"For someone to come on CBC and suggest such a strong claim should have led to a more prepared interview with strong questions. As it stands, your audience is left with a profoundly bold claim, but no evidence was provided to show that this was a deliberate attack versus scattered violations."
December 20, 2023
Matt Galloway, Host, The Current, CBC
Kristin Nelson, Producer, The Current, CBC
Alison Masemann, Producer, The Current, CBC
Julie Crysler, Producer, The Current, CBC
Zeelaf Majeed, Managing Editor, The Current, CBC
Dear Matt Galloway, Kristin Nelson, Alison Masemann, Julie Crystler, and Zeelaf Majeed,
I am writing to express concern about The Current December 18 segment: “Investigating allegations of Hamas sexual violence,” published on December 18 in CBC.
Matt Galloway interviewed Nadav Davidovitch, who worked on Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights (IPHR) report about allegations of sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women and girls by Hamas on October 7.
Rape allegations should be taken seriously, but inviting Doctor Davidovitch and failing to adequately question issues with the report were journalistic failures on Galloway’s part.
On multiple occasions, Galloway fails to push Dr. Davidovitch for more accurate answers.
First, Galloway questions Dr. Davidovitch about what he has learned about how widespread sexual violence against Israeli women on the 7 of October was. Dr. Davidovitch responds vaguely by saying that he heard some things from his colleagues. He says that after a few days, it was clear to him and his colleagues that the sexual assaults were something that was structured.
In that instance, Galloway fails to ask him about concrete evidence to strengthen his answer. He does not challenge Dr. Davidovich’s statements. He just carries on and asks him more questions. The lack of evidence and vague nature of the answer should have encouraged further questions from the get-go.
Second, Galloway asks Dr. Davidovitch how the evidence is being collected and examined. The Doctor mentions the health responders, that he works with families of those abducted and those who have returned from being kidnapped. The Doctor repeats that it was something structured and pre-planned.
Again, Galloway settles for Dr. Davidovich’s answers while he repeats that it was something structured and pre-planned. This is particularly irresponsible on his part because such a claim is not easy to make, as one must be certain that Hamas explicitly ordered it. One can not assert this for now and, worse, not give any evidence to back this claim. Yet, Galloway let it slide.
If Hamas ordered fighters to use sexual assault as a weapon of war, this is a serious violation of international law. For someone to come on CBC and suggest such a strong claim should have led to a more prepared interview with strong questions. As it stands, your audience is left with a profoundly bold claim, but no evidence was provided to show that this was a deliberate attack versus scattered violations.
Third, although Galloway asked the Doctor about ensuring that the information is not being weaponized, he could have mentioned how Israel might be weaponizing this information to justify the ongoing genocide in Gaza.
Again, the Doctor repeats the same vague answers he has given. He says that he spoke to first responders and people doing forensics. He said that after 2-3 weeks of examining “what is there,” they came to a conclusion and it would be irresponsible for a human rights organization not to talk about gender-based violence as a weapon of war that happened on October 7. He even says the testimonies “[came] from many different places.”
This is just the last example to show how, time and time again, Galloway doesn’t challenge Dr. Davidovich’s vague statements and grave claims of war crimes that are not backed by compelling evidence to match the gravity of the claims.
Overall, this interview was disappointing as it is already difficult for women to come forward with sexual violence accusations, even with the MeToo movement, and be believed. This report and guest do not help as they don’t provide any real evidence for these claims.
Similarly, Galloway does not interview his guest in a balanced way by failing to question him about Israel’s track record of sexual violence against Palestinian women, which is well reported on. Here is a short list of articles that have documented sexual violence against Palestinian women:
- On International Women’s Day: Palestinian women prisoners remain resilient in the face of apartheid by Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Addameer), a Palestinian non-governmental organization
- Using an Attack Dog, Israeli Women Soldiers forces Palestinian Women to Undressby Haaretz
- Beyond Male Israeli Soldiers, Palestinian Women, Rape, And War, a scientific research paper by Revital Madar
- IDF removes gag on 2016 conviction of officer for raping Palestinian woman, an article by The Times of Israel
- Sexual Violence as a War Weapon in Conflict Zones: Palestinian Women’s Experience Visiting Loved Ones in Prisons and Jails, a scientific research paper published in Feminist Inquiry in Social Work
- Out of 1,542 IDF sexual assault complaints, just 31 indictments filed, an article by the Jerusalem Post
- The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, a book by Ilan Pappé
- The untold story of the abuse Palestinian women in Hebron, an article by the Jordan Times
The sources of the evidence collected and the testimonies have been investigated and reported in two articles.
As reported, the claims come from Zakaʼs first responders, the police, and the media. For context, Zaka is the group that is behind the false claim that Hamas beheaded 40 babies. It is highly problematic to rely on them as there is no real evidence. They are mouthpieces for the Israeli government and its agenda.
As reported in this other article that investigated the IPHR report, the claims come from speculations, not evidence. Its content and timing are politically motivated as it is a way to dehumanize Palestinians to support Israel’s war on Gaza. It fits into Israel's propaganda campaign.
The sources are media outlets or civil society initiatives with strong government links. Physicians for Human rights’ report didn’t interview any actual witnesses. There is also no indication of an independent verification of evidence or an independent investigation.
Israel’s propaganda campaign is not about seeking justice for victims who deserve justice. In fact, Israel is ranked last in the OECD index for equality between men and women. Israel’s sudden concern for women is not about caring for their well-being and rights but about weaponizing women’s bodies in order to justify war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
While we should take any sexual violence or abuse allegations seriously, accusations of a structured campaign of sexual violence ordered by Hamas and its use as a weapon of war must still be proven. One cannot rely on someone who isn’t backing any claims with real evidence and not speculations, such as Dr. Davidovitch, because it does more harm than good.
Likewise, Galloway should have questioned the timing and veracity of such allegations to make sure that they are helping the victims, Israeli women, and not being weaponized to justify war against the Palestinians.
No one can say the extent of what happened and for someone to come on air and claim a crime against humanity without burden of evidence should have been brought up by the host. If an Israeli politician came on the show and claim Hamas was using this as a weapon of war, CBC has the responsibility to challenge this. Why is it that CBC is willing to let this Doctor off the hook? CBC is not supposed to treat its guests differently.
In times of a genocide unfolding in Gaza, we must be even more cautious, as everything can be used to justify war crimes. Accuracy from journalists is all the more critical in this context.
It would have been more cautious to invite someone impartial once an independent investigation is led to not serve in war efforts to one side.
For the time being, we, therefore, ask for an opportunity on the same show for a pro-Palestinian voice to explicitly reply to the Israeli doctor and the report and balance the record.
Media Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East