The Hamilton Spectator

The New Rape Denialism

- BRET STEPHENS

On October 7, Hamas invaded Israel and filmed itself committing scores of human-rights atrocities. Some of the footage was later captured by the Israeli military and screened to hundreds of journalist­s, including me. The “pure, predatory sadism,” as Atlantic writer Graeme Wood described it, is bottomless.

Yet Hamas denies that its men sexually assaulted Israelis, calling the charges “lies and slanders against the Palestinia­ns and their resistance.” And Hamas’s fellow travelers and useful idiots in the West, most of them self-described progressiv­es, parrot that denialism in the face of powerful and deeply investigat­ed evidence of widespread rapes, documented most recently in a United Nations report.

Why the refusal to believe that Hamas, which butchered children in their beds, took elderly women as hostages and incinerate­d families in their homes, would be capable of that?

It is worth looking at the forms this denialism takes. One method is to acknowledg­e, as one recent article put it, that “sexual assault may have occurred on Oct. 7,” but nobody has proved that it was part of an organized pattern. Another is to raise questions about various details in stories to suggest that if there is even a single error, or a witness whose testimony is at all inconsiste­nt, the entire account must also be false and dishonest. A third is to treat anything an Israeli says as inherently suspect.

And finally, there is the point that there are barely any witnesses to the assaults. Where are the women who were allegedly raped? Why are they not speaking out?

Overwhelmi­ngly, the women who could have spoken out are dead; any Israeli who got close enough to a terrorist to be raped was close enough to be murdered. As for the credibilit­y of Israeli witnesses, who else — other than the early responders who encountere­d the victims — should be interviewe­d and quoted by anyone investigat­ing this? In the misogynist­ic courtrooms of Iran, the legal testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man.

In the Israel-hating corners of the left, the worth of Israeli witnesses seems to be even lower.

But the first two types of denialism are in some ways the most shocking, because they are also the most hypocritic­al.

Wasn’t it progressiv­es who, during the saga of Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmati­on, stressed that occasional discrepanc­ies in the memory of traumatic events are normal? And since when have progressiv­es insisted that the burden of proof for demonstrat­ing a pattern of sexual assault lies with the victims, most of whose voices have, in this case, been silenced forever?

How quickly the far left pivots from “believe women” to “believe Hamas” when the identity of the victim changes. If, God forbid, a gang of Proud Boys were to descend on Los Angeles to carry out the kinds of atrocities Hamas carried out, I am pretty sure no one on the left would try to poke holes in who got raped, much less how or when.

The U.N. report, in some ways, is a landmark, if only because the U.N. is never sympatheti­c to the Jewish state and was outrageous­ly slow even to notice the early evidence of sexual assaults. For anyone who maintains a reasonably open mind but is still in doubt, the report notes, among other details, “at least two incidents of rape of corpses of women,” “bodies found naked and/or tied, and in one case gagged,” and “clear and convincing informatio­n that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment occurred against some women and children” during their time as hostages.

That should be more than enough. It will not be. A large and expanding corner of the West refuses to accept that Israel’s war in Gaza is a response to evil, or that Israelis might be victims in any way. It disturbs the narrative of the war in Gaza as a case of strong against weak, the settler-colonialis­t Israelis against righteous and indigenous victims.

Honest critics of Israel’s policies can raise serious objections while also candidly acknowledg­ing the horrific circumstan­ces that set those policies in motion. What we are seeing instead are dishonest critics, dishonestl­y disputing those circumstan­ces so they can take aim at the existence of Israel itself.

Serious people should know what an older version of antisemiti­c denialism was all about: a steady stream of factual nitpicks, logical inversions and rhetorical legerdemai­n meant to obfuscate and deny the greatest crime in history. They should also understand the aim: that by denying past atrocities, they paved the way for the next ones. Today’s rape deniers are no better than their forebears.

A far-left pivot from ‘believe women’ to ‘believe Hamas.’

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