On Oct. 7, Hamas unleashed a savage assault on southern Israel. These marauders were equal-opportunity killers, kidnappers, and abusers. Their bloody frenzy targeted everyone in their path—babies, Thai workers, Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, the elderly, special needs children, and, of course, Israeli Jews. They particularly relished targeting women—slaughtering them, raping them, cutting babies out of pregnant women’s wombs, torturing mothers and grandmothers in front of their families—and, many fear, sexually enslaving some of the hostages. The world witnessed these perversions because the villains proudly filmed them, then inspired Palestinians and pro-Palestinian progressives to spread them across social media. This secondary, digital, GoPro assault on the victims’ dignity made this orgy of misogyny one of the bloodiest and most publicized attacks on women in history.
Nevertheless, more than three weeks later, the feminist community remains silent. In May 2021, within days of Israel counterattacking in self-defense against yet another Hamas bombardment, over 120 gender studies departments denounced the Jewish state. Declaring that “justice is indivisible,” they proclaimed that our work is “committed to an inclusive feminist vision,” as per the National Women’s Studies Association’s 2015 Solidarity Statement, “that contests violations of civil rights and international human rights law.” The call was so popular, the Palestinian Feminist Collective asked for patience. “Please note, due to the overwhelming response we are only uploading names twice a day. Please be patient as we are stretched to capacity.”
Now, despite seeing Hamas’ rape cult, not one gender studies department has defended even one victimized woman. Feminists have long taught us to believe the accuser and not blame the victim. For years, progressives insisted, in academic papers, on T-shirts, even on coffee mugs, that when fighting oppression, “silence is consent,” or even that “silence is violence.” On Oct. 7, the violated women shouted, shrieked, cried, begged, rape after rape, cut after cut, fighting off these assaults with their voices and their bare hands as best each could. Some hostages may still be struggling. By contrast, violating every feminist principle I’ve ever read and respected, today’s feminist movement is violently, silently, consenting to this mass crime against women and against the victims from three-dozen different countries. Some even doubt the testimonials—and the staggering, bloody, heartbreaking evidence of stripped women paraded through Gaza’s streets. Robbing someone of their story is a secondary offense—but nevertheless inexcusable.
If justice is indivisible, these women deserve justice—and empathy too—whether or not you like Israel or abhor it and its policies. If rape culture is never OK, all civilized people should repudiate so many Palestinians’ and progressives’ delight in spreading these videos and cheering these crimes. In their silence, most leading feminists became complicit, aiding and abetting this mass attempt to dehumanize women just because they’re Jews—or happened to be on the Gaza border that day.
Beyond the sheer cruelty and unfathomable scale of suffering, these crimes devastated so many people, Jews and non-Jews alike, who recognized the barbarians’ perverted pedigree. President Joe Biden connected the historical dots on Oct. 18, saying that when this “sacred Jewish holiday, became the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” it “brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people.” He added: “The world watched then, it knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
Indeed, these crimes echoed the mass murders and sexual assaults the Nazis perpetrated during the Holocaust, that Arabs perpetrated on their Jewish neighbors during the Hebron Massacre of 1929, that Cossacks perpetrated on so many Jews during pogroms—and so many other Jew-haters perpetrated on Jewish women, no matter how young or old over millennia.
In singling out women, those guilty of this gendered violence want to dehumanize doubly. They seek to strip Jewish women of their dignity by abusing them in unspeakable ways. And they try humiliating Jewish men, treating them as so helpless they cannot even defend their women and children.
After three weeks of hearing how this sadistic saturnalia “exhilarated” too many progressives, those justifiably appalled by these enablers of evil are now being told the worst abuses never happened. Once again, the hypocrisy is stunning. Feminists teach that denying sexual assault intensifies the trauma, erasing the victim’s personhood yet again. Nevertheless, some feminists are questioning the stories—perhaps because they don’t want to question their blind support for the Palestinian cause. They want to deny the vile photos and videos, the reports from IDF officials, pathologists and volunteers at the overworked morgues, or testimonies from captured Hamas criminals describing “having sex with dead bodies, meaning the body of a dead young woman,” because the goal was “to dirty them, to rape them.”
