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Feminists fall silent in wake of Hamas barbarity

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7 December 2023, The Australian, by Ariela Bard

Like many of my friends, I hashtagged #womanlifefreedom after the arrest and subsequent death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in September last year. On June 2, 2020, now known as Blackout Tuesday, my entire feed went dark in response to the killing of George Floyd. When the results of the Indigenous voice referendum were announced, my Instagram was awash with broken hearts.

That should tell you all you need to know about my social circle both in real life and online.

But in the almost eight weeks since the massacre of October 7 there has been a resounding silence within my own arts community, and among the progressive left, as the reports of rape and gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas emerged almost immediately. One of the most striking aspects has been the marked absence of my fellow feminists, women whose social media accounts are regularly anointed with the hashtag #BelieveAll- Women.

The silence of international organisations such as UN Women, which waited two months before making a statement, is incomprehensible.

In Israel, and around the world, the hashtag #MeTooUnlessYoureAJew is gathering momentum.

I looked on with my heart in my throat as many colleagues and friends added their names to an open letter penned by the literary journal Overland in which the pogrom of October 7 was referred to as “armed attacks” that could not be “de-contextualised”.

When first published the letter continued: “If crimes were committed during these attacks …”.

The if was later removed. But those old friends had already added their names to a letter that suggested the victims had it coming, and tiptoed towards implying that the rapes, mutilations and murder didn’t happen at all.

Suddenly I understood how Holocaust denial, something I considered so fringe, so completely absurd and removed from the realm of normal thinking, could exist.

In an opinion piece I wrote and sent to The Sydney Morning Herald last week I explored my reaction as a Jewish audience member at the opening night of Sydney Theatre Company’s The Seagull.

The piece unpacked the climate of anti-Semitism in Australia since October 7.

The SMH wanted the piece, with some edits. I mentioned the October 9 rally outside the Sydney Opera House, in which a group of men were heard chanting “Gas the Jews”. The SMH returned to let me know the chant was “disputed”.

I was, at the time, unaware that the chant was anything but fact. I had seen the footage many times. It has since been reported that NSW Police has sent the video of the rally for independent review.

In addition, in keeping with their editorial line, the word rape (used in the context of the October 7 massacre) needed to be prefaced with the words “alleged” or “considerable, or mounting evidence of”. I pulled the piece.

Over email, I spoke with Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, an expert on international human rights and the academic director of the Rackman Centre for the Advancement of Women’s Status at Bar-Ilan University. Halperin-Kaddari served for 12 years as a member (including as vice-chair) of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and recently has returned from a diplomatic mission to Geneva to present testimonies from survivors and first responders on October 7.

A warning: the testimonies below are graphic.

A survivor from the Nova music festival, where at least 364 innocent young people were slaughtered, described “an apocalypse of dead bodies. Girls without clothes, top part, bottom part. People cut in half. People who were slaughtered, some of them beheaded.

There were girls there that were so savagely raped that their pelvises seemed to be broken, their legs spread apart in a split.”

Another Nova witness reported seeing a gang rape.

“They bent someone over and I understood he was raping her.

And then he was passing her on to someone else. She was alive. She stood on her feet and she was bleeding from her back. I saw another woman with long hair. The Hamas terrorist pulled her by the hair. She was naked. He chopped off her breast. They threw the breast on the ground and kicked it around while still pulling her.

Then one terrorist penetrated her and then shot her in the head. He doesn’t pull up his pants. He shoots her in the head with his pants down.”

When I asked Halperin-Kaddari about the failure of UN Women to stand up for Israeli women and girls in the aftermath of October 7, Halperin-Kaddari said: “Their long silence gave ammunition to the denial campaign that Hamas launched right after October 7th, and sent a very troubling message to the international human rights community that such crimes against humanity can be committed and go unaccounted for.

“By turning a blind eye to the October 7th massacre, and to the unprecedented and premeditated extreme cruelty of the sexual violence committed by Hamas, they not only fail us, but they undermine the purpose for which they were established, and in fact undermine the whole IHR system.”

The attacks of October 7 were done in public, in broad daylight.

The rapists did not make a secret of their intent; indeed, many recorded the carnage with body cams and uploaded it to social media for the world to see.

A transcript of a video recording contains the following exchange between an Israeli interrogator and a Hamas terrorist: Why did they kidnap women? To dirty them.

What does it mean to dirty them? To dirty them. Rape them.

Another terrorist said he received permission from his religious leaders to abuse women and their bodies “to spread fear in Israeli society”.

These confessions do not require “contextualising”. But perhaps those who have found it so difficult to #believeallwomen might find it easier to believe these men?

Ariela Bard is a freelance culture writer based in Sydney.

Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=ccf4334d-14fe-456c-9a60-103f075f05ea
Article source: The Australian | Ariela Bard | 7.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000