On Israel and rape

Robert Inlakesh, The Cradle, March 12, 2024 —

Tel Aviv’s dubious rape allegations against Hamas conceal Israel’s own shocking domestic sexual violence crisis, in which 260 Israeli women and minors are raped each day.

While Israel’s unsubstantiated claims of rape on 7 October have dominated western media headlines, credible documented cases of rape against Palestinians and Israeli-on-Israeli sexual assault have received far less attention. 

Israel’s scourge of sexual violence and rape incidents did not originate five months ago – its roots go deeper and farther back than that, and there is a crucial context essential for understanding the country’s domestic environment of abuse.

Israel’s massive sexual violence problem

On 8 February, Haaretz brought to light a harrowing revelation: 116 separate files detailing instances of sexual assault and domestic violence against women and minors among Israelis ‘displaced’ from their illegal settlements due to the ongoing military conflicts with Gaza and Lebanon. 

The cases surfaced during a special Knesset committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, where “committee chair MK Pnina Tamano-Shata [National Unity Party] chastised police representatives for failing to collect accurate data from each hotel regarding violence and sexual attacks.”

Although there were disputes over a lack of complete data, disturbing incidents were highlighted, including a case of pedophilia involving a 23-year-old establishing a “relationship with a 13-year-old girl, both living in the same hotel” and a rape committed after a man followed a woman to her room. It also noted that elevators were places of particular vulnerability for sexual assault and violence.

Cases of sexual assault were not confined to the approximately 200,000 ‘displaced’ settlers. There have also been credible claims by a female soldier that she was raped by a fellow serviceman during the ongoing brutal military assault on Gaza. 

Sexual harassment and violence are nothing new among Israel’s armed forces. According to a Haaretz report, “a third of female conscripts in the military had suffered sexual harassment at least once in the previous year [2022].”

Haaretz noted that most victims avoid reporting what happened to them and that “70 percent of those young women who did report what happened to them stated that their report was not handled at all, or not handled sufficiently.”

In 2020, the Israeli army’s sexual violence crisis was recognized after only 31 indictments were filed out of 1,542 sexual assault complaints registered within the military establishment. 

That’s a stunning indictment of the ‘world’s most moral army.’ And it isn’t just Israel’s war establishment afflicted with the rape bug.

Rape, normalized in Israel

In addition to being a regional hub for human trafficking and a haven for pedophiles, Israel consistently ranks the highest in West Asia for documented cases of rape and sexual assaults. 

In 2020, protests erupted across Israel after 30 men gang-raped an intoxicated 16-year-old girl, which prompted Ilana Weizman, of the Israeli women’s rights group HaStickeriot, to disclose that a shocking one in five Israeli women was raped during her lifetime, with 260 cases reported every day.

In March 2021, a series of gang rapes against minors, with the youngest victim being just 10-years-old, sparked widespread concern in Israel over the prevalence of sexual assault. APCCI said that the rate of violent sexual offenses in Israel was 10 percent higher than the average for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, labeling it as an “epidemic.” A Knesset report from the same year revealed that nearly half of the sexual abuse cases between 2019 and 2020 involved underage girls.

Back in 2016, activists from Jewish Community Watch warned that Israel was becoming a “safe haven for pedophiles,” noting that sexual offenders were using the Israeli Law of Return, which allows any Jew to claim citizenship and live in occupied Palestine. Years later, in 2020, CBS News released a report entitled ‘How Jewish American pedophiles hide from justice in Israel,’ which demonstrated how wanted individuals were walking free in Israel, leaving behind a spate of unresolved criminal cases.

To add insult to injury, Hebrew media reported that 92 percent of civil rape investigations were closed without charges in Israel. 

According to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), despite the country’s ‘good laws’ on sexual assault, inadequate enforcement of these laws means that people use “legal tricks” to avoid retribution for assaults, with many assailants avoiding prosecution. In short, “people are not afraid to hurt. There is no fear or retribution.”

