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  • 18 Jun, 2024

"Exposed: Israeli Authorities' October 7 'Gang Rape' Misinformation"

"Exposed: Israeli Authorities' October 7 'Gang Rape' Misinformation"

After a New York Times article about Hamas "gang rapes" was discredited for poor sourcing and a lack of clear evidence, an Israeli "watchdog" released a retracted, "unverifiable" report on "sexual violence" during Hamas operations from October 7th.

Physicians for Israeli Human Rights (PHRI) acknowledged in a recent statement that its November 2023 position paper on sexual violence was widely used by Western media as evidence of false rape allegations against Hamas resistance fighters during Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, but did not reach any opinion. It drew no conclusions and merely aimed to "raise awareness" of the issue.

"In the extensive research conducted in the months since the position paper was published in November, some of the witness statements cited therein have been challenged or deemed unverifiable, and other statements may be subject to similar scrutiny in the future," the group acknowledged in a statement a.

"We regret that they were included in the position paper.

"The statement said that the "primary purpose" of the position paper was to advocate for a full investigation of the issue, and that the report was not intended to "justify" or "discredit" the allegations.

"Our focus is to raise awareness of the issue, advocate for an official investigation, and urge immediate action to ensure that potential victims receive specialized care appropriate to the nature of their trauma," the statement further said.

The claim was amplified by the Israeli group and widely reported by many Western media outlets after the events of October 7 last year, but ultimately proved to be false. How did the story get discredited?

During the Israeli regime's genocidal war against Gaza that began more than seven months ago and has killed more than 35,900 Palestinians inside the besieged area, an unfounded claim accusing Hamas resistance fighters of gang rape and sexual violence was circulated on October 7.

The claim was spread on social media platforms and in Western media without basic fact-checking in order to smear and demonize the Palestinian resistance.

On December 28, the New York Times conducted a so-called investigation, which was followed by hundreds of other media reports, Israeli sources and interviews citing the same Israeli entities, in an attempt to convince readers that Hamas is "using rape as a weapon of war.

"However, the story as reported by the New York Times and other Western mainstream media quickly fell apart, exposing systemic problems. Independent media began investigating the report under the guise of an "investigation," and ultimately concluded that "there is no evidence that gang rape occurred."

"The (New York Times) article is an emotionally manipulative scam designed to justify and distract from Israel's massacre in Gaza," the Electronic Intifada said in a report refuting the NYT article. Nevertheless, on October 7, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Associated Press and The Nation deemed PRI's November position paper evidence of "rape and sexual violence". But like other similar reports, the PHRI paper lacked original reporting and was based on unsubstantiated media claims.

It also included no forensic evidence, survivor statements or video evidence.In March, PHRI's director of ethics and policy, Hadas Zib, also acknowledged that the opinion paper she co-authored had many problems.

Zib acknowledged that she had issues with the reliability of her sources and had not considered all the available evidence. He also said he "did not know" that many of the sources included in the report, including ZAKA, the scandal-plagued Zionist militant organization misleadingly described by Western media as a non-profit "rapid response team," had fabricated stories of atrocities.

Indeed, ZAKA and its leaders, especially Yossi Landau, were arrested around October 7 for fabricating atrocity propaganda, including a debunked story about babies being decapitated, children being tied up and shot and burned, and a story of a pregnant woman whose fetus had come out of her uterus ripped. "I did not know that they (ZAKA volunteers) could not be trusted. ... But maybe I just trust people who tell the story as it is, and do not investigate [the issue]," Ziv was quoted as saying.

Other media outlets, including Reuters, CNN, The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian, NBC, Politico, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, also quoted ZAKA volunteers without mentioning the past scandals and current controversies surrounding them.

Furthermore, investigations revealed that among the sources who claimed to have seen bodies bearing signs of rape and sexual violence in PHRI newspapers and other media, not one had the professional training to make such assessments, and almost all had fabricatedstories.  The PHRI report also said some of its sources, including Raz Cohen, who claims to have witnessed the rape, have ties to the Israeli military. He also ignored the fact that his story has changed multiple times.

Mission accomplished

Now that PHRI itself has retracted its report, observers believe that the mainstream media and Zionist organizations that have amplified similar false claims have nothing to rely on.

"PHRI has now significantly retracted its report, noting that it did not reach any conclusions, but only asserted an investigation. We regret that it contains inaccurate and unreliable information," The Intercept's Washington bureau chief Ryan Grimm said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) last week.

He added that "we will continue to hear similar statements in the coming months and years, when the matter can safely be discussed and its purpose fully completed." The human rights group also warns that the Israeli regime has already "used" and "exploited" unreliable reports of Hamas' sexual violence as a propaganda tool to justify its genocidal campaign against the inhumanity of 2.3 million Palestinians and civilians in the Gaza Strip.

The Feminist Solidarity Network for Palestine, an international group of anti-imperialist, anti-colonial feminist scholars and lawyers, says the Western media campaign against Hamas is an Israeli-led attempt to "counter-humanize the Palestinian male" while filming its own footage, which stands in stark contrast to the racist portrayal in the hegemonic media.

"The accusation of systematic and brutal rape is not only being used to demonize the Palestinian resistance, but also to dehumanize the Palestinian male as a whole by portraying the Palestinian resistance through a stereotype of the Palestinian man, rather than as an anti-colonial liberation movement. The right of Palestinians to armed resistance against the occupation under international law, as terrorists and rapists, is also being erased," the human rights group added.