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Jewish Women Worldwide Feel Betrayed

by AJC Berlin Director Dr. Remko Leemhuis, March 6, 2024 

As has been the case for over a hundred years, women around the world will take to the streets this March 8th to draw attention to their rights and the gender discrimination that still exists. Even if women's demands vary greatly across the globe due to their respective realities, it has so far been assumed that the rejection of misogynistic violence unites everyone.

Because no matter where in the world women live, they are exposed to this. However, since the Hamas attack on October 7, there have been serious doubts as to whether this consensus also applies when the victims of sexual violence are Israeli or Jewish women.

On that day, the clerical fascists of Hamas not only killed 1,200 people indiscriminately in their antisemitic madness, but also committed brutal and sadistic crimes against girls and women. Many women's and human rights organizations remain silent about these crimes to this day, even though the evidence for these crimes is overwhelming - the terrorists themselves documented their actions through pictures and videos.

One example is the video recordings of the German-Israeli Shani Louk, which went around the world on October 7. Surrounded by armed terrorists, the young woman lies half-naked in the back of a pickup truck and is driven through Gaza like a trophy to the cheers of an incited mob. What remains particularly memorable is how a young person, almost a child, approaches the car and spits on the 22-year-old's already motionless body.

Or the video that shows 19-year-old Naama Levy from Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The young woman's hands are tied, she is wearing no shoes, and an armed terrorist is dragging her into a car while shouting "Allahu Akbar." Her gray sweatpants are soaked with blood at the crotch level. While in the case of Shani Louk we are unfortunately certain that she was murdered, Naama Levy is still in the hands of Hamas to this day. It is not clear whether she is still alive.

The fact that the fate of Shani Louk and Naama Levy was not an isolated incident, but that Hamas terrorists systematically mutilated, raped and murdered Israeli women and girls, was confirmed not only by first responders and survivors, but also by Hamas terrorists arrested by Israeli authorities. 

Ever since the #MeToo movement, there has seemed to be a consensus that women must be believed when they report sexual assault. This principle obviously only applies to a limited extent for many of the protagonists at the time. Not only did large parts of the international community remain silent about Hamas's gender-specific crimes, but also many feminist organizations - to this day.

It took almost two months for UN Women to comment on Hamas' violent acts. Mind you, an organization whose mandate is to combat violence against women. What is even worse than the silence of many actors from whom one would have expected a clear condemnation is that in view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the actions are sometimes relativized or even denied.

It is shocking that in the case of Israeli and therefore mostly Jewish women, for some there is not even the minimal consensus that misogynistic violence should be condemned in principle and without ifs and buts. This shows that anti-Semitism is also widespread in women's and human rights organizations and their communities. There is no other explanation for the fact that Hamas's gender-specific crimes have not triggered a noticeable wave of solidarity.

Israeli and Jewish women around the world rightly feel betrayed and abandoned. The hashtag #MeTooUnlessYouAreAJew they use to draw attention to this is a bitter expression of this fact. The fact that around a hundred years after the first International Women's Day, Islamist terrorists with a deeply misogynistic ideology are sometimes celebrated as freedom fighters is not only a betrayal of the victims of Hamas, but of women worldwide who have become victims of sexual violence.

Anyone who does not have a clear stance on Hamas's gender-specific crimes at all times, but especially on March 8th, can hardly credibly place themselves in the tradition of International Women's Day.

This op-ed first appeared at t-online.