Facing growing international isolation and an imminent prosecution for genocide at the International Court of Justice, Israel is doubling down on one of its most lurid propaganda narratives: The claim that Hamas fighters systematically raped Israeli women, girls and even some men on 7 October 2023.The latest installment of this tale came in the form of a 28 December New York Times “investigation” led by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jeffrey Gettleman.
It is dramatically headlined “‘Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.”
The Times asserts that it conducted a two-month investigation “establishing that the attacks against women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence.” But under scrutiny the article spectacularly fails to live up to that bold claim.
The article is an emotionally manipulative fraud aimed at justifying or distracting from Israel’s genocide in Gaza.
That’s why I considered it essential to debunk it – which I did in conversation with my colleague Nora Barrows-Friedman on The Electronic Intifada’s livestream on 3 January.
We previously debunked Israel’s claims of mass rape in a segment on 4 December, but returned to the topic following the sensationalist and false reporting by The New York Times.
You can watch the latest segment in the video above.
Lies and manipulation
Central to the Times’ story is its claim that an Israeli woman called Gal Abdush was a victim of rape before she was killed on 7 October.
The newspaper claims that Abdush “has become a symbol of the horrors visited upon Israeli women and girls” on 7 October.
But Abdush’s family have repudiated this claim, saying that there is no evidence she was raped.
They say they were manipulated by The New York Times and had no idea the newspaper was going to use their loved one to further the rape narrative despite the lack of any evidence that it occurred.
The distortions and manipulations in this article are now reportedly causing “growing concern” even within the newsroom of The New York Times, a private newspaper that has long-functioned as a semi-official mouthpiece for the US government and intelligence agencies, most notoriously its laundering of their lies about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Dismantling atrocity propaganda
The key points we covered in our latest segment on this story also include:
- The New York Times identifies four eyewitnesses for alleged incidents of rape and murder – a woman identified only as Sapir, and three men: Yura Karol, Raz Cohen and Shoam Gueta. Each of these eyewitnesses, whose accounts are not new, lacks credibility. This is either because their stories are inherently unlikely or impossible, there is total lack of corroboration, including bodies and other physical and forensic evidence, or because the supposed witnesses have changed their stories over time.
- The Times “investigation,” like previous similar stories by The Washington Post, CNN, Haaretz, The Times of Israel and others, does not confirm the existence of victims or physical or forensic evidence. Rather, it provides a litany of excuses for why there is no forensic evidence or crime scene photos – even though there was ample opportunity for authorities to collect them.
- Another main Times’ source is ZAKA, which the newspaper misleadingly describes as a nonprofit “emergency response team.” In fact, this extreme Jewish religious group and its leaders have been caught fabricating atrocity propaganda about 7 October, including the debunked tales of beheaded babies, children tied together and shot and burned, and of a pregnant woman whose fetus was torn out of her belly.
ZAKA was, moreover, founded by a man accused of serial rapes over decades – a man the organization’s leaders continued to defend up to his death in 2021, despite evidence he used the organization’s money and resources to commit his crimes, including against children.
- Despite Israel saying there are tens of thousands of videos filmed on 7 October, authorities have not claimed that a single one of them shows a rape or a sexual assault taking place – a glaring absence, given that Israel asserts that rape was used on a wide scale as a weapon of war.
- One of the Times’ main sources is the Israeli military, currently engaged in genocide in Gaza, and notoriously unreliable as a source on anything.
- Israel has refused to cooperate with any international investigation of its claims, to be conducted using established methodologies for documenting claims of rape during armed conflict.
- Israel’s mass rape claims fit into a longstanding colonial tradition of atrocity propaganda demonizing colonized indigenous or enslaved men as inherently brutish, violent and lustful, especially towards white or settler women.
Story falls apart
Since our livestream, even more information has come out exposing the extent of the fraud being perpetrated by the Times under the cover of its prestige as the world’s “newspaper of record.”
This includes the key admission by Israeli police that they have been unable to locate any survivors of the alleged mass rape campaign.
And, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on 4 January, in “the few cases where police have already amassed testimony about the sexual assaults Hamas committed during its massacre in southern Israel, they haven’t yet been able to identify the specific victims of the acts to which witnesses have testified.”
And here’s some additional sources and observations about some of the themes, inconsistencies and so-called witnesses we discussed in the program: