"Any rape or sexual violence allegation must be taken seriously, and investigations should be carried out. However, one must make sure to be balanced by citing independent sources and proven evidence and by including Palestinian voices."
January 30, 2024
Rhianna Schmunk, Senior Writer, CBC
Brodie Fenlon, General Manager & Editor in Chief, CBC
Nancy Waugh, Sr. Manager, CBC
Dear Rhianna Schmunk, Brodie Fenlon, and Nancy Waugh,
I am writing to express my concern about the article: “Why investigating sexual violence on Oct. 7 is likely to be a long, difficult process,” published on January 30 on CBC.
There are two issues in your article that I’d like to point out.
First, it is deeply concerning that this article mentions the report by the Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) group without mentioning that its evidence is flawed and inconclusive.
PHRI even makes the disclaimer that their report is inconclusive. It wrote that the report “does not attempt or aim to meet legal thresholds,” which is not something they did in their other reports.
PHRI used information from the Israeli government, did not conduct independent research, and did not verify or assess the credibility of the sources of its report.
Its sources are predominantly from media outlets (Israeli and International) or civil society initiatives with strong government links. The director of ethics and policy of PHRI even stated that they hadn’t interviewed actual witnesses.
Therefore, the paragraph below is not accurate:
The group Physicians for Human Rights Israel […] published a report in November on the sexual violence based on photos, video and other publicly available online information, as well as its own interviews with eyewitnesses, soldiers and first responders. [emphasis added]
I, therefore, suggest removing the words as well as its own interviews with eyewitnesses as it is not true.
Second, your article gives space and voice to the Zaka volunteers, Israeli police, Israeli government, and international law professor Cochav Elkayam-Levy. This takes their opinion at face value and makes your article one-sided and biased.
Indeed, the Zaka volunteers were behind the “dissection of a pregnant woman’s abdomen and the stabbing of the fetus” story that was later proven to be false.
The “Civil Archive for the Documentation of Crimes Committed Against Women by Hamas,” headed by Cochav Elkayam-Levy, are not credible. Cochav Elkayam-Levy worked for the Israeli government’s Attorney General’s Office in the International Law Department. Her job was to legally justify human rights violations and crimes committed against Palestinians.
Any rape or sexual violence allegation must be taken seriously, and investigations should be carried out. However, one must make sure to be balanced by citing independent sources and proven evidence and by including Palestinian voices.
Israeli forces have committed sexual violence against Palestinian women before and after October 7. Yet, your article fails to mention it.
Since the release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees as part of an exchange for Israeli hostages, several prisoners have shared their testimonies, including being beaten, neglected, subjected to naked beatings, and threatened with rape during their time in Israeli prisons.
There are also numerous reports of sexual violence against Palestinian women on the part of the IDF, including rape and obscene acts, the majority of which have not resulted in indictments.
Here are a range of references that are reporting on this:
- Out of 1,542 IDF sexual assault complaints, just 31 indictments filed, an article by the Jerusalem Post.
- 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 Undress by 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.
- Female prisoners threatened with sexual assault, subject to naked beatings, an article by Middle East Eye.
- Israel-Palestine war: Palestinian writer 'threatened with rape' in Israeli prison, an article by Middle East Eye.
- It would’ve been better if they shot us’: Palestinians recount prison abuse, an article by +972 Magazine.
I, therefore, ask you to add Palestinian voices to make your article balanced and fair.
I hope CBC will make these changes and not be one-sided when reporting on sexual violence against women, as it should include all women and not harm others when it uses allegations that are yet to be proven as facts.
Media Analyst, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle