On March 11, I was privileged to represent Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, at the United Nations 68th Commission on the Status of Women. I was part of a delegation of 20 Hadassah women who participated in sessions focusing on the violence against Israeli women committed by Hamas on October 7.

The report by Pramila Patten, United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, established there was strong evidence of sexual violence committed against Israeli women, and in some cases men. The barbaric attacks, including rape, gang rape, and the rape of corpses happened in at least three places. Patten also heard testimony from released hostages that women who remain hostages in Hamas custody continue to be raped.

I received a pass that allowed me to attend the opening session of the Commission hearings. Unfortunately, what I heard was the standard U.N. anti-Israel commentary. It was not supportive of Israeli women.

Secretary General Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres opened the session by asserting that Ramadan was marred by Israel’s continuous bombardment of Gaza. He did not say that Hamas caused the violence by invading Israel, unprovoked, on October 7. He did not say that Hamas has put the Palestinian civilians in Gaza in harm’s way by using them as human shields. He did not say that Hamas has rejected ceasefire offer after ceasefire offer. He did not say that there could be a ceasefire if Hamas were to return the hostages immediately and lay down their arms. He did not identify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Rather, Guterres continued to lay the blame on Israel. While he mentioned Pramila Patten’s report on the proof of sexual violence against Israeli women, he brought up the unfounded claim that IDF soldiers were committing acts of sexual violence against Palestinian women in the West Bank. The double standard of requiring proof that Israeli women experienced sexual violence, but accepting the accusation that IDF soldiers are committing sexual violence, without proof, is beyond hypocritical.

As part of the delegation, I went to a parallel event highlighting the Heroines of October 7, sponsored by the Israeli consulate. There I heard from the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan; May Golan, Israel’s minister for social equality and the advancement of the status of women; former hostage Keren Munder, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz and whose father still is held captive; Jackeline Cacho, humanitarian, journalist, and leader at the Global Initiative INSPIRE; Anila Ali, president of the NGO American Muslim and Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council; Or Cohen, board member of “Forum Dvorah” and an active reserve officer in the Israeli Navy, among many other speakers.

All the speakers stood up for Israeli women. They all said that we must speak out against the violence against women, and the violence against Israeli women must not be ignored or excused. The event was held in a conference room that held only 129 people but was overflowing with people who wanted to hear the testimony. They could not all stay; they did not all fit in the room. It seemed obvious that the room’s size was also a slight against Israel and Israeli women.

Later that afternoon, there was another session on supporting women who suffered from sexual violence, sponsored by delegations from France, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, speakers described how each nation was supporting and believing women who have suffered sexual violence around the world; they all supported the Israeli women who were victims of Hamas. They gave a platform to the Israeli advocate and lawyer Cochav Elkayam-Levy, chair of the Commission on Violence Against Women in Israel. Elkayam-Levy has been advocating for the Israeli women since October 7. She sent letters to women’s organizations around the world a week after the attacks — and she heard nothing back.

Suddenly, the organizations who welcomed Israel’s support of women were absent. Suddenly, the organizations that said we must believe all women did not believe Israeli women. Elkayam-Levy realized that she had to collect as much proof and information as she could so that the Israeli women would not be ignored.

Another group of Hadassah women joined the NYC chapter of #BringThemHome and stood outside the U.N. to show support for the families of the hostages who were gathering to meet with the Secretary General and to participate in the U.N. Security Council session recognizing the sexual violence against women. We were all advocating and demanding their relatives’ release. It was important to be on First Avenue and 46th Street, to show not only the relatives, but also the participants in the conference that we must #BringThemHomeNow if any ceasefire can be expected to occur.

On Tuesday, Hadassah again gathered to support Israeli women and held a reception to unveil our petition to tell the United Nations to #EndTheSilence on the weaponization of sexual violence against Israeli women. As of this writing, we had more than 130,000 signatures from around the world. People from more than 115 countries signed the petition. Hadassah’s national president, Carol Ann Schwartz, hand-delivered the petition to the secretary general.

Later that day the Hadassah delegation had a private meeting with Pramila Patten. At this meeting, Schwartz discussed our deep concerns and anger against the global silence about the sexual violence committed against Israeli women on October 7. Our team repeated that Hadassah continues to demand justice and recognition of the war crimes committed by Hamas on October 7 and continuing against the female hostages being held in the Hamas tunnels.

On Wednesday, our delegation participated in a town hall with the Secretary General Guterres. Elizabeth Cullen, Hadassah’s director of government relations, spoke to Guterres in front of more than 600 women from around the world. She talked about Hadassah’s 112-year history as a humanitarian organization focused on healthcare and providing services to all people in need. She talked about the need for the United Nations to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization and be held responsible for the sexual crimes committed against Israeli women on October 7.

Guterres’s answer was lacking. He didn’t answer her question or her request. Ms. Cullen was applauded and recognized for speaking up, despite a few boos from the back of the gallery.

As a woman, a mother, a Jew, a Zionist, and a human being, I cannot sit back and do nothing. I implore you to channel your energy into pressuring all those in positions of power to recognize the horrors that were committed against Israelis on October 7.

The entire world needs to stand up for the victims of 10/7. We all need to speak truth to those claiming that facts don’t matter. Act! Sign our petition and join Hadassah in standing up for Israeli women. We must #EndTheSilence, and not allow the world to shout #MeTooUnlessYoureAJew.

Stephanie Z. Bonder of West Caldwell is a Jewish educator who teaches throughout the MetroWest community and the National Hadassah network. She is working toward a masters degree in Jewish education from the Melton Hebrew University School of Education.

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