Occasionally, in high-profile cases of rape and sexual assault, the Israeli judicial system has been known to act, as evidenced by the conviction of former Israeli president Moshe Katsav in 2010 for raping an aide and sexually harassing two other women. 

However, Katsav’s release after serving just five years of a seven-year sentence ignited a debate on the early release of sex offenders. In 2022, APCCI reported that 75 percent of sexual offenders in Israel are released before completing their full sentence.

Israel, weaponizing rape against Palestinians

From the time of Israel’s founding, rape has been extensively documented in its use as a weapon of war against Palestinians. In a 2022 documentary named after the Israeli massacre in the Palestinian village of Tantura, horrific admissions of rape committed by the Alexandroni Brigade were acknowledged for the first time on camera. 

There are also various other reported cases of rape from that period: at least three rapes, one committed against a 14-year-old Palestinian girl, that occurred during the Safsaf massacre in October of 1948. 

Because rape and other forms of sexual violence are often difficult to prove conclusively, it is essential to note that early Zionists also weaponized the threat of sexual violence, especially surrounding the massacre of Deir Yassin in 1948. 

As documented by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” stories of explicit gendered atrocities were deliberately spread to encourage residents of other villages to flee. In a recent series of interviews conducted with two Nakba survivors, both revealed that they fled their villages specifically due to the rape atrocities in the village of Deir Yassin.

Today, that same attitude of sexualizing vulnerable Palestinians is apparent in the countless snuff films published widely on social media with the approval of the Israeli military, featuring male Israeli soldiers going through the underwear drawers of Palestinian women and even mockingly wearing their lingerie. 

This, coupled with what a UN panel of experts recently said were “credible allegations” of sexual assault against Palestinian women by Israeli soldiers operating in Gaza, indicate a clear pattern of gendered violence taking place in the war. 

At least two cases of rape, along with numerous cases of sexual humiliation and threats of rape, have also been recorded. Reem Alsalem, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, has noted that “We might not know for a long time what the actual number of victims are.”

Systematic sexual humiliation 

In 2002, during the Second Intifada, Israeli occupation soldiers took control of Palestinian TV networks in the West Bank city of Ramallah to broadcast pornography on several channels. Knowing that Palestinian society is a socially conservative one, it is clear that this was done with the intent of humiliation. 

A prominent case of recent sexual humiliation in the West Bank occurred just last year near the city of Al-Khalil (Hebron) and was investigated in a joint Haaretz-B’Tselem report. On 10 July, between 25–30 Israeli soldiers burst into the Ajluni family’s home, forcing five Palestinian women to strip naked at gunpoint and threatening to unleash army attack dogs on them. 

One woman named Amal was taken into a private room with her children and forced to take off her clothes. The report states: “the children also had to witness their mother being ordered to turn around while naked as she sobbed over the humiliation. About 10 minutes later she and the children were taken out of the room pale and trembling.”

While it is not possible to note every single case of sexual violence perpetrated against Palestinian women by Israeli forces, it is well documented that female prisoners have been subjected to some of the worst forms of it. 

During the Second Intifada, there were countless allegations of sexual violence against women and girls in Israeli military detention, a trend which Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reports is again on the rise. The rights group said that the Palestinian female detainees recently released in the Hamas–Israel prisoner exchange were subjected to “threats of rape” and “were humiliatingly strip-searched several times” after their violent arrests.

The following is part of 47-year-old Lama al-Fakhouri’s testimony, recorded by B’Tselem after her release from detention:

An interrogator came in and asked me in English what I thought about what Hamas did. He swore at me and called me a ‘whore.’ He said there were 20 soldiers in the room and that they would rape me like Hamas–ISIS raped Jewish women in southern Israel. He kept swearing at me and threatening me and my family. Then, a female soldier came and took me to another room with more female soldiers, who told me: ‘Welcome to hell.’ They sat me in a chair and started laughing at me and calling me ‘whore’ again and again.

