Where Is the Outrage About Palestinian Survivors of Sexual Violence?

feature image photo by NurPhoto / Contributor via Getty Images

A cursory search of The New York Times reveals an unwavering spree of reportage about the prevalence of sexual violence towards Israelis on October 7. In the months since then, the newspaper has published almost weekly opinion pieces on the topic, including “Denying the Gender-Based Violence on October 7 Helps No One,” and a large-scale investigation known as the “Screams Without Words” report in the waning days of 2023, which the newspaper was recognized for, amongst its other related foreign policy coverage, with two George Polk journalism awards.

The “Screams Without Words” report notes that “No survivors have spoken publicly” about experiencing rape. The piece drew internal criticism from staffers and led the Times to pull an episode of The Daily podcast about the extent and nature of the sexual violence, according to The Intercept. Instead of credible first-person sources that can corroborate the alleged prevalence of sexual violence on October 7, which would usually be required to uphold even basic journalistic integrity standards, the veracity of the claims were frequently obscured by bias, hearsay, unidentified sources, and police accounts of the crime scene. The Times devoted a third of its “Screams Without Words” report to the story of Gal Abdush, who was killed along with her husband on October 7. However, the Abdush family, who were interviewed for the newspaper cover story, insist that Gal was not raped and that their words were misrepresented. The chief superintendent of the Israeli national police, Yael Richert, who was quoted in an opinion essay published in December about the alleged sexual violence, was himself quoting what he had heard from another person who was at the Nova rave. Upon inspection, most perspectives on the sexual violence of October 7 are attributed in this second- or even third-hand testimonial fashion, as if to construct a narrative of marauding Palestinian rapists with or without the evidence to prove it.

On February 25, The Daily Beast reported that one of the “Screams Without Words” cowriters, Anat Schwartz, who had previously served in the Israeli military intelligence services, was under investigation by The Times for liking a tweet calling for the Gaza Strip to be turned into a slaughterhouse. Schwartz’s nephew by marriage, Adam Sella, was her cowriter on the article. How could a writer so biased in her judgment of the facts — and so clearly reluctant to bestow any humanity upon Palestinians — be allowed to cowrite serious journalism on this topic?

The prevailing wisdom from within Israel suggests that forensic teams were too busy identifying the bodies of the victims to collect any DNA evidence of rape or sexual assault on October 7, and Hila Neubach, director of legal affairs at the Association for Rape Crisis Centers, argued that the lack of evidence may be because those who experienced rape were murdered alongside all of the witnesses. The outcome showing no credible evidence is the same, especially since no autopsies were performed on any of the victims. One Israeli eyewitness, Raz Cohen, on whose testimony many articles and reports of sexual violence can be traced, changed his story multiple times, as documented in a thread of videos and articles on Twitter. On October 9 in an interview with i24 News, Cohen didn’t mention sexual assault at all and, over the next few weeks, his report switched from Hamas gunfire to stabbings, and from gang rapes of multiple women he said he personally observed to a single instance of a man raping a woman.

On Feb 27, The Intercept broke a story revealing even more inconsistencies in the allegations of sexual violence against Hamas, including several instances of outright fabrication that can be attributed to Zaka, an Israeli search-and-rescue organization tasked with gathering human remains after October 7. Reports of pregnant women laying face down in a pool of blood, of stabbed babies, of mass rape, and sexually mutilated corpses, which were quickly spread by representatives of Zaka and then picked up by international news agencies, have since turned out to be completely unsubstantiated by photographic or forensic evidence. It is an indictment of mainstream media in America that Israel-based publication Haaretz has been more discerning in debunking the misinformation regarding the sexual violence of October 7 than The New York Times.

A United Nations commission of inquiry will probe these allegations of sexual violence against Hamas, who deny committing any rape or sexual assault. However, Israel has flatly refused to cooperate with the inquiry or even grant the UN access to complete the investigation. After Israeli commander Avi Rosenfeld admitted to requesting an aerial strike on his own base on October 7 that invariably contributed to the death toll, Israel’s refusal to participate in the UN investigation to discover the truth behind sexual violence allegations suggests further foul play.

