(WNY News Now) – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered remarks at a special session convened by Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN. At the session, Gillibrand and other women’s rights experts denounced the use of rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women and girls.
New York, N.Y. – “Good afternoon. It’s very important that we are all here. It is very important that we are giving voice to the women who were raped and murdered on October 7th. It’s very important that we are speaking truth to power at this time, and in this place. I’m grateful for the leaders here. I’m grateful to Sheryl Sandberg, for your voice, to take your platform, to speak out so loudly and so boldly and so clearly, is essential. I’m grateful for the Ambassador Gilad Erdan, for your searing words, your absolute truth, and your unwillingness to accept silence from your colleagues at the U.N. I want to thank Sheila Katz and for the National Council of Jewish Women, for standing so firm, for refusing to be silenced in this moment, and to bring the world community to bear. When I saw the list of women’s rights organizations which said nothing, I nearly choked. Where is the solidarity for women in this country and in this world to stand up for our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters?
The horrific acts committed on October 7th by Hamas are truly indescribable. I’ve seen much of the footage. It takes your breath away at the sheer level of evil it depicts. You can’t unsee when you see it, and it haunts you, like no other image you could ever see on a movie screen. The barbaric acts are acts beyond what we have seen from ISIS, Al Qaeda, other horrific terrorist organizations around the globe. Witnessing people trying to behead people through many means is disgusting. Hearing the testimony about what has happened to women, the types of dismemberment, the types of sexual violence to degrade them, to bring fear in their final moments, to bring fear in the eyes of those who had to witness the atrocities, is unspeakable.
While it is very hard to tell these stories, while some don’t want to show the actual videos and pictures, we must demand it. We have to demand that people see what happened and know it is truth. We—collectively—must ensure that the world knows the heinous, horrific, barbaric nature of Hamas’s actions. We have to ensure that it is engraved in history for all time, just as when we go to see Yad Vashem, and see the memories and the moments and the failures and the cruelty and the horror of what happened during WWII.
One of the earliest images that we have been able to see during the attack was that of Naama Levy. She was being dragged by her hair, her hands tied behind her back, thrown into a truck, blood streaming down her face, streaming down her arms, streaming down her back. Her sweatpants were covered in blood, streaming down her legs, clearly a victim of sexual assault. She was in terror. We have seen photos of bodies of all ages with unspeakable injuries. We’ve heard testimony of young girls being killed with their pants pulled down and naked, alone, afraid, and in terror. The mountain of evidence—forensic examinations, eyewitness testimonies from survivors and paramedics, video footage from Hamas itself, the words of Hamas declaring victory about the ten people that he killed to his mother, recorded on his cell phone. It embodies a level of evil we don’t see. It’s hard to hear. It’s hard to witness.
The atrocities have evoked horror and despair. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a Jewish family today, whether you’re in Israel, whether you’re in America, whether you’re anywhere in the globe—watching this episode unfold in real time, knowing that it is just part of a long legacy of anti-semitic brutality and inhumanity.
For centuries, rape, sexual mutilation, sexual violence have played a grotesque role in the subjugation and suppression of the Jewish people. During the Holocaust women and children were sexually abused, mutilated and raped routinely. During the pogroms of the early 20th century, rape was used as the instrument of war. Even in the Renaissance in Italy, rape was used to extort money from families.
Make no mistake, this is part of our global history. Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries — a deliberate form of torture that serves to dehumanize and terrorize not just the women, but the entire community. It has recently reared its very ugly head in the former Yugoslavia, where mass rape and sexual enslavement were used as an instrument of war. In Iran, the regime’s security forces used rape and sexual violence against children in order to subdue women and the population as a whole. In Ukraine, overwhelming evidence shows Russian soldiers systemically using rape against innocent Ukrainians.
This explains why all the atrocities committed on October 7th and the international community’s reluctance—even refusal—to condemn, or even acknowledge them, doesn’t just strike fear in the hearts of Israeli women, it strikes fear in the hearts of every woman and girl around the globe. Their bodies are not worth defending. Their humanity is not worth protecting. The world community must do more. It must demand accountability for these intolerable crimes. The United Nations must denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization that uses rape as a weapon of war. The United Nations must live up to its purpose of upholding the principles of international law. And the United Nations must condemn these evil crimes against humanity.