Appalling. That’s the only word that describes the response by progressive women and women’s rights groups to the clear evidence of what Hamas terrorists did to women and girls in their brutal attack on Israel Oct. 7.
When they started in force a few years ago, the Women’s March and #MeToo movement centered on the idea that we must “believe women” when they say what’s happened to them. No proof or due process needed. Just their word.
It’s obvious now that those hashtags came with a huge asterisk: These groups support only the women they deem worthy.
In the face of reports of mass rape, mutilation and murder of Israeli women (and plenty of corroborating proof and eyewitness testimony), the reaction from too many women’s rights organizations, professors, journalists, congresswomen and citizens has been either to ignore the fact it happened; cast doubt on the fact it happened; or equivocate by comparing the horror these Israeli women experienced with Palestinians suffering because of Israel’s justified retaliation on the terrorists who perpetrated these acts.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked this week: “I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?”
It’s a good question.
UN far too slow to recognize Hamas' atrocities against women
Let me give you a few examples.
Silencing a voice on Hamas attack: When cartoon falls to cancel culture in perilous times, free speech attacks are no laughing matter
UN Women has had plenty to say about women and girls in Gaza, but no condemnation of the acts that started this conflict.
That finally changed this month, after a weekslong pressure campaign from grassroots groups like “Me Too Unless UR a Jew” and others like former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg, who has called out the silence of UN Women and other groups. It’s shocking it took this level of shaming for a women’s rights organization to call out Hamas for its atrocities.
Sandberg helped organize a presentation at U.N. headquarters on Monday, at which evidence of widespread sexual violence was presented through wrenching firsthand testimony from witnesses.
“Silence is complicity,” she told those gathered.
Women defending terrorists?
UN Women’s actions are egregious, but its lackluster response is far from isolated.
For instance, Briahna Joy Gray, a progressive podcaster and the press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential run, had the audacity to write this to her large following on X, formerly Twitter: “ ‘Believe all women’ was always an absurd overreach: woman should be heard, claims should be investigated, but evidence is required. The same is true of the allegations out of Israel. But also, this isn’t a ‘believe women’ scenario bc no female victims have offered testimony.”
Gray wrote this on the evening of the same day that Sandberg’s event took place at the U.N. Perhaps Gray has overlooked the fact that firsthand testimony isn’t possible in several cases because Hamas terrorists slaughtered their rape victims.
Rising antisemitism is frightening: Israel and Hamas war reveals ugly antisemitism in America. It's scary to see.
There are numerous accounts of college students or college groups speaking in support of Hamas and its actions on Oct. 7. And a law professor (also a woman) posed that Israel was playing up reports of rape to justify its actions in Gaza.
Opinion alerts: Get columns from your favorite columnists + expert analysis on top issues, delivered straight to your device through the USA TODAY app. Don't have the app? Download it for free from your app store.
And then there was the recent spectacle at the Oakland City Council meeting in California. One council member dared suggest calling for condemnation of Hamas' acts, and all hell broke loose. Several women who are members of the community spoke at the meeting in defense of Hamas and its tactics, while also denying the rape and horror the terrorists perpetrated. (Please watch the video.)
Not to be outdone, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state who is the Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman, last weekend gave a “both sides” response when pushed by CNN’s Dana Bash about why progressive women have been silent about what happened Oct. 7.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal on CNN on condemning Hamas's sexual violence: "I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians."
Dana Bash replies, "You don't see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women." pic.twitter.com/Lac7QI4bHx
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 3, 2023
Jayapal reluctantly paid lip service to the “horrific” actions by Hamas but then quickly turned back to criticism of Israel: “I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.”
It’s one thing to point out how Palestinian civilians are suffering (in part because Hamas is using its people as human shields). But it’s something else entirely to skirt the atrocities and mass rape that Israel is defending itself against.
These aren’t morally equivalent situations, and it alarms me so many people – especially women who claim to stand for other women – can’t see the difference.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hamas uses rape as weapon. Why are the left's #MeToo feminists silent?