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Zoe Fried
from Melbourne, Australia

Silence is Betrayal

WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence
(stock image)
(iStock)

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. stated a gut-wrenching truth that reverberates through the decades, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Little did we know that these words would echo with significant relevance today.

On October 7, 2023, the world witnessed a brutal and dehumanizing act of violence against women and girls in Israel. An evil darkness descended, crushing and destroying countless innocent lives, subjecting bodies to inconceivable cruelty at the hands of Hamas terrorists. Yet, amid the pain and horror, there lingers a disturbing silence – a silence that speaks volumes, a silence that betrays not only women but the very essence of feminism.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words find new life as we question the unsettling absence of the global feminist community’s outcry and protest. Where are the voices that claim to support women’s rights in the face of such deliberate and horrific violations? This sweeping silence, like a murky haze, obscures the very principles of feminism.

At its core, feminism is a battle cry for the rights of all women, a right that transcends borders, countries, beliefs and religions. It’s a call to confront injustice, no matter how uncomfortable or politically charged it might be. The events of October 7 demand immediate attention. The global feminist community must break its silence and rise against the abuse of human rights that have scarred the souls of both Israeli and Jewish women and girls.

The silence extends beyond individuals. Prominent organizations such as the UN Women, known for its commitment to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, remain strangely silent. As a Jewish woman in the diaspora, doubt has been creeping inside me. I keep asking myself whether my voice will ever truly matter in the eyes of these organizations, or movements like #MeToo and #BelieveAllWomen?

Eyewitness testimonies divulged the horrifying and unimaginable acts of violence, emphasising the urgent need for the feminist community to intensify the voices of the victims. These acts were not spontaneous. They were premeditated. They were callous. They were merciless. These acts reflected a disturbing level of dehumanization.

In Kibbutz Be’eri, bodies were discovered with their experiences of sexual terror etched into their very beings. The details are gut-wrenching. A knife inserted into a victim’s genitalia, organs removed. Another, pants pulled down, a bullet wound near her head, surrounded by blood and remnants of semen.

Survivors from the Nova festival recount scenes of sexual violence and mutilation. Hamas terrorists coldheartedly passing a female victim between them, gruesomely chopping off her breasts, and tossing them around. A witness describes a terrorist raping the victim, who was then shot in the head while he was still inside of her, sexually assaulting her now lifeless body.

The abduction of Nutthawaree Munkan, a pregnant Thai worker, intensifies the urgency. The distressing silence surrounding her and her newborn’s well-being post-childbirth in captivity demands immediate global attention. The voices of these victims must cut through the silence, and light must be shed on the horrifying reality faced by those subjected to such brutality.

International law unequivocally orders the safeguarding of women and young girls in times of war, recognizing their vulnerability when conflict arises.

The monstrous acts perpetrated on October 7 stand as irrefutable testaments to the gravest injustices that can unfold in the context of war. These acts breach the very essence of the protections meticulously laid out in international law, casting doubt on the principles meant to shelter the innocent amidst the chaos of conflict. The global feminist community must rise. The call is not only to bear witness, but to be the forerunners of change, condemning the violence and standing in firm solidarity with their sisters in pain.

Silence is not an option, it is a form of complicity. It sends a terrifying message to perpetrators that actions of this kind are somehow acceptable. It sends a message that women’s lives are not worth defending. The global feminist community must honour its promise to fight for the rights of all women, everywhere. It must intensify the voices of the victims, ensuring that their stories are heard, and their cries for justice are not drowned in the surrounding silence.

It makes me wonder whether these feminists are truly dedicated to caring for all women, or does their concern only extend to issues that fit into a particular narrative?

Currently, the global discourse centers on the distinctions between the “oppressor,” represented by Israelis, and the “oppressed,” represented by Gazans. However, I question the rationale behind categorizing the Hamas rapists as the “oppressed,” whilst the innocent female victims being “the oppressor.”

Now is the time to break this silence, to stand firm and not betray the women who desperately need our voices.

About the Author
Zoe Fried, a 24-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, possesses a profound affection for Israel, intricately interwoven into the essence of her being. At present, she is about to complete her double degree in Law and Arts.
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