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MeToo…But Not You

May 22, 2024

by: Cheryl Hauer, International Vice President

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I am deeply sick at heart when I think of the dozens if not hundreds of Israeli women who were sexually assaulted on October 7 and beyond, for those in captivity. Women whose lives had once been occupied with the kinds of things that occupy most women: homes, families, children, careers, religion, politics, what to make for dinner, what to do when the kids all need to be in different places at the same time. Women like me—and maybe like you—who were busy with life and all that it entails. Unlike me, however, they were women who were accustomed to the scream of air raid sirens, the rush to the bomb shelter or safe room, a missile, and another and then another. They were women to whom those missiles had become a way of life; Israel had not had a terror-free year since 1968. Yet despite that constant threat, they were women who never in their wildest imaginations could have anticipated the horror that would engulf their lives on October 7, 2023.

Nor could those who survived have imagined the reaction of the world to that horror. Of course, the responses of world leaders immediately after the massacre were filled with support for Israel and condemnation of Hamas. But that didn’t last long. The news was soon filled with reports of throngs of people gathering to vilify Israel and lend support to the very monsters who had slaughtered their friends and families before their eyes and violated them in the worst manner possible.

As some courageous victims of sexual assault began to come forward, telling their stories of unimaginable pain and humiliation, they were further dishonored when the truth of their reports was questioned, when usually outspoken women’s groups worldwide were silent and when there was no outrage, only accusation.

War’s Oldest Crime

Sexual violence against women in conflict situations has been called war’s oldest, most silenced and least condemned crime. Since the earth today is the home to more armed conflicts than at any other time in its history, the problem of rape as a weapon of war is mushrooming. Although the sophistication of weapons, rules of engagement and other aspects of war have evolved through the ages, the protection of women and children has made precious little progress.

Throughout history, this type of violence has taken many forms. In ancient Greece, since women were considered property and legitimate “booty” for the victor, such violence was considered well within the rules of warfare. In the Middle Ages, it was considered an indication of a man’s success on the battlefield and a form of compensation for soldiers who were rarely paid. In more recent history, rape has been used as a means of psychological warfare in order to humiliate and terrorize an enemy. It can also be recognized as genocide when it is committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a targeted group.

It would seem that Hamas had both in mind. Unleashing such unrestrained and violent hatred certainly had its desired effect in terrorizing and traumatizing an entire nation. And if through the use of rape, Israeli women could be totally demoralized, families—which are the bedrock of Israeli society—could be destroyed as well.

It was not until the 21st century that rape as a weapon of war was finally recognized as a crime against humanity and a war crime. The United Nations Security Council resolutions number 1820, 1888 and 1889 declared that victims should have access to justice and reparations. However, since its inception in 2002, the International Criminal Court has prosecuted fewer than 10 soldiers accused of sexual violence against women.

And the MeToo movement, which began in the United States and quickly spread to become a global phenomenon, purported to be a vehicle to bring an end to sexual violence of any kind. The movement advocated support for victims who were willing to come forward with stories of their abuse. They were first and foremost to be believed, after which perpetrators would be held accountable. However, the movement was conspicuous in its absence as Israeli women came forward with their testimonies of sexual violence. As the truth of their reports was questioned, there was no voice from the MeToo movement advocating for them, reminding the world that victims who are willing to come forward should be believed.

Cherished Equality

Judaism teaches that women are equal to men, not in the “anything you can do I can do better” sense. But in recognizing differences and embracing callings which place women at the forefront in creating a godly environment for the raising of children, working in tandem with men to present a living picture of the God of the universe and maintaining solid marriages that present to the world a picture of God’s desire for His relationship with His creation. Women are cherished, honored and respected. Tall men, the Talmud (rabbinic commentary on Jewish tradition and the Hebrew Scriptures) teaches, should stoop to hear every word spoken by their wives. A husband should go without in order to provide everything his wife needs. And every woman is endowed with binah, a deep godly intuition that gives women a deeper spiritual understanding than men.

It was with this view in mind that Israel saw its daughters abused, beaten, raped and humiliated. There are few attacks that could have impacted the entire nation as this one. And nothing could have shouted, “Anti-Semitism!” louder than the international community’s indifference.

I can’t help but ask, where is the outrage? How is it in this, the most intimate of betrayals, that Israelis are again held to a different standard?

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