Open Letter to the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) from the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition (ZRC)
After the October 7 invasion and sadistic massacre in Israeli towns near the Gaza border, Hamas terrorists and their supporters bragged, celebrated, and even shared photos and videos of their crimes against humanity on social media. Their atrocities included mutilating infants and raping women next to the dead bodies of their friends. Hamas terrorists have admitted that they were given orders to specifically kidnap women with the intention of raping them.
Given the National Women’s Studies Association’s (NWSA) position on rape and other violence against women, it is shocking that it refuses to condemn Hamas’actions. Instead, the NWSA has chosen to condemn Israel and to remain silent about the horrific crimes committed by Hamas against women (as well as men and children) and has said nothing about the moral depravity of Hamas taking 240 hostages into Gaza, including many women, children, and babies.
The NWSA has issued two statements condemning Israel’s response to the October 7 attack, both of which fail to condemn the barbaric brutalities committed by Hamas. On October 11, the NWSA wrote, “As feminists, we recognize that violence and war often inflict gendered and sexualized harms on women and queer, trans and non-binary people. We cannot look away while this violence destroys people’s lives.”
The NWSA claims to be concerned about “gendered and sexualized harms on women and queer, trans and non-binary people” in Gaza, but does not express the same concern for women and others in Israel. The NWSA is oblivious and does not address what is done to queer, trans, and non-binary people in Gaza. If this was not an official statement, it would be laughable and dismissed as a joke or the invention of a satirist mocking the NWSA’s lack of common sense.
The NWSA also applied a hypocritical double standard to Israel by stating that it was “alarmed by the dramatic escalation of violence” that must be viewed “in the context of decades of systemic violent campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Although the assumption is debatable, the neglect by NWSA members to express horror at the violent campaign by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians on October 7 undermines their credibility as advocates for women.
If terrorists invaded any other country in the world and murdered and raped its citizens, would that country not have the right to defend itself, and be obligated to do everything it could to eliminate future threats, especially since the perpetrators purposely attacked women and other vulnerable civilians? The women who were raped, tortured, and slaughtered in Israel on October 7 were not collateral damage of the Hamas attackers. They were targets.
In a subsequent statement on October 31, the NWSA condemned American support for Israel’s “vengeful war on Gaza.” The NWSA claimed that sponsoring “violence against a caged population in the name of “self-defense” makes the United States “complicit in crimes against humanity.” In reality, it is the NWSA that is complicit in crimes against humanity. By saying nothing about the murder, maiming, and rape of innocent civilians in Israel on October 7, the NWSA essentially sanctions these acts of violence.
Despite having at least one session devoted to condemning rape culture at its annual conference in October, the NWSA failed to acknowledge the violence perpetrated on Israeli women by Hamas. Instead, several sessions focused on condemning Israel. One professor’s “feminist intersectional analysis of victim-blaming,” referred to Palestinians as “victims of gender-based violence,” leading us to ask: where is the outrage about the Israeli women who were “victims of gender-based violence”?
Eminent historian Gil Troy recently wrote in Tablet Magazine, “Feminists are Consenting to Rape Culture,” “On October 7, the violated women shouted, shrieked, cried, begged, rape after rape, cut after cut, fighting off these assaults with their voices and their bare hands as best each could. Some hostages may still be struggling…. And yet you are silent on this… Violating every feminist principle I’ve ever read and respected, today’s feminist movement is …silently consenting to this mass crime against women and against the victims from three dozen different countries. Some even doubt the testimonials—and the staggering, bloody, heartbreaking evidence of stripped women paraded through Gaza’s streets.”
Sadly, in the face of the morally reprehensible behavior of Hamas rapists and murderers who instigated this current war in Gaza, the NWSA has chosen to remain silent. We rabbis refuse to remain silent. We are not selective in our condemnation of rapists. The women and feminists who co-authored this letter condemn rape and all forms of violence against women. The NWSA, however, is guilty of hypocrisy, for it apparently believes that the rape of Israeli women in the name of ‘freedom-fighting’ is justified, a concept we reject and find to be morally bankrupt.
We do not understand how feminists and academic scholars of women’s studies who condemn rape and other violence against women can excuse and even justify the rape culture of Hamas, a terrorist organization that suppresses women. Whatever the NWSA’s position may be on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is not relieved of its responsibility to condemn the rape, torture, kidnapping, and slaughter of women on October 7 by Palestinian Hamas terrorists.
The Zionist Rabbinic Coalition