As a counterpoint, on February 19, the United Nations Office of Human Rights released a damning report that showed credible evidence of egregious violations against women and girls in Israeli detention. According to the report, many Palestinians have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food and medicine, were severely beaten, and have had demeaning photographs taken of them and uploaded online. On at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were kept in a cage in the rain and cold without food. UN experts, including two Special Rapporteurs, compiled reports from Palestinian women and girls who were subject to multiple forms of sexual assault in detention, such as being stripped naked and searched by Israeli army men, including “at least two female Palestinian detainees [who] were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence.”

These UN experts expressed concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have gone missing after contact with the Israeli army in Gaza, and some reports suggest at least one female infant was forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel, in addition to other Palestinian children who’ve been separated from their parents. The New York Times reported on none of this. The newspaper has been silent about sexual violence towards Palestinians since October 7 and long before that even. In 2015, Daniel J.N. Weishut, a clinical psychologist and teaching associate at Bar Ilan University in Israel, published an academic article called “Sexual Torture of Palestinian men by Israeli Authorities,” wherein he draws on a large database of first-person testimonies of Palestinian survivors of Israeli sexual violence gathered by the human rights NGO The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). Alongside 36 reports of verbal sexual harassment and 35 reports of forced nudity, there were six testimonies of Israeli officials involved in sexual assault of Palestinian detainees, including the kicking of genitals, simulations of rape, and actual rape by means of a blunt object.

Sexual violence towards Palestinians is rampant, systemic, and underreported, and what makes it particularly appalling is how little attention it receives and the skepticism with which it is treated abroad. To understand why this happens, especially in the context of occupied Palestine, it’s important to turn to the scholarship of the Martinican writer Frantz Fanon and the distinction he draws between the “settler” and the “native” in his seminal text, The Wretched of the Earth. In Fanon’s account, the native, who here represents the Palestinian, is presumed guilty insofar as they are painted as “the quintessence of evil.” The native, to Fanon, “is declared insensible to ethics; he represents not only the absence of values, but also the negation of values.” In this characterization, it is no wonder that uncorroborated hearsay regarding the uniquity of sexual violence on October 7 gained the traction it did, snowballing with racist assumptions about the presumed sexual perversity of Muslims and their bloodlust towards the settler population. Inversely, the detained Palestinian native is treated with automatic disdain, such that their mistreatment and sexual torture can be justified under the guise of collective punishment.

Colonialism, Fanon tells us, is characterized by pervasive violence — both by the state and by the settlers set up as the country’s elite against the marginalized natives — and by governing institutions that construct and preserve inequality. The New York Times is responsible for an astounding neglect of journalistic integrity with respect to its biased reportage of the Israeli military assault on Gaza, which has now killed upwards of 30,000 innocent Palestinians.

From Native Americans in the United States to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, sexual violence is almost always historically employed as a tool in settler-colonial contexts to further subjugate the already oppressed populations of indigenous people, and there is no doubt that it is commonly leveraged in apartheid Israel by prison guards and IDF officers who command the carceral power and impunity to get away with it. Despite so many first hand testimonies from Palestinian men, women, and children, mainstream media has ignored these survivors and instead chooses to focus largely on uncorroborated accusations. To misattribute the blame for rape and sexual assault is a grave perversion of the truth.

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Bobuq Sayed

Bobuq Sayed is a cultural worker based between Berlin and Miami. They are the author of A Brief History of Australian Terror, a chapbook from Common Room Editions, and NO GOD BUT US, a novel forthcoming from Harper Books in 2026.

Bobuq has written 2 articles for us.


  1. i know someone personally who was raped at Nova and had to hide under dead bodies

    this is so disgusting and traumatizing to flat out deny what happened to young women simply because they were jewish and israeli!

    caring about one thing doesn’t mean israeli women weren’t brutally harmed! why would autostraddle post something so equivocally misrepresenting facts and as a publication straight out denying and not believing real women because they happened to be the wrong nationality. as a survivor of SA violence myself I am horrified that AS would not allow both sides to grieve and for civilian women who were brutally raped while their friends were murdered is awful. These women are real and our friends and family-please do not forget about humanity and supporting women

  2. The coverage of Israel/Palestine has been terrible but rape denial is a low point for a feminist website.

    What has been destroying me these past months is that all of the “bad bad” Zionists I know hold a lot of space for Palestinians and their suffering and do actually support a free Palestine, whereas the Anti-Zionist crowd has gone into full-on conspiracy theory mode to deny Jewish ties (!) to Israel.

