Family members carrying photos of Israeli hostages.

The battle to highlight crimes against women in Hamas’ attack on Israel

In the wake of global silence and denial of Hamas’ sexual violence against Israeli women, efforts are being made across multiple echelons to raise awareness, including a civil commission to document the crimes, international diplomacy, and a campaign by tech industry executives.

In response to the widespread evidence of crimes committed by Hamas against Israeli women, a civil commission has been established to document sexual crimes committed by Hamas against women on 7/10 by Israeli international law and women’s rights experts, including Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, an international law expert at Hebrew University and Reichman University where she founded the Dvora Institute for Gender and Sustainability.
The ‘Civil Commission on Oct 7th Crimes by Hamas against Women and Children’ is a non-governmental body that seeks “to advocate for and to document war crimes committed by Hamas against women and children during the massacre of the 7th of October 2023, and the continuous war crimes towards abducted women and children. The Civil Commission takes it upon itself to obtain and distribute credible information and lend its expertise to relevant bodies in Israel and internationally,” Elkayam-Levy said in conversation with CTech.
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צעדת משפחות החטופים חטופים מקיבוץ גזר ללטרון 16.11.23 מלחמה בעזה חרבות ברזל
צעדת משפחות החטופים חטופים מקיבוץ גזר ללטרון 16.11.23 מלחמה בעזה חרבות ברזל
Family members carrying photos of Israeli hostages.
(Credit: Tomer Shonam Halevy)
She adds that the primary objective of the commission is “to gather information to an archive, and initiate measures connected to the gathering of evidence and testimonies concerning the gender-based violence and sexual violence and other crimes committed during the Hamas attack on October 7th against women and children in Israel.”
The impetus for establishing the commission was both the overwhelming cruelty of the crimes committed, the vast amount of evidence left behind, and conversely, the deafening silence of the world, including from human rights and women’s rights organizations like UN Women. It is one of many examples of how civilians are leading initiatives during the war effort, in lieu of the government. It is notable that, while admirable, it has been necessary for civilians to fill this void rather than the political leadership.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Police Investigative Unit 433 has been tasked with investigating and charging captured terrorists for their crimes. They have thus far collected roughly 700 testimonies of survivors, and are sifting through thousands of video files documenting the attacks, including some filmed by the perpetrators themselves.
While there are numerous testimonies and video evidence, much of the physical evidence of rape has been lost. One of the questions that has emerged is why rape kits weren’t used by police to collect physical evidence of rape immediately. It took police several weeks to begin mounting an investigation at all into the sexual crimes committed by Hamas on 7/10, as the full extent of the track was not immediately understood.
As international pressure mounts for Israel to end its campaign to dismantle Hamas, and in the face of a widespread denial of their crimes which precipitated Israel’s military campaign, proof of Hamas’ crimes takes on an additional layer of significance.
‘The silence isn’t just deafening - it’s damning’
The silence from international human rights and women’s rights organizations has been especially disturbing for Israelis and was part of the impetus for establishing this commission. In the month and a half since 7/10 there has been almost no response from UN Women or other organizations regarding the general atrocities, including clear evidence of war crimes, and specific sexual crimes committed against Israeli women and girls.
Elkayam-Levy, who founded the commission, testified before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) regarding the gender-based crimes in Hamas’ massacre in Israel and the lack of response from the international community. She said that, “We as Israeli women feel we are all subject to a collective international denial. The evidence is undeniable, yet we find ourselves fighting a dual battle: one, against these atrocities that we now need to respond to, and another against global silence.”
“The very committee dedicated to eliminating discrimination against women has yet to acknowledge the gender-based crimes against humanity, the atrocities and war crimes committed during these attacks,” Elkayam-Levy said, speaking directly to CEDAW. “The failure to condemn these hideous crimes weakens the legitimacy of global institutions, and allows for further violations not just in Israel but globally,” she added.
“The silence isn’t just deafening - it’s damning. It raises the haunting question: are Israeli women and girls protected under international law?”
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פנאי נעה ארגמני  חטופה
פנאי נעה ארגמני  חטופה
An screen capture of Noa Argamani being abducted to Gaza on October 7th.
(Credit: Screenshot/Telegram)
Many individual Israeli women’s rights and legal experts are utilizing every avenue available to raise awareness about this issue. Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, an international law expert with a focus on women’s rights and a professor at Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law where she founded and leads the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women, has been at the forefront of advocating at the UN and internationally on behalf of Israeli women. A former vice-chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), where she served for 12 years, Halperin-Kaddari is being sent to Geneva at the initiative of the Israeli delegation to the UN.
