Catherine Perez-Shakdam

Silence of Feminism: On the Selective Blindness to Israeli Women’s Suffering

women's rights #blackprotest #czarnyprotest | Warsaw, Octobe… | Grzegorz Żukowski | Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

In the grisly theater of war, where human life is often reduced to a pawn in the machinations of power, there is a particularly vile script that recurs with depressing regularity. It is one where women’s bodies become not just collateral damage, but a deliberate battleground — a terrain on which wars are fought and so-called victories inscribed. The weaponization of women’s bodies, the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, is a tactic as ancient as the conflicts themselves.

From the scorched earth of Ukraine to the harrowing plains of Darfur, from the blasted landscapes of Afghanistan and Syria to the charnel houses of Rwanda and Bosnia, this script plays out again and again. Women — their autonomy, their dignity, their very beings — are violated in a grotesque assertion of dominance. 

The violent acts perpetrated against Israeli women by Hamas on October 7 are a stark reminder of the brutal reality of conflict where sexual violence is employed as a weapon of war. These heinous acts are not merely isolated incidents of terror; they represent a systematic and calculated campaign to inflict profound psychological and physical trauma on individuals and communities. Under international law, such acts are unequivocally war crimes, egregious violations that demand a robust and unyielding response from the global community.

Yet, the ideological underpinnings of Hamas, an organization designated as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, and other nations, exacerbate the gravity of these crimes. Hamas’ charter, which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and espouses anti-Semitic views, casts these acts of sexual violence not only as war crimes but also as part of a genocidal agenda—a chilling embodiment of crimes against humanity. This genocidal ideology, which targets Jews as a group, reflects a broader intent to not only obliterate a nation but also to erase a people.

To turn a blind eye to the calculated intent behind these crimes is to risk normalizing a narrative that could one day justify similar acts against any population deemed undesirable by extremist factions. The ethos that drives such violence does not limit its malice to a single region or group; it carries the potential to unleash its cruelty wherever the tentacles of its hateful ideology are allowed to reach. In this context, the actions of Hamas are not just an assault on the women of Israel but an affront to our shared humanity and the values of civilized society.

Ignoring such acts and the ideology that fuels them is a perilous path that undermines the very foundations of international justice and human rights. It stands as a grim portent that should these acts go unchallenged, the precedent set may embolden similar ideologies that call for the obliteration of the West and its values. It is a stark warning that the horrors visited upon the women of Israel today could befall any society that finds itself in the crosshairs of such extremist beliefs.

Thus, it is imperative that the international community, regardless of political or ideological differences, unites in unequivocal condemnation of these atrocities. We must hold to account not only those who carry out such acts but also those who command and condone them. The fight against the weaponization of sexual violence in conflict is a fight for the very soul of our global order, for the principles of justice, and for the dignity of all peoples. To falter in this fight is to concede to a future where such barbarism becomes a tool of conquest, wielded with impunity by those who seek to destroy the fabric of our shared humanity.

In the aftermath of violence, a notable absence in the chorus of condemnation is glaring. When Hamas commits acts of abject violence against women, the expected guardians of feminist ideals seem to vanish. The streets that should be filled with marches, the social media landscape that should be alight with campaigns, the opinion pages that should bristle with indignation, all fall eerily silent.

It appears that a portion of the feminist movement has drifted, becoming a selective force that mobilizes not on the principle of universal rights for all women but on a basis that smacks of political selectivity. This is not the feminism that once declared war on the objectification and marginalization of women. This is not the feminism that pledged to stand with all women and to reject the weaponization of their bodies, no matter the perpetrator or the victim.

True feminism does not choose its battles based on political expediency; it does not waver in its commitments. The ideals of feminism demand unwavering support for all women, a global sisterhood that transcends borders, politics, and ideologies to stand against the injustice of sexual violence in any form, at any time, against any woman.

There should be no ‘buts’ when it comes to the defense of women’s rights. Feminism cannot afford to be selective; it cannot turn a blind eye to suffering based on nationality, race, or geopolitical allegiances. To do so is to betray the very principles upon which the movement claims to stand. If feminism is contingent, it is complicit.

The silence of the feminist movement in the face of the atrocities committed against Israeli women by Hamas is not just a failure; it is a stain on the conscience of those who claim to advocate for the rights of women everywhere. It is a silence that speaks of a movement that has lost its way, that has allowed politics to muddy the clarity of its purpose.

Women in conflict zones deserve more than the world’s selective outrage. They deserve a feminism that is as universal as the rights it purports to defend, a movement that rallies with the same fervor for the women of Tel Aviv as it does for the women of Tehran, Kabul, or Kinshasa. It is time for the feminist movement to reclaim its promise — a promise that knows no borders, that recognizes no enemies except for those who would harm women.

For if we allow our commitment to women’s rights to be contingent on who the victims or perpetrators are, we do not have a feminist movement; we have a farce. And in the face of such betrayal, we must ask ourselves, who will stand for women if not us? The answer must be as clear and unambiguous as the vow we once made: to stand with all women, everywhere, always.

About the Author
Catherine Perez-Shakdam - Director Forward Strategy and Executive Director Forum of Foreign Relations (FFR) Catherine is a former Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and consultant for the UNSC on Yemen, as well an expert on Iran, Terror and Islamic radicalisation. A prominent political analyst and commentator, she has spoken at length on the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling on the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Catherine found herself at the very heart of the Islamic world following her marriage to a Muslim from Yemen. Her experience in the Middle East and subsequent work as a political analyst gave her a very particular, if not a rare viewpoint - especially in how one can lose one' sense of identity when confronted with systemic antisemitism. Determined to share her experience and perspective on those issues which unfortunately plague us -- Islamic radicalism, Terror and Antisemitism Catherine also will speak of a world, which often sits out of our reach for a lack of access.
Related Topics
Related Posts