  3. “One Israeli eyewitness, Raz Segal, on whose testimony many articles and reports of sexual violence can be traced, changed his story multiple times, as documented in a thread of videos and articles on Twitter.”

    This eyewitness is Raz Cohen, not Raz Segal. Raz Segal is an Israeli historian working in the United States. His name may be familiar because he has been outspoken about this genocide. https://jewishcurrents.org/a-textbook-case-of-genocide

      • @Kayla You replied to the comment above in less than 1.5 hours and it’s been almost two weeks since your readers – many of them longtime supporters – demanded editorial explain why rape denial is acceptable on a queer feminist website. We know you are seeing these comments and this is nothing short of embarrassing.

    • You wrote: “The chief superintendent of the Israeli national police, Yael Richert, who was quoted in an opinion essay published in December about the alleged sexual violence, was himself quoting what he had heard from another person who was at the Nova rave.”
      You’re mistaken, Yaël is a feminine name, therefore, she is indeed a lady.

  4. You wrote: “The chief superintendent of the Israeli national police, Yael Richert, who was quoted in an opinion essay published in December about the alleged sexual violence, was himself quoting what he had heard from another person who was at the Nova rave.”
    You’re mistaken, Yaël is a feminine name, therefore, she is indeed a lady.

  5. And that was the last article I’ll ever read on autostraddle!

    I can engage with a platform that makes an argument for double standards in reporting. I can engage with a platform that believes (as I do) that there have been horrendous human rights violations in Gaza by the current Israeli government against palestinians. I can even engage with a platform that philosophically questions the legitimacy of Israel (even though I am in favor of a two-state solution and fully support the right of Israel to exist). But I can’t engage with a platform that tries to deny the brutal rape of Israeli women based on nothing. That’s sick. Very sick. I am sorry that I funded this platform in the past.

      • Editors, how does the above comment meet our comment policy standards? “No one will miss a Zionist”? “Assreal”? I’ve seen people censored on this site for less.

        And like the other commenters here, I’m also troubled by your publication of a rape denial piece, moreover one that appears to be poorly researched given the factual errors already identified by other commenters. Why did a (valid) point about the underreporting of sexual violence towards Palestinians require denial of sexual violence against Israelis? All of it is horrifying, and this article is shameful.

    • I can not find words to express how I feel about this article. I am speechless. I can not find polite words for this, at least. This article implies that not ALL women deserve equal human rights, respect and compassion. While it COULD be about pain Palestinian women are going through, half of it is denying the pain of Israeli women – why? Someone on AS edited it. Someone on AS made a decision to publish it. It is sick. They did not even bother to check what the author has written, given that the readers ALREADY found 2 factual mistakes. Everyone involved in the publishing of this should be ashamed of themselves. This is not feminism. This is not decency.

      As other readers commenting here, this is the last article I am reading on Autostraddle. At some point we need to draw a line. Rape denial IS the line. On a site that calls itself feminist. I respect myself, therefore I am going away from Autostraddle. I read it every day for years and years, but I just cant do it anymore.

  6. I so appreciate the amounts of comments that I see here against the blatant anti Israeli propaganda of this article. I have supported this website for years.

    You have lost a loyal reader (and probably lots of others). For a publication/website that struggles and asks its readers to donate to them they should think about the messages they represent.

  7. Regardless of political affiliation or global context, this article lacks sensitivity & dignity toward survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence. I request that the editors of this site take this article down and thoughtfully consider what is being presented here, or more specifically, how it is being presented and the broader implications.

    The language & tone of this article perpetuates rape culture and gendered violence. There is a meaningful conversation to be had about this topic, but this isn’t it. This article misses the mark.

  8. I keep coming back to this article hoping that the editorial team at least explains why they thought it wise to see it published. Nothing. I’m so disappointed, Autostraddle, I’d never thought I’de see an article putting women and women’s suffering against each other on this website. I’m out.

