column

Why the left must lie about Hamas and rape

Journalists and those who post on social media deny the atrocities of Oct. 7 because of the false narrative about Israel being a “settler-colonial” state that enables antisemitism.

Israeli women who were captured by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, dragged into the Gaza Strip and held in captivity before being released months later, hold press conference in Tel Aviv on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Israeli women who were captured by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, dragged into the Gaza Strip and held in captivity before being released months later, hold press conference in Tel Aviv on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

You don’t have to read left-wing publications like The Intercept or The Nation or watch the “Democracy Now” program available on NPR and Pacifica to have encountered denial about the atrocities of Oct. 7. They’re commonplace on social media, and unless you only follow or interact with small bubbles of pro-Israel posters, it’s hard to avoid. But the push to deny that rape was not merely widespread but an important element of Hamas’s plans and tactics in their cross-border assaults isn’t rooted in genuine skepticism about events.

Far from an honest effort to get at the truth, the widespread scoffing about Israeli rape victims on Internet platforms is almost always accompanied by rhetoric that goes beyond the facts about Oct. 7 and the Palestinian pogroms that swept through Jewish communities in southern Israel. Instead, the posters take umbrage that anyone should feel sympathy for the victims or outrage at the perpetrators. Such discussions aren’t really about whether the evidence and testimony from numerous victims and witnesses about the horrendous crimes committed by Hamas operatives, as well as ordinary Palestinians who crossed the border in their wake on Oct. 7, proves that rape was a constant factor.

Instead, what they focus on is a litany of talking points from the woke ideology playbook in which Palestinians in “occupied” Gaza, who were actually living in an independent Palestinian state in all but name, were engaging in legitimate acts of resistance against settler-colonialism white oppressors. The rape deniers aren’t so much interested in erasing the suffering of women raped by Palestinians as they are in denying that Jews have any right to live in their ancient homeland, and because they do, must consider murder, rape, torture and kidnapping as their just desserts.

Civil war at ‘The Times’

That is the context for the bizarre argument over Hamas rapes that broke out among leftist journalists in recent weeks.

The focus of the controversy was the belated New York Times article that finally acknowledged the reality of the horror of Oct. 7. It wasn’t published until Dec. 28, nearly three months after the crimes were committed. This was much like some of the other acknowledgments of Oct. 7 by publications and groups that should have spoken out or published their work with the alacrity that they usually show when sexual offenses are reported. But the Times article, titled “ ‘Screams Without Words:’ How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7 was both thorough and pulled no punches as it unraveled a story of “rape, mutilation and extreme brutality” on the part of Palestinians against Israelis. Much like the videos of some of what happened on Oct. 7 that were often taken by Hamas operatives themselves as they boasted and gloried in their criminal behavior, it makes for difficult reading. Indeed, as many of those who commented on it on the Times website noted, it’s hard to imagine how any person with a shred of decency could support Hamas or oppose Israel’s efforts to eradicate it after reading it.

But though the publication with arguably the greatest resources at their command was slow to get the article published, the mere fact that it did so was intolerable for some on the left, who didn’t even wait for Israel’s counterattack against Gaza to begin before flipping the narrative from one of terrorist outrages to one about the plight of Palestinians, including the majority of them who supported Hamas’s launching of a genocidal war aimed at destroying the Jewish state.

It was hardly surprising when The Intercept—a publication that leans harder to the left than even the Times—published not one but two pieces purporting to debunk it. The efforts seized on certain disputes among the Israeli victims and primarily focused on trying to delegitimize an Israeli freelancer who worked on the story because of social-media posts in which she vented her anger at Hamas and the Palestinians after Oct. 7. This is hypocrisy on steroids coming from left-wing journalists who make no secret of their bias. Still, nothing published by The Intercept undermined the basic truth of the Times‘ reporting or the evidence of the way sexual crimes were an integral part of the Hamas assault on Israel.

But anger about the story wasn’t confined to those who work at The Intercept.

