Former Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has questioned the humanity of deniers of Hamas sexual crimes on October 7.
The former COO of Meta and Facebook, said she had travelled to the UK with “two very brave women to bear witness on what they and their colleagues have seen with their own eyes.
“The intention of sexual violence is to generate fear, instead we must generate justice. The unfathomable must not go unpunished, we owe that to the victims of the past, the victims of today, and to prevent victims of the future.
“If we can’t agree that rape is wrong; that rape is not resistance, that rape is freedom fighting, then the question becomes not what is happening in the Middle East but what is happening to our humanity?” she said.
The remark was made during an event in Parliament hosted by Labour Peer Lord John Mendelsohn.
Cherie Blair, who also attended the event, said that she was “ashamed” that some people in the UK “don’t want to hear” about the allegations of rape just because “it interferes with a narrative,”
The barrister and wife of former prime minister Tony Blair noted that she had grown up in the era following the Nuremburg Trials and was “very proud” of the role Britain played in that, and where the world said, ‘Never Again’.
She said: “But I’m ashamed it seems like at the moment we’re ignoring all that, here in our country people don’t want to hear that this is happening, because it interferes with a narrative of the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’. But life isn’t just good or bad.”
She added, “When bad things happen it happens to people, human beings, and if we can say it doesn’t matter then we are treating people less, and for that we should be ashamed.
“The Jewish community in this country are walking around frightened and it’s not right, we cannot just put this to one side and say it doesn’t matter. It does matter, and we must speak out.”
Lord Mendelsohn, who was in Israel earlier this month, said: “All the progress that has been made and all that we have achieved collectively to try and stem violence against women in conflict and the denial of crimes made against them, is at risk,” adding, “since October 7 there has been a major step back.”
Former Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg speaks during an event addressing sexual atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, January 31, 2024
Israel Police Chief Superintendent Mirit Ben Mayor said Israeli police has been leading the investigation into sexual violence committed by Hamas during the October 7 massacre, which is the “biggest national investigation we’ve ever dealt with, since 1948.”
She said: “We learn from first responders including officers who found the naked and injured bodies, ripped clothes and underwear, jeans rolled down past the knees and bleeding from the genitalia.” Girls would be found “with broken pelvises due to repetitive rapes, legs split wide apart,” and while hundreds of bodies had been sent to be identified with their “genitals cut off, humiliated and burned.”
At least one eyewitness who pretended to be dead at the Nova music festival saw a woman raped “by a number of terrorists, the last of which shot her in the head while he was still raping her.” One woman in a kibbutz was found without underwear, in a corner, hands bound.
“We’re here today because we, unbelievably, need to go on telling the world that this happened,” Ben Mayor said, “All evidence points to Hamas using rape as a weapon of war.”
Panel discussion in the House of Lords on 'Stand Against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the October 7th Hamas Terror Attack' hosted by Lord John Mendelsohn and chaired by Sheryl Sandberg, January 31, 2024
Further vivid testimony was provided by Shari Mendes, a member of an all-woman’s army reserve unit that was tasked with the identification and burial preparation of deceased female soldiers. Her team was at the Shura army base where all victims of the October 7 massacre were brought.
Her unit was tasked among other things with opening body bags and taking off and cleaning jewellery to return to the families.
She said the base was “unimaginable” in two ways. “Firstly, the scale of what we saw. Shura is a very large facility but body bags were lining the corridors on both sides to the ceiling, every room was filled with body bags. Refrigerator trucks had to wait outside because there was no room. There was liquid everywhere, the floors were slippery, and the smell,” she said.
“Second shock was the extent of the cruelty we witnessed. One after another, after another, victims were often shot many times in the head, so many times that liquids were still oozing from mouths, ears. From some wounds no blood came out which made us think they were shot after they were killed. It seemed there was a systematic attempt to erase women’s faces.”
She said some bodies had been beheaded, while others arrived “with eyes opened, fists clenched, who died in agony.” Some women “were shot in the vagina, others shot in the breasts.”
Expert remarks on war crimes were provided by Professor Diane Orentlicher, former Deputy for War Crimes Issues in the U.S. Department of State, and co-director of the Washington College of Law’s Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
She said: “I have no hesitation to say grave and multiple war crimes were committed on October 7. They were not spontaneous, they were systematically planned.”
Nicola Richards MP, who was present for the hearing, said: “The reaction from my generation [to the allegations of rape on October 7] has been woeful in calling it out.”