Feminists across America sign letter accusing Israel of ‘weaponising the issue of rape’

Hundreds of prominent activists and academics including Angela Davis signed the open letter penned by Jewish feminists


Demonstrators hold placards during a rally organised by the Rape is Rape committee to "denounce the silence of international and feminist organisations" on rapes committed during the attack of October 7. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

A group of US-based anti-Zionist Jewish feminists have instigated an open letter accusing Israel’s government of exploiting acts of sexual violence committed on October 7 for political ends.

Hundreds of professors, rabbis and feminist activists from within and beyond the Jewish community are listed as signatories, including renowned American academic Angela Davis.

The letter states that in its “current war against the people of Gaza, the Israeli government has chosen to weaponise the issue of sexual violence for political outcome”.

Many signatories have “worked on or researched the issue of sexual violence for decades,” according to the letter’s introduction, and have found that history is “replete with examples of rape charges being wielded by stakeholders in armed conflict to render the ‘enemy’ more monstrous”.

The statement, posted on a webpage titled Stop Manipulating Sexual Assault, said it will be delivered to Israeli officials who have mounted “a public crusade” to manipulate the issue of sexual assault claims by Israeli women “to both legitimise — and divert attention from — their campaign of ethnic cleansing, to dehumanise Palestinians and to vilify those who criticise their actions.”

Other listed signatories include Dr Barbara Ransby, a feminist writer, historian, activist and distinguished professor at University of Illinois Chicago; broadcaster and author Laura Flanders; director and playwright Esther Farmer of Jewish Voice for Peace-NYC; academic and writer Yasmin Nair; novelist and activist Sarah Schulman; author and professor at Hunter College, Jessie Daniels.

The letter was also endorsed by London-based women’s group Million Women Rise, which organises an annual women-only march and rally against gender-based violence.

The letter condemns “every instance” of rape and sexual assault, adding that the signatories “believe survivors” and “excoriate rape and all forms of sexual assault”.

However, it does not explicitly confirm belief in the sexual assault allegations made by victims of the October 7 attacks and goes on to state: “We believe reporting that results from investigations conducted by trained feminist and human rights experts who have no agenda other than to clearly and accurately document and convey the gravity of gender-based violence.”

It encouraged “additional inquiries into these sexual assault allegations conducted by impartial feminist and human rights authorities.”

Published before Tuesday’s report that the UN’s special envoy on sexual violence in conflict had found “clear and convincing” evidence of rape and sexualised torture committed by Hamas, the open letter’s campaigners have not responded to comments on whether these findings impact upon the letter’s argument.

Yael Shearer, head of Israel’s Survivors of Sexual Violence Advocacy Group (SSVAG), told the Jerusalem Post in December investigations into Hamas’ victims of sexual assault would take years, but their claims deserve to be taken seriously at once.

Responding to the open letter, Shearer told the JC: “We demand a loud and clear condemnation of the sexual violence committed by Hamas. Any other statement won’t do. This statement should be unconditional - this is the only way we can obtain justice for the victims.”

The Stop Manipulating Sexual Assault campaign has been contacted for comment.

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