Speaking to the media following her release from Israeli detention late last year, Baraah Abo Ramouz said the following about the “devastating” conditions faced by female Palestinian prisoners:

They are being constantly beaten. They’re being sexually assaulted. They are being raped. I’m not exaggerating. The prisoners are being raped.

In 2022, the Shin Bet dropped a case of sexual assault against a Palestinian woman detained in 2015 over “lack of evidence.” This is despite the fact that a doctor and female soldiers had admitted to inappropriately touching the woman’s private parts, while the company commander in control admitted to giving the order. The victim’s filed appeal states:

In a situation in which there is no dispute that acts that constitute rape and sodomy were committed, [in which] there is sufficient evidence, and when no one is punished, it’s outrageous and unbearable.

According to former US State Department official Josh Paul, after he and his colleagues received credible evidence that Israeli forces had raped a 14-year-old Palestinian boy in Al-Moskibiyya detention center, Israel raided the offices of the human rights group that passed the information on to the State Department, later declaring it a terrorist organization.

False narratives fueling war crimes 

While the Israeli government pushes the story that Hamas implemented a pre-planned systematic rape campaign on 7 October, for which there has been no independent investigation or evidence produced, documented cases of sexual violence are undermined and ignored. 

The mere fact that Israel’s notorious ZAKA rescue service relied upon heavily for testimonies of rape on 7 October, was founded by serial rapist Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, nicknamed the ‘Haredi Jeffrey Epstein,’ is telling. 

The wholly unsubstantiated rape claims of the Israeli government – widely amplified and parroted by western media – are impossible to take seriously when a known propaganda outfit like ZAKA is the source. 

The UN Office of the Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict recently released a report after its Special Representative Pramila Patten completed an eight-day trip requested by the Israeli government. 

The report on sexual violence allegations was produced by a team of nine UN experts and had no investigative mandate. Yet statements from it made headlines in western media, suggesting that the UN had confirmed Israel’s narrative, although the report in no way substantiated it.

In the case of sexual violence allegations made about Kibbutz Be’eri, from where the majority of the allegations emerged, there was no evidence found. Two cases were debunked by the UN team as having been “unfounded.” 

In one, widely cited as proof of rape, a woman was found separated from her family with her underwear pulled down. The UN team said that the “crime scene had been altered by a bomb squad, and the bodies moved.”

The UN report also noted that the interrogations of alleged participants in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood by Israeli intelligence agencies were not considered as evidence, another major blow to Israel’s body of claims.

In Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where the report concluded “the recurring pattern of female victims found undressed, 18 bound, and shot – indicates that sexual violence, including potential sexualized torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, may have occurred,” it also notes that “verification of sexual violence against these victims was not possible at this point.” 

Given that the UN team found that Israelis had altered other crime scenes, an independent investigation would be needed to confirm that the crime scenes weren’t equally compromised.

The human cost of Israel’s lies 

It should also be noted that the recent New York Times scandal – where its investigation into sexual violence on 7 October was directly discredited by the family members of a woman they tried to claim was raped – dealt a massive blow to the credibility of Israel’s narrative. 

During Primila Patten’s press conference, in which she addressed the findings of her UN mission, she admitted that they had not interviewed any victims and did not find a systematic campaign of sexual violence, nor was the team able to attribute sexual violence to any specific Palestinian resistance group. 

To make matters worse, a thread on X showed that the head of the Israeli National Center of Forensic Evidence, Chen Kugel, was responsible for sharing debunked atrocity propaganda himself, such as the beheaded babies lie. 

Amidst the recurrent circulation of unverified claims lacking independent investigation, these graphic and unsubstantiated allegations fuel widespread sexual violence against vulnerable Palestinians. 

Israel, grappling with its own internal sexual assault issues, has a troubling history of utilizing gender-based violence within its military jurisdiction. The disproportionate lack of attention towards the ongoing atrocities perpetrated by the occupation state illustrates a clear double standard perpetuated by western mainstream media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *