By Mia Hasenson-Gross, Executive Director of René Cassin
It is 62 days since the horrific attacks committed by Hamas on innocent Israeli women, children and men.
It is 62 days that Jews all over the world have been processing the largest pogrom of innocent Jewish people since 1945.
It is 62 days since 240 Israelis and other nationals were taken hostage by Hamas; mercifully, 118 have already been released; sadly, 138 are still held hostage, amongst them 15 women, soldiers, elderly and ill men.
It is 62 days since the initial shock hit when the extent of the unspeakable atrocities, crimes and sexual and other violence against Israeli women and girls began to emerge, from witnesses and recordings, some provided by the perpetrators themselves.
For 56 of those days, international women’s organisations, led by UN-Women, feminists and celebrities, remained silent. Calls for acknowledgment and assistance were met with denial and disbelief that these atrocities occurred, with some even suggesting these women – daughters, mothers, sisters, wives – ‘deserved it’.
It took 56 days for UN Women to issue a statement:
We deeply regret that military operations have resumed in Gaza, and we reiterate that all women, Israeli women, Palestinian women, as all others, are entitled to a life lived in safety and free from violence.
We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October. We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks. This is why we have called for all accounts of gender-based violence to be duly investigated and prosecuted, with the rights of the victim at the core.UN Women
Too little too late.
The failure to address the atrocities and brutal sexual and gender crimes committed by Hamas is not just hypocrisy; it implies indifference.
As we marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, and the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence it is disheartening to note the lack of progress in addressing gender-based violence, especially in situations of war.
Despite 24 years of marking this day, the recent events on 7 October against Israeli women underscore the challenges of belief, raising questions about whether political or religious factors influence these perceptions. Such factors should never be considered as they should never legitimise rape as a weapon for war.
Writing this blog is about acknowledging – acknowledging the pain, the anger and the sadness in response to the atrocities committed and the silence from those who we thought were our friends, our allies, our sisters. But it is also about hope – that there is still something we can do stand up for all the women attacked and to challenge all the women who have chosen to remain silent.
Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence ends on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration was a response to the Holocaust, the first-ever global commitment that such horrors should never again be allowed to happen – not during times of peace and not during times of war.
In the face of tragedy, there is an opportunity for collective action and change. One such opportunity is the #MeToo_UNless_UR_a_Jew a global campaign for Jewish women aimed at challenging UN Women’s deafening silence and failure to address the current situation. It is just one example of how together we can make a difference in addressing the aftermath of these devastating attacks and working towards a world free from violence. For all women.
Because #WeToo matter.