The Rape Deniers

Whether it’s digital evidence, eyewitnesses accounts, or survivor testimony of sexual assault, the “critics” lie and deny.


Where there are anti-Jewish atrocities, there are deniers. And on Oct 7, there were atrocities. Countless acts of murder and mutilation — and brutal acts of sexual violence by the Palestinian attackers.

An Israeli abducted by Hamas shared that her guard violently beat her and sexually assaulted her at gunpoint. A United Nations mission “verified an incident of the rape of a woman outside of a bomb shelter” at a kibbutz, citing “digital material” and witness testimonies. The BBC reported on multiple photographs that “show the bodies of women naked from the waist down, or with their underwear ripped to one side, legs splayed, with signs of trauma to their genitals and legs.” The New York Times saw a photograph of a woman’s corpse with “dozens of nails driven into her thighs and groin.” A video viewed by the same paper appears to show two women “shot directly in their vaginas.” NPR viewed photos of “several suspected victims of sexual violence.”

Hamas hostage Amit Sousana reunites with her family after her release. She was sexually assaulted while in captivity.

Ten medics and soldiers reported finding the bodies of 24 undressed women in six kibbutz homes, according to the New York Times, some mutilated or tied up. Four EMTs told the newspaper paper that they found “bodies of dead women with their legs spread and underwear missing — some with their hands tied by rope and zipties.” The UN mission viewed evidence showing that “at least ten distinct corpses displayed indications of bound wrists and/or tied legs.” Yinon Rivlin, a survivor of the music festival, said he found the body of a young woman, “no pants or underwear, legs spread apart,” with a violent wound on her genitalia. Jamal Waraki, a volunteer medic, described seeing a woman with her hands tied behind her back, half naked and bent over. Rami Shmuel, who volunteered as a rescue worker after the attack, reported finding the bodies of women stripped of their clothes, legs splayed.

Noam Mark, a security team member at Kibbutz Re’im, testified to discovering in a kibbutz residence the bodies of two or three women, naked and with clear signs of sexual violence — a neighbor reported hearing from that same residence screaming and crying. One survivor of the music festival, Ron Feger, told the Associated Press he overheard a woman screaming that she was being raped, followed by a gunshot, then silence. Another, Gad Liberson, told Israeli journalists that he overheard the screams and cries of women he believed were being raped, which also ended with gunshots.

Volunteer morgue worker Shari Mendes reported processing multiple bodies with signs of sexual violence and bleeding from the pelvic areas. Another morgue worker, Maayan, saw at least 10 bodies with signs of brutal sexual violence. Avigail, another soldier serving at a makeshift morgue, described “more than enough” bodies that appeared to have been raped.

Former hostage Chen Goldstein-Almog said she spoke to three victims of sexual assault while in Hamas captivity. Her daughter and fellow captive Agam corroborated that account. Aviva Siegel, another former hostage, shared that a girl that was held with her was sexually assaulted.

Volunteer therapist Bar Yuval-Shani said she heard several witness accounts of rape from festival survivors. Two therapists told the New York Times of working with a woman who was gang raped. A doctor who treated some of the released hostages told the AP that at least ten of the freed hostages were sexually assaulted or abused. USA Today reported that two doctors who treated released hostages said they spoke of “violent sexual assaults in captivity.”

A survivor of the music festival massacre named Sapir saw the brutal rape and mutilation of several woman, she testified to the police. Raz Cohen, another survivor, also described witnessing a sadistic rape and murder.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel added that “information about sexual assaults on surviving young women, originally not disclosed, has reached the rape crisis centers.” Physicians for Human Rights Israel expressed a belief that there was widespread sexual and gender-based crimes.

The UN mission that verified rape at a kibbutz also concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Gaza periphery, including rape and gang rape”; noted a “pattern of undressing, restraining and shooting of victims” that suggests sexual violence; and referred to “clear and convincing” information that hostages have been subject to “various forms of conflict-related violence including rape and sexualized torture and sexualized cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” violence they believe may be ongoing.

These are but some of the atrocities. Cue the deniers.

Among those seeking to discredit the idea of widespread sexual violence are the usual suspects — the Hamas apologists and conspiracists that inhabit the gutters of the internet. And among their arguments are the usual tactics — falsehoods, omissions, distortions, and table pounding. It’s just another day in the cellar.

But such noise can carry up the walls, and in this case made their way to the mainstream. What began as a campaign of mud-slinging by fringe activists like Max Blumenthal, Ali Abunimah, and Mondoweiss was amplified by The Intercept, an anti-establishment publication that exists a half-step closer to the mainstream, and from there it spread — outward to the mobs, but also upward to institutions like NPR, CNN, and the New York Times, which deferentially reported their skepticism.

Zooming Out

Before looking at specific examples of disinformation by the “critics,” as the Times and NPR calls them, we should address a few broader points.

Despite evidence of rape, those defending Hamas from charges of sexual violence point to a lack of forensic evidence — the kind that might be revealed at the denouement of a television crime show. Indeed, Israel’s frontier with Gaza on and after Oct 7 was less untouched crime scene and more battlefield and disaster zone.

But this is neither exonerating nor unusual. “There is very much what’s known as the CSI effect, where there is a perception that without forensic evidence or DNA, then you don’t have a case,” an expert on sexual violence in conflict zones told NPR. “And that’s just patently not true.”

In this case, the full CSI treatment was impracticable. “As is common in war, collection of physical evidence was hindered by ongoing combat and a large, chaotic crime scene,” NPR reported.

