Women and Jews have long shared a common experience: people telling them that what happened to them did not, in fact, happen. Denialism, in other words. People work extremely hard to see women and Jews as the privileged and never the oppressed, so they can justify their desires and prejudices to themselves. It comes out in Holocaust denial, which is gaining in popularity around the world, and it came out during the Jeremy Corbyn era, when Jews who voiced their fears about antisemitism on the left were smeared by his supporters. And now we see it when Jews are accused of “weaponising the Holocaust” when they explain their terror of the genocidal maniacs Hamas.
Meanwhile, women know they are so unlikely to be believed when they’ve been raped that most –— five out of six in this country — don’t even bother going to the police. And who can blame them, when only 5 per cent of reported rapes result in charges being brought. For a bright, brief moment people tended to care about this during the MeToo movement. But that changed like a fashion with the rise of the gender-rights movement, which argues that a man who says he’s a woman magically becomes one. When women — including JK Rowling — explained that their experience of sexual assault made them anxious about the prospect of men having access to female-only spaces, they were accused of — yes — “weaponising their trauma”.
So when reports started to come out that Israeli women had been raped by Hamas terrorists during the October 7 pogrom, I knew the reaction would be bad. But I didn’t know it would be this bad.
It took 50 days for the UN just to acknowledge that there were “numerous accounts of sexual violence” during the October 7 attacks. Although at least it has acknowledged it, which is more than I can say for some. It’s striking how many social justice warriors who loudly supported every passing minority over the past years have expressed scepticism about accounts of the rape of Israeli women, insisting this is just a “Zionist” and “fetishistic” story.
These denials have become more frantic since Israel released some of the GoPro footage from the Hamas terrorists. The Guardian’s most high-profile journalist, Owen Jones, once promised to wage “an all-out war on antisemitism”, so I watched his YouTube review of the pogrom film to see how this war is going for him. Just like all the armchair sceptics on social media, he insists he’s just trying to establish the facts, all the while omitting facts that are inconvenient to his narrative. He begins by naming which other journalists were at the London screenings of the film: “LBC presenters, Rachel Johnson and Nick Ferrari” and “media organisations like the Sun” implying that this was some rabble-rousing, right-wing event, even though he went to the screening with Michael Walker, from the far left blog Novara. Strangely, he doesn’t mention that journalists from The Times, Reuters and Vice were invited too. “If there was rape and sexual violence committed, we don’t see that on camera,” Jones reports, apparently unaware the IDF have said that it only included footage that “preserved the dignity” of those killed and their families. The body of a burned female corpse with no underwear on “is not what you would consider conclusive evidence of rape”, Jones insists. And, like all armchair sceptics, he raises a cynical eyebrow at dead naked Israeli women, all the while parroting unquestioningly claims from Hamas, although his claim that Israel’s bombing has killed “around 20,000 people” exceeds even those (as of 3 December, several days after Jones made his video, the Ministry of Health in Gaza claimed that 15,200 Palestinians have been killed since October 7).
When Jones was later asked why he is so sceptical about the multiple reports of Hamas terrorists raping Israeli women – indeed, reports that they were specifically instructed to rape Jewish girls and women – he replied with a quote from a Washington Post article: “It’s unclear whether authorities have accounts directly from rape survivors.” That quote does indeed exist in that article, but it also makes clear that this is because Hamas almost certainly killed all the women they raped yet accidentally left many witnesses, including one who said a Hamas terrorist killed a woman while still raping her and a morgue worker who described female bodies so brutally assaulted they had shattered pelvises. But I guess he missed those details.
Jones, a loyal Corbynite and gender ideologue, neatly combines the au courant tendency to deny Jews’ experiences of antisemitism and women’s fears of male violence. On the social media site forever known as Twitter, he tells women he knows what a woman is better than them, and he tells Jews he knows what antisemitism is better than them. It would be funny if it wasn’t so destructive.
Former Guardian readers often ask me why editors there are so cowed by Jones and his belief that anyone who thinks differently from him is on the-wrong-side-of-history that they are willing to sacrifice the paper’s reputation to keep him happy. And the truth is, I have no idea.
Since leaving the Guardian last year, I’ve thought a lot about how it became so right-on for people on the left to denigrate women and Jews. Partly I think it’s resentment: women were listened to too much during the MeToo era and, God almighty, haven’t we heard enough about the Holocaust already? Old prejudices just get repackaged. Also, there are a lot of people who want to see the world as a superhero movie (I blame Marvel), with simplistic goodies and baddies, as opposed to complicated groups of people with competing rights. It is extraordinary how many antisemitic murders there have been in the US and Europe in the past decade, how many women are killed a week in this country. But hey, why listen to us, we’re the privileged ones. It must be nice to have such a simple view of the world, facts be damned. But that is not journalism. It is propaganda.
This piece has been edited to clarify an earlier ambiguous reference to the attendance of Michael Walker.