Israel misstepped on women's organizations' late recognition of October 7 horrors

Opinion: After an extended fight, the UN and international media began to acknowledge Hamas' sexual violence on October 7, but instead of welcoming this, Israel chose to say it wasn't enough
Ofra Ash|
The initial shock hit Israel when the dimensions of the atrocities, crimes and sexual violence against women in Hamas’ October 7 massacre began to emerge. The second shock came with the realization that the world, including international women's organizations, headed by UN Women, does not believe us. The third shock arrived when we tried to "appeal to them nicely," and we were met with indifference and mistrust. Yet, despite this triple shock, we weren't really surprised.
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The response of Israeli women's organizations was the establishment of the "Civil Commission for Hamas Crimes Against Women," which embarked on a comprehensive effort including collecting difficult-to-watch materials, analyzing findings, establishing contacts, receiving assistance from the Foreign Ministry, conducting countless interviews, and launching media campaigns abroad. The effort paid off: Last week, the world began to listen and believe.
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כמאה אנשים הגיעו להפגין מול נציגות האו"ם בירושלים לזעוק ולמחות נגד שתיקת ארגוני הנשים בעולם
כמאה אנשים הגיעו להפגין מול נציגות האו"ם בירושלים לזעוק ולמחות נגד שתיקת ארגוני הנשים בעולם
Protest in Israel against UN-Women following Hamas' attack
(Photo: The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel)
This was reflected in the global media, including a comprehensive investigation in the UK-based newspaper Sunday Times, a statement from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and, most notably, a statement from the UN Women's organization, saying: "We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7.”
“We are alarmed by the numerous accounts of gender-based atrocities and sexual violence during those attacks. We call for an investigation into all reports of gender-based violence and to hold all those involved accountable, with an emphasis on the rights of the victims," the statement added.
However, instead of realizing the achievement we reached on the hostile international stage, we had a fourth shock. Israeli diplomatic leaders and women's organizations chose to persist and criticized these statements for not being sharp enough.
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אנטוניו גוטרש
אנטוניו גוטרש
Antonio Guterres
(Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Instead of acknowledging our victory in one battle and leveraging it for the ongoing war, they preferred to continue being angry.
"The statement by the UN Women's organization is soft and belated," said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan. Israeli women's organizations also adopted the cynical tone, responding, among other things, with: "It took the UN Women's organization long enough."
Instead of responses that come from our emotions, we need to grow up and understand that the international arena is filled with countries, organizations and individuals whose starting point is biased against Israel.
The other side has infiltrated and funded Western academia, manipulated politicians in various countries, promoted businesses, acquired sports clubs and generally integrated "their" people into decision-making centers in international organizations.
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גלעד ארד
גלעד ארד
Amb. Gilad Erdan at the United Nations
(Photo: REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado)
Israel didn’t begin this fight at a disadvantage, but from near technical defeat. So, if the pressure we exerted succeeded at this stage, we should thank the people who began to think realistically and continue the fight in the same way without arousing further antagonism.
Changing someone else’s position isn’t something that can be done in a day or two. A congratulation is for the women and men around the world who began to change their stance even though they were undoubtedly subjected to significant pressure from the other side.
עפרה אש Ofra Ash
Continuing to attack them now won’t help in the ongoing actions for the sake of the women who were harmed and murdered by Hamas. There was a just, tenacious, complex and clever struggle here by many women and men in Israel.
From the moment it achieves initial success, it is essential to respond to it in a way that will make the world want to listen to us so that we can change its stance further. We need to act wisely.
  • Ofra Ash is the head of Forum Dvorah - Women In Foreign Policy and National Security.
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