Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 1 December 2023

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Why’s the #MeToo crowd silent on Hamas rape?

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It must suck to be a Hamas rapist. You put in the hard yards on October 7, breaking off from gunning down festivalgoers to round up and hog-tie young women, getting them to strip off — all that tedious crying — so your bros can each take a turn.

You make a special effort with a GoPro, filming the girl in the bloody jogging bottoms and parading that naked woman on a pick-up truck with your boots on her neck, waving your guns — such a great shot.

All that toil: live-streaming a girl’s last moments to her social media account, raping so hard you break pelvic bones. You strew evidence everywhere of open-legged girls with no underwear covered in semen. So much diligent raping, yet where is the recognition for your work?

Instead, only silence. Nothing from the feminists who at the height of #MeToo threw men to the Twitter hounds for a lecherous pass. Nada from the hashtag activists, open-letter actresses, influencers, podcasters, the period poverty posse, the menopause matriarchs. Zilch from the big-time feminist charities and human rights lawyers lavished with public funds. What does a rapist have to do to catch a break?

Finally, last Saturday UN Women tweeted it had met Israeli women’s groups and that “we remain alarmed by gender-based violence reports on 7 October”. (“Alarmed” not horrified. “Reports” not crimes. “Gender-based”, that feeble euphemism.) Four days later the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, noted “numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas”. Seriously, you’ve had seven weeks and that’s your best shot?

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Even a screening of October 7 footage collated by the Israeli government, much of it filmed by Hamas, didn’t convince the Guardian columnist Owen Jones. In his little YouTube video he doesn’t deny bad stuff happened, he just has “questions”.

He notes a charred female corpse “has no underwear on and this has been offered as evidence of rape. But that is not what you would consider conclusive evidence … If there was rape and sexual violence committed we don’t see this on the footage.” Imagine the indignant Hamas rapists: “What do you mean ‘if’?”

Perhaps he wanted to watch a terrified girl bent over then passed around before being killed: a man hiding in bushes witnessed this but alas lacked a GoPro. Kibbutz residents failed to record the tortured screams of female border guards. First responders and morgue workers report splayed women shot in eyes and genitals, but they could be Zionist stooges.

Some relatives chose not to share footage, as the screening was told. But if Jones had seen even one such withheld clip — of a girl being gang-raped and murdered, then Hamas pissing on her corpse — maybe he’d still dispute details that chip away at the whole, parse dead women’s ripped knickers to propagate doubt.

Such a simpleton cheerleader cannot compute believing Jewish women since it would cast moral shadows on “his” side. This war can only be played as a team game of good v bad. The purpose of the screening, Jones believes, was to make media influencers like him pro-IDF, gung-ho for more bombing of Gaza — and he wasn’t falling for that.

I doubt this film would have changed my views on the conflict either. Like most people I’m aghast at Israel killing Palestinian civilians. I’ve visited the West Bank, seen how settlers grab Arab land, rain rubbish and dirty nappies down upon the market in Hebron. But none of this is relevant here. One universal principle transcends all else: rape as a weapon of war is a crime against humanity.

When the Red Army raged through Germany during the Second World War some of the two million women raped by Russian soldiers would have been Nazi wives or female party members, yet that did not diminish the atrocity. The international community, especially feminists, should condemn rape of Israeli women as freely as the violation of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs, Yazidis by Isis, Rohingya by Burmese troops. To regard the 1949 Geneva Convention as a conditional document is both abhorrent and shortsighted: the enemy could come for your women next.

In a new preface to her wide-ranging and grave book Our Bodies: Their Battlefield, Christina Lamb notes: “In the last eight years I have seen more sexual violence inflicted upon women by soldiers and militias than any other time in my 35-year career.”

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She also reports that invading Russians filmed themselves raping Ukrainian women then posted it on porn sites. Maybe the two are connected. Was the choreographed depravity of Hamas in part men gleefully enacting a violent sexual template they’d absorbed online? Hamas footage is the ultimate revenge porn.

Rape, as Lamb notes drily, is not just an ancient weapon but a cheap one, which draws female non-combatants into an orbit of terror. Bullets are quotidian horrors compared to being gang-raped daily like the Nigerian girls stolen by Boko Haram or the Japanese imperial army’s “comfort women”. One captured Hamas gunman said commanders ordered fighters to “sully” Israeli girls. God knows what female Israeli soldiers held hostage face deep below Gaza.

Yet for all the terror, damage and shame that war rape brings, it is seldom prosecuted. It is seen as trivial relative to other atrocities, more an unfortunate consequence of war than a human rights abuse.

The Israelis have vowed to investigate, now backed by the UN, yet evidence has been lost in the chaos of the attacks and masked fighters have fled into tunnels. In the absence of justice, all we can do is believe Jewish women. Or if misogynists and antisemites struggle with that, they could at least believe Hamas rapists who are so proud of their crimes.

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