On rape as a weapon of struggle- Palestine vs Zionism
On the 7th October 2023 and the days thereafter, the Zionist media, echoed by the mainstream media and several governments and even activists raised the serious concern that Hamas militants had allegedly gang raped Israeli civilians in the area just outside Gaza. Hagai El-Ad, the former director of B’Tselem, a human rights group that is reputed for defending Palestinians, also repeats the same allegations as if they are true. The ICC prosecutor charged with investigations in this genocide, in a visit to Cairo a month ago, also refers to ‘rapes’ as a fact, not even alleged- This is rather surprising for someone supposedly trained in law and international law. Did he get the required evidence? No. So why does he speak this way? It raises serious questions over his bias as well as the bias of the ICC as a tool of imperialism. His approach to the allegations as if they were fact actually provided a cover for the Israeli state and imperialism to wage a genocidal onslaught against the Palestinians and the Palestinian resistance. The burnings he also spoke of as fact have now been proven to be the result of tank shells fired from IDF tanks- Hamas was not responsible at all.
Their aim was a military breakout, the takeover of the 11 military bases in the area and the taking of hostages. Rape has never been the method of the Palestinian resistance at all. It has been used by the imperialist and oppressor forces yes. So this falsification needs to be debunked. Israel has a system of kidnapping Palestinians on flimsy charges and then keeping them without charge for months and years. This systematic kidnapping is entrenched by the Israeli Judiciary and is propped up by the ICC and other international legal institutions as they have never concretely stopped this practice. What has evolved over time has been a response by the Palestinian resistance of taking prisoners, captives, and exchanging them for their comrades held in Israeli prisons. That has been their only recourse. The Israeli law and international institutions offered no route for Palestinians to get their prisoners free. It is an apartheid detention-without-trial system used by dictatorships that is in place. Imperialism and its media have kept this in place by declaring that Israel is the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East- a myth, a rather bad joke. It was the systematic oppression and suppression of the Palestinians that laid the basis for a mass captive taking by the Palestinian resistance. What choice did they have?
Returning to the October 7th 2023 allegations, the person who reported this supposed incident was nowhere to be found despite efforts by the world media to trace them. Now there are doubts if this person even exists. Was this another Zionist actor? There are also serious flaws in the report they gave. Firstly, how is it possible that a group of men, under Apache fire, find the time to engage is such an activity, in the open field. Hardly believable at all. Secondly, none of the supposed victims have ever given any testimony. No one knows if they exist at all. Thirdly, the photo that Zionists used when they went to all corners of the globe to wrack up sympathy and to fundraise for their cause, turns out to be a fake. The photo, examined by the reputable Grayzone publication, is actually a 2022 photo involving Kurdish militia and was not even in Israel!
When taken together with other fake allegations: 40 beheaded babies, the Israeli actress that posed as a nurse from Al Shifa hospital, the fake allegation that Al Shifa hospital was the Hamas HQ, a pattern emerges. The US imperialist and their Zionist allies lied and repeated the lie, even when it was refuted. We remember that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was also over another lie- the weapons of mass destruction, that have not been found even today, 20 years later. A million Iraqis lost their lives, Iraq is now a colony of the United States. All the cultural artefacts of ancient civilization in Iraq were either destroyed or stolen.
From the above it is clear that US imperialism and its Zionist allies use rape, fake allegations of it, as a weapon of war. The entire Israeli mass, already quite a rightwing, conservative bunch, was mobilised for the seemingly total obliteration of the Palestinian masses in Gaza and they are intent on mass extermination in the West Bank too. If they can get away with it, the Palestinian Israeli citizens, who are already second class citizens, will also be given their marching orders. Even further, the entire masses of the world and in the imperialist heartlands were swept up in horror at these allegations and imperialism has been using it as a cover to commit ethnic cleansing and genocide, to try and drive the Palestinians out of Gaza, the West Bank and later those who have Israeli citizenship, out of Israel. This ‘final solution’ is based on lies. The same sort that claimed that historic Palestine was a land without a people.
The results have been devastating. On this fake allegation US imperialism, Japan, Germany, France, the UK regimes all steadfastly opposed a ceasefire while Palestinians were slaughtered and are still being slaughtered. Some of the imperialists are changing stance due to mass protest on home soil. However US imperialism, not only still repeats the lies but actively arms the Zionist army with more weapons. On the very day it vetoed the call for a ceasefire the US regime sent 13 000 more, high explosive tank shells to Israel, knowing full well that war crimes were being committed on a grand scale. When the Houthis resisted the genocide, the US regime has put together a 10 nation armed force to beat down the resistance, not addressing the genocide at all. All this proves that the genocide against Palestinians is being orchestrated by US imperialism. They are directing it from start to finish.
Rape culture in Israel
For completeness we examine rape culture within Israeli society. We unpack the data gathered by the activists of the Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel.
