The KKK and other white supremacist terrorist groups have long invoked the racist stereotype of Black men as rapists to justify lynchings. This includes 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, whose so-called crime was to whistle at a white woman in Money, Mississippi. The capitalist state has done the same. The Scottsboro defendants, nine African American teenagers in Alabama falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1931, languished in prison for years until a worldwide movement freed them.
The weaponizing of racist stereotypes is not just a thing of the past. On multiple occasions, including during his presidential campaign in 2015 and more recently in 2021, former President Donald Trump slandered undocumented Mexican immigrants as “murderers and rapists.”
Now we are seeing the same tactic employed against the Palestinian resistance, more specifically Hamas, Islamic Resistance Movement. This time the “liberal” New York Times has put the allegations, first published Dec. 28, on the front page of its Dec. 31 Sunday edition. The Times claims to have “investigated” claims that were made earlier this year — claims that Electronic Intifada debunked in a video posted Dec. 4.
Drawing a parallel with the historical use of racist stereotypes in the U.S., Electronic Intifada states, “There’s a similar and equally sinister dynamic to Israeli propaganda now targeting Palestinians. Its purpose is to demonize them and soften up public opinion to tolerate or support Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza.”
The rape allegations were already widely promoted by the U.S. and Israeli media, including CNN and Haaretz, before the bogus Times investigation. None of the sources had any firsthand testimony from survivors of alleged mass rape and there was zero forensic evidence.
Only a few individuals claim to have observed sexual assault after the Israeli Occupation Forces supposedly collected over 1,000 testimonies and 60,000 video clips. This calls into question the charge that mass rape was somehow an official policy of the resistance.
The so-called expert
CNN and Haaretz, and now the Times, have promoted Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, who the Israeli daily newspaper describes as a feminist scholar and international human rights expert heading an “independent commission” investigating the alleged mass rapes of Oct. 7. She is featured in a Dec. 1 article with a headline claiming she has collected “testimony after testimony” of such atrocities. Yet not one actual survivor testimony is cited in Haaretz.
In Haaretz Elkayam-Levy cites coerced testimony from two captured resistance fighters as proof — provided by the Israeli police force Shin Bet, which routinely employs torture, including rape, to extract confessions. Elkayam-Levy even offered as photographic “evidence” a photo that was actually taken in May 2023 of a Kurdish girl outside of Palestine.
Elkayam-Levy is not who CNN, Haaretz and The Times claim she is. As Mondoweiss pointed out after the CNN report, she “is indeed an expert, but not of human rights law. In her former positions, including a post for the Israeli government’s Attorney General’s Office in the International Law Department, she provided the legal justification for Israeli officials committing human rights violations against Palestinians.
“She had previously published a ‘guidance for policy making, government officials and legal advisors in the management of hunger strikes.’ There, she provided a detailed legal manual to ‘standardization through legislation and regulation’ for forced feeding – a brutal act of torture used to break political prisoners.”
In addition, Elkayam-Levy is a former member of the Israel Occupation Forces Spokespersons Unit. (mondoweiss.net, Dec. 1, 2023)
There is nothing substantially new in the latest, 3,500 word New York Times piece. The previously reported lies are basically regurgitated and presented as an “investigation.” The prominently placed article is nothing but one-sided propaganda intended to justify the U.S./Israeli genocide.
Israel condones sexual violence against Palestinians
In contrast to Israel’s fabrications is its practice — going back to its creation — of allowing the rape of Palestinians. Palestinian women were raped and murdered during multiple massacres, and the fear of being raped was one tactic used to displace 750,000 Palestinians in 1948.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence and torture are carried out in Israeli prisons, sometimes with the goal of forcing a confession. An estimated 8,000 Palestinian prisoners are behind bars, the majority of them not charged with any crime. Men captured by the IOF since Oct. 7 have been forced to strip naked and be photographed, an act of extreme humiliation and degradation.
In 2002, Rabbi Eyal Karim made the outrageous statement that it was permissible for soldiers to “satisfy the evil inclination by lying with attractive Gentile [i.e, Palestinian] women against their will, out of consideration for the difficulties faced by the soldiers and for overall success.” (Mondoweiss.net Aug. 8, 2022)
In 2016, he was appointed Rabbi Colonel of the Israeli Military Rabbinate, or head rabbi of the IOF, a position he still holds today. Similar views were expressed by prominent Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and prominent professor Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University in 2002.
The rate of reported rape inside Israel has risen 30% since 2015, with the vast majority of cases closed without charges. The percentage of women alleging rape in Gaza, on the other hand, is extremely low.
Rape culture and war propaganda
Sexual violence is a terrible crime. Millions, perhaps billions, of women and gender-oppressed people have directly experienced it. Rape culture — the culture of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault or abuse — demeans every human being oppressed by patriarchal relations.
Most rape survivors do not have eyewitnesses to their suffering, but the vast majority of accusers are telling the truth. Yet all too often it is the woman who is put on trial in a rape case. “Believing survivors” is important in challenging the narrative that rape victims are lying, imagining things, have no proof or somehow provoked the assailant.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize that there are real situations where racists and war propagandists fabricate allegations. They do this to appeal to the instinctive sympathy with anyone who has experienced the horrible crime of rape. Undocumented claims of “rape camps” were made during the U.S./NATO wars against Yugoslavia and Libya.
When rich and middle-class women’s organizations buy into this propaganda, they are essentially accomplices to genocide and actually harm the cause of rape survivors.
The group Speak Up, “A feminist initiative to support victims of violence in all its forms,” states: “Exploiting women’s bodies and rape allegations as war propaganda carries profound and extensive implications, affecting not only the immediate conflict but also influencing global attitudes and perceptions about women. This approach undermines the credibility of legitimate cases of sexual violence.
“It may lead to skepticism and disbelief when survivors share their experiences, perpetuating a culture of silence and impunity. Additionally, it could provoke a global backlash against efforts to address gender-based violence and advocate for women’s rights, and it diminishes the credibility of international initiatives aimed at preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict.” (speakupeg.com)
Rape culture prevails under the capitalist system of exploitation. Its strongest impact in the stage of imperialism is felt by nationally oppressed people, both inside the imperialist countries and in the colonies. White supremacy, settler colonialism and rape culture go hand in hand.
The fight against all oppressions is a fight against imperialism. Right now, the most important task of anti-imperialists is to magnify solidarity with Palestine and its resistance across the globe.