As was soon revealed, many on the staff of the Times were also unhappy about “Screams Without Words.” The story was supposed to have served as the basis for an episode at “The Daily,” the Times popular podcast that explores the news via the paper’s reporting. The podcast staff, supported by others in the newsroom, were apparently outraged that their publication had documented Palestinian war crimes. In what can only be described as an echo of social-media posters who refuse to accept any evidence of Hamas wrongdoing and their use of rape, those involved in putting out “The Daily” were determined to poke holes in it and to treat those who had produced it as pro-Israel propagandists.

This, too, isn’t surprising. The Times staff was shown to have acted like a left-wing mob when it turned against some who worked on their opinion section when a piece critical of the Black Lives Matter riots by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was published in June 2020. The subsequent purge of the opinion staff also led to Bari Weiss deciding to resign from the paper because it had become an “illiberal” environment where activism was more important than journalism.

The next twist in the story came when those in charge at the Times, who were unhappy about being blasted by The Intercept, woke up to the fact that the attack on their solid story was largely based on leaks from Times staffers. According to reporting by NPR, that led to an investigation by the Times into which employees on their payroll were serving as sources for an outrageous assault on the newspaper’s credibility.

That, in turn, generated outrage from the Times staff, which claimed that journalists of “Middle Eastern and North African extraction” were targeted in the leak investigation and that this was evidence of discrimination. The Times rejects the charge as “preposterous.” But the upshot of the controversy is that the Times management is on the defensive. And, it should also be noted, despite the most recent—and also belated—confirmation of the sexual crimes committed on Oct. 7 by the United Nations, the Times podcast still hasn’t touched the story, despite having already done a number of episodes focusing on the Palestinians’ situation during the war.

Activists pretending to be journalists

That says a lot about the contemporary culture of American journalism. It was already clear that many of those who work at the most prestigious publications and for broadcast outlets, especially those who have begun work in the last decade and those who specialize in non-traditional journalism like digital media or videos, are committed to a view of their profession as a way to advance their partisan views rather than a search for objective truth. Their attitudes towards the war against Hamas speak primarily to the way that the spread of critical race theory and intersectionality, as well as related ideas about white privilege, have similarly tainted their understanding of the Middle East.

This is, after all, largely the same group that regards the #MeToo movement as a pivotal moment in American society and culture. It enthusiastically promoted the idea that “believe all women” was the only way to approach even those controversies involving sexual harassment about which reasonable doubts had been raised.

But just as there were double standards when it came to accusations of sexual misconduct in the United States related to partisan affiliation—accusations against Republicans like Justice Brett Kavanaugh were accepted at face value while the woman who alleged that President Joe Biden had assaulted her with just as little proof was depicted as crazy and unreliable—it is equally clear that responses to the use of rape as a weapon of war are similarly determined by how you feel about Israel. This is not so much a measure of the hypocrisy of Israel-haters as it is a function of ideology. If, like so many Americans on the left—particularly those young people who have been indoctrinated in woke mythology—you are always ready to believe that Israel is in the wrong and the Palestinians are victims no matter what they do, then you are merely doing what the teachings of intersectionality dictate. When faced with accusations against people regarded as oppressors, the woke believe all women. When it is their allegedly powerless victims who are committing the crimes, they demand evidence and dismiss the facts even when they are presented with them.

The controversies over Hamas rapes on Oct. 7, coupled with the wars being waged inside publications like the Times about them, are an indication of just how much the toxic influence of critical studies has warped both journalism and public discourse. It has exposed the dishonesty of feminist groups and international bodies that have stayed silent when they should have spoken up.

Above all else, it conclusively demonstrates the connection between the new leftist ideological orthodoxies that dominate academia and popular culture—and the crudest sort of Jew-hatred. The mobs on the streets chanting for Israel’s destruction and terrorism against Jews are no different than the mobs in liberal newsrooms; they are equally disinterested in the truth. What they care about is aiding the war on Israel and the Jews, and if that means engaging in what can only be described as the 21st-century version of Holocaust denial, then that is what they will do. But as we know from past discussions about Holocaust denial, no one should be under any illusions about the questions raised about the veracity of reports about the slaughter and mistreatment of Jews. Such talk is always a reliable indicator of antisemitism.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

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