignored by the politicians — the Palestinian voice. They are inspired by the resilience of the Palestinian people even when subjected to unspeakable atrocities. They note the overwhelming Palestinian support for their armed fighters as a legitimate and necessary part of their struggle against oppression and for national liberation.

The feminists they believe are Palestinian

To this movement, “believe women” means believing the women of Palestine. The Palestinian Feminist Collective explains that a key component of Zionist settler-colonialism is gendered/sexual violence and oppression. The PFC has asked all women’s and feminist organizations to support Palestine liberation and to back it as a feminist issue because there is no real feminism for anyone without anti-imperialism.

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