Did Hamas weaponise sexual violence?

19 Mar

Touched on in my post of March 2 – Gaza to Rochdale – was a sensational New York Times “scoop” on rape, allegedly weaponised by Hamas on October 7.

This image opened the NYT story – “Screams without words”: How Hamas Weaponised Sexual Violence on October 7

My angle was not that the NYT story was hasbara – from a rogue state whose record makes it sensible to assume such claims fake till proved otherwise – relayed uncritically by media either in fear of the formidable Israel lobby, else fully onboard with its agenda. Rather, it was that an Intercept  regarded by some as faux opposition 1 had initially trashed the real investigators of this story, namely Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate of the GrayZone, only to subsequently gain kudos for running the debunkment without crediting the pair.

I’d been hesitant on two grounds. Did putting the record straight justify the risk of muddying the waters with so convoluted a tale? More importantly, we who oppose imperialism should always think twice before critiquing others whose objectives we in part share. Right or wrong, I made the call, and directed readers to the GrayZone account (at 35:05 on this video).

Here by contrast is the simpler story, on which GZ and Intercept  agree. An Israeli fabrication – of a piece with non existent tunnels under al-Shifa hospital, and inversion of culpability re the destruction of al-Ahli Arab Hospital – alleging strategic rape by Hamas was (a) Goebbelsian and (b) did homicidal harm by legitimating, in the eyes of a Western public easily swayed by propaganda blitz, the ongoing genocide. 2

Here, unedited and without further comment, is what The Intercept wrote, on a further sinister move on the part of the New York Times. Since it took the form of a fundraising email, with as far as I can tell no replication on its website, I can’t provide a link, alas. I’ve used as a title the contents of the email’s subject field.

The New York Times is trying to uncover our sources

The controversy around the New York Times’s shabby October 7 reporting isn’t just some inside baseball media story. The Times’s December 28 report on sexual violence in the Hamas attack has had a massive impact on the policy debate in Washington and helped stifle growing opposition to Israel’s brutal assault on the civilian population of Gaza.

But major problems with the story emerged almost as soon as it was published.

One of the reporters who bylined the story was found to have “liked” social media posts calling Palestinians “human animals” and urging Israel to “turn the [Gaza] strip into a slaughterhouse.”

Later, the same reporter admitted that her initial reporting had been unable to uncover a single complaint about sexual violence during the October 7 attack from Israeli hospitals, rape crisis centers, trauma recovery facilities, and sexual assault hotlines. The Times reporters then turned to reported eyewitnesses — some of whom had already been exposed in the press as being unreliable narrators.

The Intercept revealed that the Times’s flagship podcast “The Daily” shelved an entire episode based on the December 28 story amid an internal firestorm about the strength of the paper’s original reporting.

Now, even the spokesperson for Kibbutz Be’eri, the village where the Times specifically claimed rapes had occurred, has told The Intercept that two of the victims singled out in the Times report “were not subjected to sexual abuse.”

To be clear: The question has never been whether individual acts of sexual assault may have occurred on October 7. The central issue is whether the New York Times presented solid evidence that Hamas deliberately and systematically deployed sexual violence as a weapon. And to this day, neither the Times nor any other institution has presented compelling proof to back that explosive assertion.

It’s vital that we get to the truth behind this story and the allegations of sexual violence on October 7, and we’re asking you, our readers, to chip in whatever you can afford to help us continue our reporting.

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  1. FWIW I find faux opposition  too harsh a verdict on The Intercept, even when it gets so much wrong. And when behaving so shabbily towards a former colleague. (Max left The Intercept – as did Ben Norton and eventually Glenn Greenwald – when, to further its Stop Trump agenda, it spiked credible reports on the many dark crimes of HRC, and dirty deeds of the DRC. For his part Aaron left Democracy Now, which I’d place – as I would Al-Jazeera and Novara Media – in that semi-Alt-imitating-mainstream category.) Even The Guardian, its many crimes notwithstanding, runs decent articles. (It has to.) So baby and bathwater spring to mind. As always, we need to triangulate.
  2. Last night I watched Peter Hitchens (who interests me and may inspire a dedicated post) in dialogue with Aaron Bastani (who once impressed me). Much of what Peter said I agree with, and I do appreciate his breadth and depth of knowledge coupled with calm appeals to evidence. And much of it I strongly disagree with, due to gaping holes in his worldview. Such as the one which allowed a man who’d courageously resisted nonsensical claims re the Syria propaganda blitz to buy without question the depiction of Putin as a tyrant, and Hamas as weaponising rape. (With the striking exception of Peter Oborne, journalists in the pay of corporate media, even those as independent minded as Peter Hitchens, are loath – an application perhaps of Upton Sinclair’s famous insight – to lock a  steady eye on the systemic building blocks which make his profession so momentously unreliable on matters vital to ruling class core interests.)

3 Replies to “Did Hamas weaponise sexual violence?

  1. Did Hamas weaponise sexual violence? Uh, yeah.

    This has been another in the series Simple Answers to Really Easy Questions.

    • Since you don’t even deign to address the arguments in this post, your comment has been another in the series, Simplistic Arguments for Really Existing Apologetics.

      I checked you out. I may even find a use for the absurd hypothetical in the first paragraph of this post:

      If Hamas were winning this war I wonder if the rest of the world would be calling for Hamas to stop the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, call for a truce or a cease fire and a two state solution? Would South Africa have gone to The Hague charging Hamas with the genocide of the Jews? A degree in brain surgery is not required to answer these questions.

      No. Just a penchant for exotically specious analogies. But I must adhere to this site’s policy of zero tolerance for genocide apologists. Goodbye.

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