    • same here!!! i feel like im losing my mind-this is a site for queers and queer women-real women including queer women we’re brutally murdered and tortured and kidnapped some of whom were not even israeli! that shouldn’t have a caveat the denial of rape and murder that people we ACTUALLY KNOW who aren’t these evil figureheads of colonialism AS desperately wants to portray. Palestinian women are being harmed and that’s terrible but rape denial on a site that centers women and talks often about reclaiming space and trauma is horrible where are the editors, are they so blinded by hatred for israel women who are israeli become liars? women who were raped can’t be believed? women who were raped and murdered are just political pawns? these are REAL PEOPLE. imagine if this happened to your friends. in fact the Nova attendees and the kibbutz were some of the most liberal pro palestinian peace activists possible. actually crying because i cannot believe politics removes the humanity of women for people who are supposed to champion all women and fight against violence

  9. where are the editors? are you so blinded by partisan politics you published a rape denial piece??????? did anyone read this at all? did anyone fact check?

    does anyone care about how awful it is to promote this rhetoric pitting tortured women against each other like chess pieces????

    AS will change an article for a micro aggression on any other person group or nationality-but israeli women who were civilians and raped and murdered can’t be believed…..awesome! great work guys!

    • Perhaps because people who don’t normally comment, decided to speak up when an article was published with the message “let’s believe these women but not those”. Plus there are familiar names here, too, who speak up about it.

  10. I’m a long time AS reader and supporter, and I’m also speechless since this was published. I know people on both sides. I welcome reporting about sexualised violence against Palestinians. But there was no need denying sexual violence by Hamas to do that. Even the author of the text mentions that there is at least one documented rape. Then there is the therapists treating survivors, etc.

    I especially don’t understand why no editor is deleting Courtneys comment which certainly meets definitions of hate speech. AS please keep your standards, as you have always done.

  11. As a long time AS reader who had a family member who was murdered by Hamas on October 7, I’m completely appalled that this was published. It is possible to raise awareness of atrocious sexual violence committed against Palestinian women without denying and trivializing sexual violence against Israeli women. Truly disgusted and disappointed that AS would publish rape denial. Will there be any acknowledgement of the UN report published today which confirms that Hamas committed rape and sexualized torture? Every major news outlet is reporting on it.




  12. I really appreciated when a friend from my synagogue shared this open letter, initiated by U.S.-based anti-zionist Jewish feminists. I think it complements the AS article well bc while the article above helped me understand just how the NYT article was screwed up, the letter below helped me re-center on the underlying values. We can believe Israelis who report sexual assault happened and still recognize that the NYT piece was part of a screwed up pattern. Maybe it’ll resonate for others too?

    Here’s how it starts:

    Open letter to the Israeli and us governments and others weaponizing the issue of rape:
    “All too often in the fog of war, the brutality of sexual assault and rape is lost in the public eye, and bringing these abuses to light is something for which feminists have fought for decades. Complicating this issue, however, is the fact that accusations of sexual assault have also been wielded as a tool of war – and as an (often lethal) weapon of racism and colonialism.”

    The full letter and context: https://stopmanipulatingsexualassault.org/

  13. I’m very disappointed that 4 days later we still don’t have a response from the editors. Rape denial isn’t an appropriate political strategy—it is only a tool to maintain rape culture.

    Editors, please hear us and take a closer look at the manner in which this content is being handled.

  14. What a disgusting article, riddled with inaccuracies and outright propaganda. Autostraddle, you should be ashamed of publishing this one-sided, hateful content.

    For anyone interested, here’s (actual credible) information from an official UN team that visited Israel and the occupied West Bank from 29 January to 14 February 2024. You can read the full statement here: https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/press-release/israel-west-bank-mission/

    Re Palestinians: “The mission team visited Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in response to allegations of conflict-related sexual violence received by the mandate in the aftermath of the 7 October attacks, allegedly implicating Israeli security forces and settlers. Interlocutors raised concerns about cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinians in detention, including various forms of sexual violence in the form of invasive body searches, threats of rape, and prolonged forced nudity, as well as sexual harassment and threats of rape, during house raids and at checkpoints.”

    Re Israelis: “Based on the information it gathered, the mission team found clear and convincing information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment has been committed against hostages and has reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing against those still held in captivity.”

    Take this article down, it’s revolting. If you’re going to wade into geopolitics at least get your writers to stop spreading outright antisemitic and rape-denial propaganda.

