Michal Herzog, the spouse of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, published an opinion piece in Newsweek on Wednesday expressing outrage and betrayal over the international community’s failure to condemn the gender-based sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas during its Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 people.
Herzog wrote the piece ahead of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25 and following the widespread testimonies and evidence of rape and molestation of dozens of women by Hamas terrorists.
“Many things changed on Oct. 7 when thousands of Hamas terrorists massacred Israeli families, burnt children and the elderly, and kidnapped hostages. This deeply impacted our visceral understanding of the cruelty of gender-based sexual violence—and our faith in the international organizations that claim to care about women,” the first lady wrote.
She noted that leading international women’s rights bodies, including U.N. Women (the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women), have failed to condemn these atrocities, leaving Israeli women and women’s rights activists to fend for themselves.
“It took me several days to grasp the monstrous nature and scale of violence suffered specifically by women on Oct. 7. My first realization came when meeting volunteers of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers [in Israel] who discreetly told me of conversations with survivors. They heard testimonies that shocked them to the core,” wrote Herzog.
“A Hamas video from a kibbutz shows terrorists torturing a pregnant woman and removing her fetus. Our forensic scientists have found bodies of women and girls raped with such violence that their pelvic bones were broken.
“Those of us unlucky enough to have seen video evidence broadcast by the terrorists themselves witnessed the body of a naked woman paraded through Gaza, and another, still alive, in bloodied pants held captive at gunpoint being pulled into a jeep by her hair.
“This evidence, along with the explicit recorded confessions of captured terrorists, makes abundantly clear that mass rape was a premeditated part of Hamas’s plan,” continued Herzog.
The Israel Police is investigating numerous sexual violence cases against Hamas terrorists who participated in the Oct. 7 invasion, with a view to prosecuting the perpetrators for rape and other crimes.
Police officials have confirmed they have video evidence, photographs of victims’ bodies and testimony from terrorists.
Herzog continued, “In the 1990s, international agencies and legal experts finally began to see violence against women as a particular category of war crime. Organizations like U.N. Women exist to protect women from such crimes, while Israeli experts and activists have been involved in these international efforts. Thus, our second shock: The inconceivable and unforgivable silence of these organizations when faced with the rape and murder of Israeli women.
“It is not that condemnations of gender-based violence by Hamas have been weak or insufficient—there have been none at all,” she wrote.