Patricia Levinson
Chair, Hadassah International Communications

Help End the Silence About Hamas’ Weaponization of Sexual Violence

Image courtesy of Hadassah.
Image courtesy of Hadassah.

Since October 7, I have lived a nightmare in my role as Communications Chair for Hadassah International, the global advocacy and fundraising arm of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America. I have been sharing with our supporters news about the horror of the premeditated torture and sexual violence perpetuated against Israeli women and girls by Hamas terrorists. I’ve listened for hours as forensic experts have presented evidence of Hamas’ systematic and widespread rape and mutilation of Israeli women. I’ve watched videos made by the rapists themselves as they spotlight the victims’ mutilated bodies. And I’ve borne witness to independent organizations’ carefully documented evidence of sexual molestation of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas.

This evidence has been presented to major, influential international bodies and consequential women’s organizations that would normally condemn such actions in no uncertain terms. But, despite the irrefutable evidence, the silence has been deafening! To date, there has been no prosecution of those responsible.

That silence has prompted Hadassah – the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States and one with an international network of supporters – to launch the End The Silence, a global campaign to unite people all over the world in speaking out against the weaponization of sexual violence by Hamas and others around the globe. The campaign builds on actions already taken by Hadassah’s grassroots supporters and leaders, including calling on international organizations to denounce Hamas’ use of rape as a weapon of war.

One of the campaign’s initial acts is to enlist men and women all over the world to sign a petition that asks the world to end the silence about Hamas’ weaponization of sexual violence against Israeli women and girls. The petition calls on United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to ensure that the UN conducts a thorough, independent, unbiased investigation and pursues a vigorous prosecution of the perpetrators of these war crimes. On March 8, International Women’s Day, grassroots Hadassah leaders from around the globe will submit their petitions to their local UN representatives.

Hadassah, with its long history of support for Israel and its NGO (nongovernmental organization) consultative status at the UN, believes that the UN must end its own silence, particularly since some UN agencies have demonstrated a longstanding bias against Israel and now appear to be holding the international body back from doing its clear duty.

We have learned, for example, that a significant number of the employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as UNRWA, were actively involved in the October 7 terror attack and its aftermath.

UN Women, the organization within the UN tasked with ending violence against women, is waiting for the results of an ongoing study by the UN Human Rights Council’s so-called Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel (the commission’s built-in bias is clear from its labeling of East Jerusalem and Israel “occupied” territory).

UN Women is also waiting for a report from Pramila Patten, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Ms. Patten has stated that she is gravely concerned about emerging reports of sexual violence and other atrocities committed against both women and men who are in Hamas’ captivity. She has also unequivocally condemned the attacks by Hamas on October 7 and expressed her sympathy for the severe collective trauma wrought by this brutality.

It should be noted, however, that as a basis for UN engagement, Ms. Patten calls for robust and independent investigations into all allegations of sexual violence in connection with the current conflict, including allegations of sexual violence against Palestinians. This despite the fact that no such allegations of sexual violence against Palestinians have been received to date by UN staff in Gaza.

You can help End The Silence by signing Hadassah’s petition below and sharing it through your social media networks:

Petition to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Dear Secretary-General Antonio Guterres,

On October 7, Hamas terrorists raped and mutilated countless women and girls in Israel using premeditated mass sexual violence and torture as a weapon of terror.

Women were shot in their vaginas and breasts. Girls were found dead, stripped naked, genitals mutilated and covered with blood and semen.

Rape should never be sanctioned as an act of war. Not in Israel. Not in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Rwanda, or Bosnia. Not anywhere. Not again.

These heinous acts are war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I am writing to ask you to help end the silence around Hamas’ use of rape as a weapon of war on October 7 and demand justice and accountability. I urge you to ensure that the United Nations conducts a thorough, independent, unbiased investigation and pursues vigorous prosecution for these war crimes.

If you live in the US, please sign the petition here.

If you live anywhere else in the world, please sign the petition here.

Together, we can make sure that rape is never again sanctioned as an act of war!

About the Author
Patricia Levinson, Chair of Hadassah International Communications, is a member of the Honorary Council of the HWZOA Board of Directors, Chair, Hadassah International Communications, a member of the Hadassah International Board of Directors, and a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. A biochemist, she moved to Israel in 1966 with her husband, working at the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 1970, the Levinson family moved to Schenectady, New York. Patricia immediately became involved with Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America Inc. (HWZOA), moving through the ranks with multiple leadership responsibilities, including working with Hadassah International in the communications area since 2002. She has served on the National Board of Directors/National Assembly of HWZOA for 32 years, and on the Board of Directors of Hadassah International for three years. In 1992, Patricia received her MBA from the State University of New York at Albany, majoring in Marketing and Communications. Patricia lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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