Their centres record 40 000 calls per year and of that, 2000, some 5% relate to gang rape by fellow Israelis. This means that every single day there are at least 5 women that report being gang-raped by fellow Israelis. This is a very high rate and quite concerning for a country that prides itself on being an advanced democracy. Despite the 40 000 reported cases only 298 cases were opened in 2013, a very low rate indeed, less than 1%. Prosecutions, although unreported, are surely even less than 1%. Noam Chomsky has claimed that Israeli law is quite good for Israelis. We beg to differ. The law is still very much male-chauvinist and oppressive towards females, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Not surprising then, when female or male Palestinian prisoners have raised complaints of sexual assault in prison, nothing happens. A blind eye is turned, locally and internationally. Josh Paul, a former US official who oversaw weapons sales to Israel, said that when it was reported to them that the IDF had raped a 13 year old Palestinian boy in prison, the group that reported it was shut down by the Israeli regime and declared to be ‘terrorist’. What hope would any Palestinian have of reporting rape and having it taken seriously.
Mondoweiss and other reputable publications have reported how Zionists used rape in 1948 and in the years subsequently as a weapon of colonisation and subjugation. See for example: https://mondoweiss.net/2022/08/how-colonizers-weaponize-rape-reflections-from-the-palestinian-case/
In the Israeli military there is also a concerning trend. In 2013 there were 531 reported cases of sexual assault in the military by a fellow soldier. This is more than one per day. When off duty the female soldiers were also subject to assault by a fellow Israeli, most likely someone known to them, 396, which is also more than one female soldier, per day.
Their site (The Rape Crisis Centres) also has a helpline for “Arab Israeli” (Palestinian) women, as well as a helpline for religious women and men. So even in distress the Palestinian is also segregated and regarded as an ‘other’, a second class citizen. ‘No, you can’t join the queue for Israelis who have been raped, go to your own queue, that is where you will receive help.’ That is the message to the Palestinian woman who has been violated. It is apartheid all over again.
Of the 40 000 calls, the most reported category, 36%, was rape, sodomy and attempted rape. Thus 14400 cases reported each year related to rape. This is about 40 rapes/sodomy/attempted rape per day across Israel, of women by fellow Israelis. In addition to this about 26%, 1 in 4 cases, apply to incest, or sexual assault by a close family member. Thus in addition to rape, incest is also a huge problem, 10 000 recorded cases per annum. Taken together, rape and incest make up 24 400 reported cases per year, or 69 cases per day.
So yes, this is a country in crisis and the existence of the centres represent a healthy trend of women beginning to resist the male chauvinism that is rampant in Israeli society.
To make a comparison. In South Africa there were 53 900 calls reporting sexual assault in 2022. Considering that the population in South Africa is 60 million while Israel has a population of 9 million, we can conclude that sexual assault in Israel is at least 6 times higher than in South Africa. Quite a concern as we know that sexual assault in South Africa is very high.
Mutilated bodies and the failure to follow rape evidence protocols
Let us assume that the reports on alleged rape and mutilation of some of the female bodies are true. It is in our collective interest that the perpetrators are found and severely dealt with. Rape and mutilation of bodies is alien to the workers’ movement and certainly alien to the liberation movements.
We have already established that rape and gang rape occurs quite often in Israel. It follows that the security services are well versed in gathering evidence in cases of sexual violence. Let us examine the process up to now:
Investigators contradict themselves. They claim that rape occurred but that there is no forensic evidence for it. They say that there is no evidence due to bodies being burnt. Evidence now emerges that the bodies were burnt due to fire from the high explosive tank shells supplied by the USA, fired by the IDF on these civilians. They also report that despite them questioning (torturing) Palestinian captives, there was no evidence that Hamas was involved in any rape. However in cases of sexual violence, we cannot depend on confessions, evidence protocols should have been followed. Let us examine what actually happened:
- The first on the crime scene were visitors and fellow Israelis who were looting the area. They were then cleared away from the area by the security forces;
- In the first few days, no photos were taken and none of the bodies were examined. Where a knife or knives were found, they were not photographed in position nor any DNA samples taken.
- Within days of the investigation starting a number of bulldozers were sent to the area, which cleared it and also contaminated and in effect destroyed any hope of getting evidence from the area.
- There are 14 centres around Israel that train annually in protocols in case of a crisis and are able to receive over 10 000 dead bodies at short notice. None of these centres were used and the bodies were all sent to a dilapidated IDF site called Shura. This place did not have sanitary conditions and did not even have a CT scanner that would have accelerated and refined the gathering of evidence. There were several cases of 2 people buried together because they were so charred and no CT scan was done.
- When reporting on an international level a fake photo was used of a 2022 rape involving Kurdish militia- it was not even in Israel.
Is it likely that a Palestinian militia found time, under fire from Apache helicopters, to go around mutilating their captives? The captives released so far confirm that they were well treated. Here is but one quote on the Islamic principle that the Muslim militia ascribe to:
‘If the Muslims capture them and take them to a place that has been prepared for them, they should not harm them or torture them with beatings, depriving them of food and water, leaving them out in the sun or the cold, burning them with fire, or putting covers over their mouths, ears and eyes and putting them in cages like animals. Rather they should treat them with kindness and mercy, feed them well and encourage them to enter Islam.’
