“Don’t Look Away from the Sexual Brutality of October 7”

I grieve for the Gazans, 70% of them women and children, who’ve been killed in this tragic incarnation of a century-old conflict. I despise Hamas for starting it. I’m sad that the Palestinians rarely get the leaders they deserve. I deplore Israel’s high tolerance for “collateral damage.” I feel the anguish of the many thousands of children traumatized by appalling deprivation, chaos and violence.

But as a Jew and as a woman, I refuse to let Hamas’ brutal assault on Israeli women and girls be forgotten in the fog of war. I feel obligated to describe every violent act committed by Hamas on Jewish female bodies lest the erasure of those unpleasant “details” facilitate the terrorists’ campaign to rebrand themselves as “freedom fighters.”

Some people are in denial; rapes didn’t happen, they say; Israel faked the murders. Others accept the facts but are chillingly dismissive of the victims, calling them the unavoidable byproduct of a noble rebellion. These apologists sugarcoat Hamas’ heinous acts with the honeyed balm of “national liberation” or the slippery rhetoric of “popular resistance.” Still others don’t have the stomach to confront the graphic horrors of that day.

A description of “The 43-Minute Film of the Hamas Massacre” will give you a sense of the unspeakable crimes committed that day—though the London Times reporter who wrote the story admits he couldn’t muster the courage to tell the worst of it. For the worst of it, you’ll need to steel yourself before encountering Medialine’s article, “Evidence on Display at Israel’s Forensic Pathology Center Confirms Hamas’ Atrocities.” General knowledge is insufficient. Be prepared to recoil at the sight of defiled Jewish women, children’s blood-soaked mat- tresses, babies shot point-blank in their cribs, their tiny onesies riddled with bullet holes. Don’t look away.

That’s what so many of my feminist “sisters” have been doing. To their ever-lasting shame, they turned a blind eye to these “incidents” even as unimpeachable evidence mounted, including survivors’ testimony and footage from Hamas body cams. The feminist community should have been quick to denounce the perpetrators of horrific acts against hundreds of Israeli women and girls. These acts, the very definition of gender-based violence, include multiple gang rapes, sexual mutilation, abject humiliation, the slicing off of breasts, the evisceration of a pregnant woman and abuse of her dead fetus, the planting of a live grenade inside a woman’s vagina, the desecration of the corpses of murdered women and girls.

Under the hashtag #METOO–UNLESS YOU’RE A JEW, Jewish organizations, among them the National Council for Jewish Women, hammered away at the depraved violence perpetrated on Israeli women and girls while other feminist leaders and media ignored those crimes. Because its victims were Israelis? Or perhaps, let’s face it, because they were Jews. In 2023, for Jewish feminists like myself, the movement’s deafening silence about Hamas’ sadistic abuse constituted a shocking betrayal. We discovered, writ large, that any form of Palestinian resistance trumps the safety of Jewish women.

I and many others signed a “Statement by Women’s Rights Leaders on Rape Atrocities During the October 7th Attacks” that said, in part: “The evidence includes forensic examinations of Israeli victims’ bodies bearing signs of rape and torture; eyewitness testimony by survivors of the October 7th attacks… and testimony being compiled by an independent, nongovernmental commission investigating war crimes perpetrated against women and children by Hamas on October 7th. …We demand the immediate, unconditional release of all remaining hostages, so that they can receive desperately needed treatment for trauma and other serious medical conditions; we affirm that continuing to hold these kidnapped hostages captive is an ongoing violation of international law; and we say to these hostages and their loved ones: you are not alone.”

I’ve been advocating for Palestinian statehood and protesting the Occupation for more than 30 years. Today, I’m belaboring the details of the terrorists’ cruelty not to eclipse the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israel but to underscore the lack of outrage or compassion for Jewish suffering at the hands of Hamas.

Letty Cottin Pogrebin is cofounder of Ms. Magazine and author of 12 books, most recently Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy.

This story originally appeared in the Forward (forward.com). To get the Forward’s free email newsletters delivered to your inbox, go to forward.com/newsletter-signup