  15. Thankyou so much for publishing this article.

    I see none of the comments above provide any feedback on the evidence and statements about gendered violence against Palestinian people as part of this genocide, but instead talk about it being anti-semitic. Talking about Israeli war crimes isn’t anti-semitic, it’s anti-zionist. Equating the two is incorrect.

    Western media has been shown (repeatedly) to be biased when covering this conflict, humanising Israeli victims and dehumanising Palestinian victims. (See, the Intercept among many others https://theintercept.com/2024/01/09/newspapers-israel-palestine-bias-new-york-times/)

    • Nope, you missed the mark. The upset comments were about the blatant rape denial. It’s fine to talk about Israeli war crimes, it’s not fine to twist and turn a narrative until the r*pe of Israeli women is nothing more than a conspiracy theory.

      The article answers it’s own question that way. Where Is the Outrage About Palestinian Survivors of Sexual Violence? I don’t know, it’s hidden somewhere under the endless paragraphs about Israeli women…

    • The rape of Palestinians is horrific and shouldn’t be ignored. That does not mean the very real sexual violence against Israeli people should be treated as a conspiracy. Sexual violence is never justified or acceptable.

  16. Wow, I am so incredibly saddened (and honestly, pretty horrified too) to come across this article. Autostraddle was a source of support to me years ago when I was a teenager coming out, and I check back every few years just to see how you all are doing. Often, I find articles that make me smile. This is absolutely not one of those articles. As others have written above, it’s horrifying to cast doubt on sexual violence that is really well documented, or to imply that you can’t hold in your mind at the same time that maybe there have been Israelis AND Palestinians who have been victims of sexual violence in war. I say this as someone who supports a bilateral ceasefire, someone who thinks PCATI (one of the human rights orgs you cite above — though I noticed you omitted mentioning that it’s an Israeli org!) is a great organization doing important work, and as someone who has spent a lot of time working with and learning from Israelis and Palestinians working for a future in the land for all of its peoples. What is happening to people in Gaza right now is horrifying. What Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have experienced for many decades is deeply wrong. None of this means that the events of October 7, where Hamas attacked and killed more than 1000 Israeli civilians, and kidnapped more than 200 — and yes, used sexual violence against civilians too! — are in doubt. It can be possible for multiple peoples to be suffering, and be the victims of violence, at the same time. A power imbalance between the peoples does not make the suffering (or, just to be more concrete: the rape and murder) of the civilians of the group with more power somehow go away or not matter. I have no idea why you thought it was a good idea to publish this piece, but I am joining others above in begging you to either take it down or edit it substantially. If you care a lot about raising awareness of sexual violence Palestinians have experienced — you can do that without insinuating that another group of people (Israelis who also experienced sexual violence) are lying. You can literally just delete those parts of this article. And if you don’t want to do this for the sake of basic decency, at least do it for the sake of your own journalistic integrity. Please don’t be part of the spread of misinformation. Autostraddle can be better than this. Autostraddle can be lifesaving, and liberating. This article is so far from that it’s hard to put into words.

  17. hi, i also would appreciate a comment by the editors regarding the feedback. the reporting is not nuanced anough (not only this article but the sum of the arcticles about the topc).

  18. https://www.autostraddle.com/comment-policy/

    “A. Things Autostraddle Will Do:

    Respond to you and think you are awesome. We encourage conversations between the team and our readers. So when you post a comment, don’t be surprised if a team member responds. Seriously, we love your comments; we read every single one of them. We even talk about them amongst ourselves when you’re not around because they’re hilarious, and we wish we had written them. We might even call you out for a good comment on Did You See That Comment Fridays!”

  19. autostraddle a queer feminist anti violence anti racism website

    coming out as having no issue with publishing a rape apology and rape denial piece because they do not like the country those women are from

    i support palestinian people AND stand with israeli civilian women who were brutally raped and murdered. there’s video!!!! it’s horrific-for much less autostraddle has written and publicized apology pieces. but i guess in 2024 it’s cool to traumatize your readers who are survivors of rape and say as long as you agree politically with someone it’s ok if their representatives deny and obfuscate the facts of real women’s stories.

    i hope to moon goddesses that since almost all the writers are american-since many places stand against america i guess its fine if we are all raped because it didn’t happen and if it did happen we deserved it?!?!!

    i honestly am so shocked and still waiting for any sort of human being to acknowledge the issue here

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