The horrific rapes and sexual assaults inflicted on Israeli women by Hamas on October 7 are finally being revealed by mainstream media, from The New York Times to The View on ABC television, after nearly two months avoiding the subject. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu specifically addressed the issue on American television today, calling for condemnation from the nations of the world. And he was echoed by President Joe Biden. Most of the earlier reportage was from Israeli and other Jewish sources. The sudden interest in the United States and elsewhere is apparently the result of a special session at the United Nations on December 4, “Hear Our Voices,” organized by the Israel Mission to the UN and others, as well as a nearby rally beforehand. The purpose of both was to raise awareness and demand outcries about this sexually based violence, which can be defined as a war crime.
At the session in the UN, three Israelis who were most integrally involved with the aftermath of the October 7 pogrom testified, and they deserve our sympathy and gratitude for what they endured: Yael Reichart, Shari Mendes, and Zaka first responder Simcha Greinman.
Chief Superintendent Yael Reichart, from the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 unit, shared graphic parts of testimonies collected during the unit’s investigation into sexual violence. She described girls and young women without clothing, people butchered and beheaded, and women and girls with broken pelvises because of repeated rapes.
Shari Mendes, a Jerusalem architect whose IDF reserve duty involves identifying female soldiers’ bodies and preparing them for burial, recounted the horrors she and her colleagues dealt with at the Shura army base, where dead bodies from the massacre were brought. She said that the atrocities included genital mutilation, cut off genitals and breasts, and decapitation. She spoke with love and a sense of duty to speak for those who could no longer do so.
As a volunteer for Zaka, an organization dedicated to collecting body parts after disasters, Simcha Greinman has surely seen his share of horrors. However, as he described what he saw on October 7, he was overcome with emotion and had to stop several times. He reported that some victims he had come upon even had nails and bullets in their vaginas.
In addition to Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, other speakers included Sheryl Sandberg (a co-sponsor), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Hon. Hillary Clinton (on video), all offering strong statements of support for the Israeli female victims and equally strong criticism for women’s groups that had not spoken out or whose statements have been late and tepid.
It was a privilege and a responsibility to attend both the UN session and the rally, to feel the staunch support of others while mourning the victims and trying to absorb the horror. Over the decades, I have been at the UN for other important special sessions, but I never felt such emotion and empathy in the room. As for the #Me Too Unless You Are A Jew rally in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, it brought back memories of standing there so many years ago in 1975 to protest the heinous UN resolution (later revoked) that Zionist is racism. In some ways the lack of attention for raped and murdered Israeli women is even worse, and probably not unrelated.