This is not to say that none of the militia might commit a sexual offence. But the onus is on us to gather and provide the proof. There is absolutely no proof linking the Palestine resistance to any sexual offences on Oct 7th and subsequent days.
Lastly, it has to be asked what the Palestinian resistance would gain by using sexual violence? Would they get more Palestinian captives released? Obviously not. In fact they have a lot to lose by engaging in sexual offences.
The question must be asked: what do the right wing Zionist regime have to gain by making the allegation of sexual crimes against the Palestinian resistance? A lot. They divert attention away from their corruption; they sweep up the Israeli mass and the world mass to justify their dream of mass extermination and expulsion of the Palestinian mass. US imperialism also gains as it gets a huge boost to its arms industry that is central to its economy. US imperialism has shown many times in the past that they can create any pretext for a profit. The Iraq 2003 invasion brought $3 trillion to the US arms industry.
The truth is that the Israeli regime was more interested in covering up the fact they shot en masse on their own citizens on the 7th to 10th October. The rights of the female Israeli were secondary as is customary in Israeli society that is male chauvinist dominated. It was a convenient prop in their genocidal plans. There was no real interest in the well-being of the female Israeli otherwise their protocols would have shown it. They would not have used a fake photo but could have used actual concrete evidence. The Israeli regime has cheapened the lives of women. The masses around the world should be outraged at this contempt shown as well as how it was used to justify mass murder and ethnic cleansing on a scale never before seen in history.
Rape as a weapon of division and genocide.
Before 1994, in South Africa, there were all sorts of rumours being spread of potential sexual violence by black men on white women. These rumours and lies were part of a deliberate web of lies by the capitalist interests to maintain the artificial divisions between the masses in South Africa. A 2013 study published by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board found that white women in South Africa made up only 4,5% of the rape stats despite being 21% of the female population. Even then, the perpetrator was 77% likely to be a white male known to her. Thus the rumours of rape by black men after the first democratic election, proved false. Rape was used as a weapon by imperialism to try and prevent the unification of the masses in South Africa. They failed.
Imperialism is in total control of Israel and all of historic Palestine. It is in their interest to perpetuate divisions among the masses in the Middle East. This is why, when the imperialist-backed forces were militarily defeated by a ragtag militia on the 7th Oct 2023 they reacted to falsify and divert attention from this. The effect of the lie of rape was not only to entrench the divisions between Jewish Israeli and Palestinian but to sweep up the armed force of Israelis in a mindless, bloodthirsty slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.
Thus the lie of alleged rape by Palestinians was used as one of the main justifications for the current genocide. That is why it is important to methodically and painstakingly debunk the lies of imperialism.
Break down the walls of division
There are a number of cases of intermarriage between Jew and Muslim and Jew and Christian. This is as natural as the sun rising in the morning. This is what the bigots and imperialist fear. Love knows no prejudice. We need to create more opportunities for dialogue between ordinary Palestinians and ordinary Israelis. Arab culture gave us Al Jabr (Algebra) , gave us the decimal system; Jewish culture gave us the concept of ‘mensch’. Both are rich in contributions to world culture. Why do we let imperialist designs divide us? The slogan ‘from the river to the sea’ is taken by El-Ad to mean a genocide by either group, as if it springs from Fanon. It is simply not true. A single democratic state is possible.
Salaam Shalom is all it takes. Peace now! Besides an immediate ceasefire an open discussion is needed on the lies used by the Zionist regime and why they did it. There should be joint efforts such as marches to tear down the walls of division in Gaza and in and around the West Bank, from both sides. Up to now the Palestinians have for years, on their own, unarmed, been marching to the walls, asking only for the right to go home. Most of the Gaza population are refugees. There should be a process of return of all the Palestinian refugees to the land of historic Palestine. There should be a Constituent Assembly where 1 delegate is elected per 10000 people. This body should elect an interim government. It should be local councils of workers that elect their delegates and that unite to convene the Constituent Assembly. They should jointly decide on how the one democratic state should look like. Each delegate should be subject to instant recall and only be paid the salary/wage of a skilled worker. No capitalist should be allowed to take any office. The Netanyahu regime (and the PA) is the common enemy of both Palestinians and Israelis. This is a solid starting point. There should be joint community structures from bottom to top. As trust grows, an integrated militia that are accountable to the joint community structures should be formed. There should be the formation of a new workers’ party drawing membership from both Palestinian and Israeli to lead and unite the fight against the state. We remember that it was the UN that decided to partition Germany, that tried to partition historic Palestine. It was the masses, over the heads of the UN, the states, that tore down the Berlin wall. The time has come for the masses to tear down the walls of division in historic Palestine/Israel.
Issued by Workers International Vanguard League (WIVL) South Africa