International ambassadors and diplomats will attend a conference organized by Israel’s delegation to the UN in Geneva about crimes committed by Hamas against Israeli women on 7/10. “There will be testimonials from first responders, including a police officer who is part of the investigative team, as well as international experts,” says Halperin-Kaddari, who will be speaking at the conference about Hamas’ crimes as well as meeting with officials from the WHO, the ICRC, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
As well as the overwhelming silence from women’s and human rights organizations regarding the sexual violence committed by Hamas against Israeli women, there has even outright denial of the attacks at all. One particularly shocking example of this was a recent incident involving the former head of a Rape Crisis Center at the University of Alberta in Canada who had co-signed a letter along with two Canadian politicians, denying that Israeli women had been subjected to rape.
The letter, entitled, ‘Stand with Palestine: Call on Political Leaders to End Their Complicity in Genocide!’ was co-signed by Samantha Pearson, the former head of the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre, referred to the sexual violence committed against Israeli women to as an “unverified accusation.” Upon publication of the letter, Pearson was immediately fired from her position by the university. However, this instance of the head of a rape crisis center trafficking in 7/10 denialism, and summarily refusing to believe the testimony and evidence of crimes committed against Israeli women, is especially poignant and illustrative of the dissonance taking place across the world in regards to this issue.
Initiatives from the tech industry
Meanwhile, senior figures in Israel’s high-tech industry have mobilized a campaign against the denial of rape and sexual violence against women on 7/10 including Eynat Guez, CEO of Papaya Global, Nir Zohar, the president of Wix, Tomer Bar-Zeev, CEO and Co-Founder of IronSource, entrepreneur Chemi Peres, Nir Greenberg, Founder of Natural Intelligence, members of Taboola and Outbrain, and others. They raised close to a million dollars within 24 hours for the awareness campaign to combat denial of the rape cases and war crimes committed by Hamas on 7/10. The campaign appeared on major news sites worldwide and generated a record-breaking number of over 20 million views within a day. The videos were aired on CNN during Jake Tapper’s recent report on the sexual violence committed by Hamas in the attacks, creating a unique opportunity to disseminate information through one of the world's largest news organizations.
One of the participants in the initiative, Eynat Guez, told CTech that “we were monitoring the positioning that the world was taking, completely ignoring what has happened here, and we felt like we needed to raise awareness. It’s not about politics - it's about basic human rights. This is about women being raped, kids being kidnapped - pure terror.
"We should not have to put up with such blatant denial of violence and unprecedented cruelty against women. There is no woman or women's organization in the world that can afford to ignore such crimes. This story needs to be brought to the attention of the entire world so that everyone understands that it is not just an Israeli problem but a universal one.
“We have one goal: that everyone will know what happened on October 7 in Israel were atrocities that cannot be denied. We are not here to produce content - there are many excellent initiatives doing that. Our goal is very focused - to increase global exposure to these heinous acts through targeted campaigns that reach as many people as possible.” Guez says that the government has not allocated sufficient funds to advocacy efforts, which is why private individuals have had to step in.
While there have been few condemnations of these atrocities abroad, one notable exception is Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta and the founder of LeanIn.Org. Sandberg published an opinion piece on CNN entitled “Something we can all agree on.” Sandberg wrote “no matter which marches you are attending —or if you are attending none at all; no matter which flag you are flying — or if you are flying none at all; no matter what religion you practice — or if you practice none at all, there is one opinion that everyone can agree on: Rape should never be used as an act of war.”
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שריל סנדברג סמנכ"לית תפעול פייסבוק דאבוס 2019
שריל סנדברג סמנכ"לית תפעול פייסבוק דאבוס 2019
Sheyl Sandberg.
(Credit: Reuters)
She then goes on to outline in detail the vast evidence of sexual violence committed by Hamas on 7/10. “Not loudly condemning the rapes of October 7 — or any rapes — is a massive step backward for the women — and men — of the world. The ground gained was hard-fought and must not be lost,” she says, arguing that this is “as true for Israel as for Ukraine where Russian soldiers have been accused of sexually brutalizing victims from ages four to 82.”
“The silence on these war crimes is deafening. It’s time to see beyond historical arguments about the past and political arguments about the future to denounce this now.” Sandberg also published a video which has been shared on X and other social media platforms, calling on the world to condemn the use of rape against Israeli women as a war crime.