The horrors of Oct. 7 were so unnerving that the characteristic gallows humor of the Israelis has been muted. The first joke I heard, however, is tragically on point: If gaslighting is denying you said what you said …. Gaza-lighting is denying you did what you did—after broadcasting it broadly to the world.
While I don’t judge others who watched the videos to share the victims’ pain, I refused to watch the snuff and rape videos. I will not collaborate in this dehumanization process. Those who still doubt can find relevant evidence widely here and here and here and here.
That few feminists, especially gender studies professors, have denounced this familiar yet deplorable evil exposes a darkness deep in their soul. It is part of a broader scandal in higher education some are now, belatedly, starting to recognize. Call it fruits from the poisoned Ivies. For years, America’s most elite universities have been cultivating a generation of grievance junkies—dividing the world into “the oppressed,” who are forever blameless, and “the oppressors,” who are forever guilty. Those deemed “oppressors” are often accused of enjoying “privilege,” although those grade-grubbing radicals dining out on their parents’ Black AmEx card as they pay $70,000 university bills, somehow don’t count themselves as “privileged” either.
Since Oct. 7, these fanatics have emerged as Ivy League jihadis, leveraging the Palestinian brand as the world’s most oppressed and blameless people, suffering from the evils of Zionist colonialism, to silence condemnation of inhumane butchery.
The feminist blindness to these crimes is particularly outrageous given gender studies’ stated commitment to eradicating rape culture, with its silence, its skepticism, its victim-shaming, and its victim-blaming. But this violation also points to a deeper, endemic scandal the feminist movement has suppressed, namely, many radical feminists’ instinctive aversion to Jewish women and Jewish issues.
Even though many Jews launched the women’s movement, feminism has long had a Jewish problem. From Betty Friedan to Bella Abzug, Jewish women were among the most visible forces in American feminism—even as feminists often rendered invisible their particular challenges as Jewish women facing sexism and antisemitism.
In June 1982, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. magazine, interviewed 80 Jewish feminists about their experience as Jews in the movement. Her bombshell “Anti-Semitism in the Women’s Movement,” anticipated today’s hypocrisy. Struck by the “invisibility” of Jewish issues, noticing how “the feminist litany of the ‘oppressed’” omitted Jews, Pogrebin challenged her sisters. “When did anti-Semitism turn into a ‘balanced issue,’” she wondered. The opposite of being against antisemitism, she noted, is not being pro-Palestinian but being “for Jew-hating.” And why, she asked, would anyone expect Israel “to commit suicide for the sake of Palestinian liberation?”
Pogrebin later recalled realizing that “to feminists who hate Israel, I was not a woman, I was a Jewish woman.” Today, 41 years later, to feminists who hate Israel, the women that Hamas targeted were not women but merely Jews—or subhumans—not worthy of solidarity.
The feminist author Elenor Lester told Pogrebin that she was stunned when a fellow feminist screamed “Golda Meir is not my sister, she’s a fascist.” Lester nevertheless escaped her trauma, saying, “By making Israel a macho imperial stand-in for all the world’s male supremacy, the women’s movement threw me into the arms of Judaism.”
Pogrebin too would go on to have a deep Jewish journey, after she wondered: “Why be a Jew for them if I am not a Jew for myself?” Many feminists had similar Theodor Herzl moments, discovering, with Zionism’s founder, that antisemitism can make the Jew, but it is more satisfying for the Jew to make the Jew.
We could be cutesy and call this callousness toward Jews—and silence about Palestinian patriarchy and honor killings—“blocked at the intersectionalism.” Alas, there’s an older, better, term for such invisibility, such heartlessness, such dehumanization of Jewish women, and such vitriolic bigotry. It’s called antisemitism.
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Professor Gil Troy, a Senior Fellow in Zionist Thought at the JPPI, the global think tank of the Jewish people, is an American presidential historian, and, most recently, the editor of the three-volume set, Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings, the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People.