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OpinionOctober 7

Sexualized antisemitism, feminist impersonators and atrocity denial

Academic “feminists” are not only indifferent to the suffering of women and girls but enable the obliteration of truth itself.

About 100 women protested outside the New York City headquarters of U.N. Women for its weak responses to the violent Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on scores of women, Nov. 27, 2023. Photo by Roi Boshi.
About 100 women protested outside the New York City headquarters of U.N. Women for its weak responses to the violent Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on scores of women, Nov. 27, 2023. Photo by Roi Boshi.
Amy Elman. Credit: Courtesy.
R. Amy Elman
R. Amy Elman is a professor of political science and the William Weber chair of social science at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

Anticipating a second Donald Trump presidency at The Atlantic, writer Juliette Kayyem predicted the resurgence of “stochastic terrorism.” She defined this as a form of “radicalization” that riles up “followers in ways that [make] bloodshed likely while preserving plausible deniability.”

Does this definition extend to the anti-Zionists who mobilized in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre to defend those who murdered, kidnapped, raped, decapitated and burnt Israelis alive? If not, why are calls to “decolonize Palestine” by “any means necessary” not considered a form of “radicalization” that makes “bloodshed likely”? Is the growing popularity of this rhetoric sufficient to exonerate it? Or is it that the “plausible deniability” of antisemitism and its effect on Jews is necessary to protect the anti-Zionists’ own use of stochastic terrorism?

Examples of this stochastic terrorism abound.

At a pro-Hamas protest at the University of Pennsylvania, a student declared of Oct. 7: “I remember feeling so empowered and happy, so confident that victory was near and so tangible. I want all of you to hold that feeling in your hearts. Never let go of it.” She then implored the crowd to “bring it to the streets.” That is precisely what they did.

This student was not alone. Faculty engaged in this particular form of terrorism as well. A Cornell University Associate Professor of History, Russell Rickford—now on leave—declared Oct. 7 “exhilarating.” Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, declared that Hamas’s “resistance offensive” was “awesome.”

Former George Washington University assistant professor Lara Sheehi, who was just appointed to a research position at a Qatar-based institute, condemned those who “slander the names of our martyrs as terrorists.”

A misogynist and racist student at my own campus expressed contempt for “white bitches” who dared to express their horror at Hamas’s slaughter.

It appears that women are now expected to remain silent about sexual atrocities. Accordingly, those who speak out against the sexual violence committed by the so-called “freedom fighters” of Hamas are derided as “colonial feminists” and racists.

This is monstrous, given the atrocities in question. Hamas and its followers raped women and girls, cut off their breasts and tossed them about, removed a fetus from a living woman whom they bound and gagged, shot bullets into the vaginas and heads of their victims, beheaded others, pulverized pelvises and mutilated men’s genitals.

Captured terrorists acknowledged that this sexual violence was planned. A dead terrorist’s notebook contained a translation key. In Hebrew, it read: “Take off your pants.” These four words help account for the piles of bloodied corpses naked below the waist. For the Israeli hostages still in captivity, the sexual torture likely continues.

That this barbarism is characterized as “resistance” testifies to the depravity of the pro-Hamas forces, the depth of their antisemitism and their normalization of sexual abuse.

Those who filmed themselves with body cameras and cell phones posted video clips of what they were doing to the families and friends of their victims. This brutal behavior is reminiscent of Serbia’s fascists who, according to Natalie Nenadic, used rape and the pornography they made of it “as a public spectacle to induce women to leave their homes and never return.”

In the 1990s, feminists warned that the rape-death camps central to Serbia’s “ethnic cleansing” campaign were a blueprint for future mass rapists. Nenadic wrote: “We can be sure that all present and future fascists and misogynists of the world are watching and taking note about how to do it and get away with it.”

Survivors of Oct. 7 have testified to the pleasure that Palestinians took in the crimes they committed. No less important is the thrill they and their accomplices derive from denying that the atrocities took place. Like Holocaust deniers, they dispute the forensic evidence and the testimonies of Jews as lies. Because the Holocaust and Oct. 7 are so emblematic of evil, Deborah Lipstadt and others have warned that deniers naturally seek to revitalize antisemitism by convincing others that such crimes never happened. Thus, tearing down hostage posters under the pretext that they are “Islamophobic propaganda” becomes a moral act in the eyes of the antisemites. Perversely, it is often committed by zealous young women.

The protean character of antisemitism and its denial is also evidenced by the ostensible campus feminists who subscribe to them.

Such feminist impersonators include Brooke Lober and Sima Shakhsari. Lober, an adjunct professor of gender and women studies at the University of California, Berkeley, attended an Oakland City Council meeting in November to promote a ceasefire resolution. There, she stated: “The notion that this was a massacre of Jews is a fabricated narrative.” She absurdly claimed, “Many of those killed on Oct. 7, including children, were killed by the [Israel Defense Forces].”

Shakhsari, an associate professor at the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota and author of Politics of Rightful Killing: Civil Society, Gender and Sexuality in Weblogistan, made headlines weeks later. While applying for a senior administrative diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) position at the university, Shakhsari proudly denied the Oct. 7 atrocities.

Speaking as a “rape crisis counselor” who “believes survivors,” she refused to believe Israeli survivors. Hideously, Shakhsari compared them to white women whose racist false accusations of rape against black men in the segregated South led to lynching.

This parroted the rape denialism broadcast by Electronic Intifada weeks prior. The hate site stressed the absence of “firsthand testimony,” which was not absent, while downplaying the fact that many victims are no longer alive to provide testimony because they were murdered after they were violated. One woman on the broadcast likened the Palestinian rapist-murderers to Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black youth falsely accused of offending a white woman in a Mississippi grocery store in 1955 and later beaten to death by racists.

Silencing Jewish survivors of sexual abuse under the guise of feminist anti-racism is profoundly misogynist and racist. It also ensures further anguish for American women by legitimizing the “corroboration requirements” for rape that U.S. feminists succeeded in ending more than four decades ago.

The faculty rape deniers are not marginal. They have amassed considerable authority over decades in academia. Their influence has been felt in transnational circles (such as UN Women), academic organizations (such as the National Women’s Studies Association) and, not least, the Women’s March. In 2017, organizers of the march demanded the expulsion of Zionists from the movement. Soon after, Jews from Berkeley to the State University of New York (SUNY) were cast out of student organizations, including organizations for sexual-assault survivors.

These academic feminist impersonators are clearly indifferent to the suffering of women and girls. It appears, in fact, that few of us feminists have been left standing. To many “feminists” today, nothing matters except extremist Palestinian nationalism, even when it means rape and murder.

Countering their pernicious pro-rape campaign requires repeatedly exposing their sinister politics. In 1993, the U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, warned: “Correctly cast and properly camouflaged, Holocaust denial has a good chance of finding a foothold among coming generations.” As prescient as she was, it is unlikely that she anticipated the central role that feminist impersonators would play in denying all atrocities committed against Jews.

With terrorists masquerading as freedom fighters and their apologists cloaked as feminists, we are witnessing the rape and murder of not only Jews but a challenge to truth itself.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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