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Tags: gender | hamas | palestinian

In Oct. 7 Aftermath, Silence from Women's Groups

Israel gaza women military strikes

A woman in a protective hard hat, with a bag near a damaged building after a rocket strike on December 11, 2023 in Holon, Israel. It has been more than two months since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, prompting Israel's air and ground campaign in Gaza. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Dr. Stephen Sussman By and Carole Huberman, Ph.D. Tuesday, 12 December 2023 09:04 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

In the realm of global human rights advocacy, women’s advocacy organizations play a crucial role in addressing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality.

However, the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas terrorist attacks on Israeli women and girls has brought into question the response, or lack thereof, from women’s rights organizations globally.

There are theories as to why these organizations remained silent in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks; they are worth examining: probing the allegations, consequences, and possible reasons behind the silence.

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack marked a horrifying turning point in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas launched a surprise attack on this day, targeting Israeli civilians, particularly women and girls.

The attacks involved murder, rape, and torture, leading to widespread condemnation. One of the most concerning aspects of the Oct. 7 attacks was the perceived silence of women’s advocacy organizations globally.

While the attacks sent shockwaves through international media, reports began to surface that women’s rights organizations were quiet in their response.

This silence raised several important questions and accusations.

UN Women, a global entity advocating for gender equality, released a statement almost a week after the attacks, providing a tepid response condemning the actions of Hamas.

However, the delay in response led many to question why such a significant incident did not elicit a more immediate and robust reaction from a leading women’s rights organization.

Fifty-seven days after the attacks, UN Women finally stated, "We unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7 October."

Why 57 days late?

Some critics accused women’s rights groups of failing to condemn the attacks altogether.

This perceived negligence in addressing the reported atrocities drew criticism and led to concerns about the commitment of these organizations to women’s rights.

In the face of Hamas’ blatant human rights violations, the silence from these organizations seemed even more conspicuous.

Women’s rights organizations are at the forefront of advocating for gender equality and addressing gender-based violence.

When these groups remain silent in the face of such egregious violations, it undermines the very principles they stand for.

A lack of condemnation from influential women’s groups can contribute to a culture of impunity. Perpetrators of gender-based violence may feel emboldened when they see a tepid response to their actions, knowing that there are limited consequences.

Understanding the reasons behind the silence of women’s groups is crucial to addressing this issue effectively.

Several factors may contribute to this phenomenon.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be perceived as a politically charged issue. Women’s rights organizations may be hesitant to engage due to concerns about taking sides or being perceived as biased.

Women’s organizations often operate within a broader geopolitical context influenced by the foreign policies of their host countries.

In regions or countries where there is a strong diplomatic alignment with one side of the conflict, women’s organizations may face pressure to align their positions on issues related to the conflict with the foreign policy stance of their host country.

Speaking out against such incidents can lead to backlash from various quarters. Organizations may fear repercussions that could impact their ability to carry out their missions.

One aspect worth exploring in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks is the role of international law and human rights frameworks.

These organizations often operate within a framework of international conventions and agreements that explicitly condemn gender-based violence.

For instance, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) obligates states to take measures to prevent and address violence against women.

The silence of women’s groups in the face of such blatant violations could be viewed as a missed opportunity to hold non-state actors like Hamas accountable, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of women and girls.

The intersection of gender and conflict exposes women and girls to heightened risks of violence. Women’s rights organizations have a pivotal role in addressing gender-based violence.

These organizations can raise awareness about the specific challenges women and girls face in conflict zones.

By advocating for their rights on a global stage, they can draw attention to the need for urgent action.

Women’s rights organizations can provide essential support services to survivors, including medical care. They bridge the gap in access to services that may be disrupted during conflicts.

The silence of women’s groups following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks targeting Israeli women and girls is a matter of great concern.

While some organizations eventually condemned the actions, the delayed, tepid, or absent response has raised significant questions about their commitment to women’s rights.

The consequences of this silence are far-reaching, including the lack of accountability for perpetrators. Women’s rights are universal, and their defense should be unwavering.

Dr. Stephen Sussman is a professor of Public Administration at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. He is co-founder/co-president at the Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research, a nonpartisan think tank. He is also a founding steering committee member at the Tzahar/Palm Beach Research Center for Judaism-Based Social Sciences.

Dr. Carole Huberman received her doctoral degree from the Union Institute and University in Public Policy and Feminist Scholarship. She is a CPA, as well as a certified fraud examiner. In 2010, she won Harvard University's Bright Lite award from the Kennedy School of Government. Before joining Barry University, Dr. Huberman was the Chief Audit Executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury.

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While some organizations eventually condemned the actions, the delayed, tepid, or absent response has raised significant questions about their commitment to women’s rights. The consequences of this silence are far-reaching.
gender, hamas, palestinian
Tuesday, 12 December 2023 09:04 AM
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