With limited resources and such a large-scale attack, compromises were necessary, journalist Carrie Keller-Lynn explained. “Instead of going through CSI, which would make it possible to produce evidence of crimes, the bodies are being processed through the disaster victim identification (DVI) track, as is common for mass casualty events,” she reported. Or as the UN mission put it, there was a “prioritization of rescue operations and the recovery, identification, and burial of the deceased in accordance with religious practices, over the collection of forensic evidence.” (The mission noted additional factors, too, that hindered the collection of forensic examination. See paragraph 46 of its report.)

The deniers had also pointed to lack of testimony by victims — a puzzling defense in the context of this story, where survivors describe women raped then murdered; where recovery workers noted naked and bound corpses; and where released hostages say those still in captivity had said they were sexually assaulted. Which category of those victims, exactly, would the deniers expect to have heard from? (When a hostage did eventually speak out about being sexually assaulted, the self-appointed investigators were not particularly interested, or worse, dismissed her account.)

None of this means every testimony is beyond reproach. Just as the record of 9/11 was contaminated by multiple false accounts and fake survivors, likewise after 10/7 false accounts were reported by pretenders, and some unfounded atrocity charges were shared, believed, and repeated. The “critics” did not miss the opportunity to capitalize on these inaccurate accounts in order to push the idea, through innuendo or explicit denial, that every witness of rape and every first responder account of sexually abused bodies are fake.

The Critics

NPR’s story about “critics” of a New York Times piece on sexual violence repeatedly cites The Intercept.

Once of many acknowledgements by The Intercept that its claims come from the further fringes.

And across The Intercept’s incessant efforts to discredit those shining a light on Palestinian sexual violence, its reporters cite Mondoweiss, Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, and Max Blumenthal of Grayzone.

It is an echo chamber of Hamas apologia — invariably, one story links to identical accusations by the others, which link back to similar pieces by the rest. The common theme, other then denial, is the extremism of its participants.

Consider, most relevantly, their response to the Oct 7 massacre:

A writer for the Intercept, at least, grants that the attack was “horrifying” — though this was in a post whose argument was that we shouldn’t view it as horrifying.

Others are less subtle. Denier Ali Abunimah, for example, was self-evidently delighted by the slaughter of civilians in Israel. He not only defended the attack, calling it “just”; not only insisted we shouldn’t feel bad about it (this just minutes after he posted video of elderly female hostage paraded and taunted on video); but also viciously attacked those — including critics of Israel — who would dare share any sympathy for the victims of the mass slaughter of Jews.

Mondoweiss summarized the deadliest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust with an announcement that “Gazans have broken out of their open air prison imposed by Israel and launched an elaborate surprise attack on their occupier,” while pooh-poohing the idea that Hamas had started a war. As the extent of the atrocities became apparent, Mondoweiss’s defenses of the assault grew more emphatic. On Oct. 8, its culture editor Muhammed El-Kurd insisted the attack was a cause for “celebration.” On Oct. 9, it published a piece insisting we “must shout our support for the resistance from our rooftops.”

Max Blumenthal minimized Hamas’s slaughter as ”guerrilla bands bursting out of a besieged ghetto with homemade weapons.” In response to a Twitter post noting that at its attack on a music festival Hamas “began shooting those in attendance,” Blumenthal mocked the victims and justified their slaughter.

The motivation for their leap to action at the first accusation of rape, then, is as simple as it seems: It is born of sympathy for Hamas.


As with the broader Hamas apologia, the forms of denial range from heavy-handed to more refined. Mondoweiss, for example, contends that the most well-known testimonies are “nothing more than a repetition of fake news and government propaganda.” Another writer (whose identifying details match Boston University lecturer Melanie Susan Smith) describes a compendium of sexual assault charges as “a manipulative betrayal of actual victims” (emphasis added). Arun Gupta in Yes! magazine insists that “alternative explanations applies [sic] to nearly every sexual violence claim in the media.”

Others cast doubt with a bit more subtlety, arguing there is no evidence of “mass” or “systematic” rape while ignoring or dismissing all evidence of rape. Perhaps the most “generous” — and rarest — subcategory accepts that rape “may have occurred” but brushes it off as par for the course: “The question has never been whether individual acts of sexual assault may have occurred on October 7. Rape is not uncommon in war,” shrugs The Intercept. (Their point of contention, they continue, is whether there was a “pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7.”)

Which brings us to some of the specific arguments by the deniers.

Argument: Rape Crisis Centers Didn’t Confirm Rapes. (They did.)

The cover of a report by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel that about sexual assaults during the Palestinian attack on Oct. 7.

The Intercept, in its attempt to both discredit a New York Times article on sexual violence and suggest an absence of evidence of sexual violence (notwithstanding its rape happens throwaway line), cite silence from Israeli rape crisis centers. Coauthors Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Grim, and Daniel Boguslaw point to an interview with one of the New York Times reporters, Anat Schwartz, that recorded after the publication of her piece. They write:

In the podcast interview, Schwartz details her extensive efforts to get confirmation from Israeli hospitals, rape crisis centers, trauma recovery facilities, and sex assault hotlines in Israel, as well as her inability to get a single confirmation from any of them.

The Intercept authors never revisit this, leaving readers to believe the relevant professionals are unaware of any sexual assaults.

But just a week before the Intercept piece was published, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel released a report concluding that “Hamas’s attack on October 7 included brutal sexual assaults.” The report assessed open-source information as well as “information that arrived at the ARCCI from professionals and confidential calls.” It was very much a “confirmation” from rape crisis centers.

The Intercept piece, which speaks only of silence by those centers, conceals the existence of the report.

If there’s any doubt that the omission is calculated, consider how the authors also cover up Schwartz’s reference to learning of a sexual assault survivor at the start of her investigation. They write:

After seeing [media] interviews [with a unit 669 paramedic who shared unfounded accounts], Schwartz started calling people at Kibbutz Be’eri and other kibbutzim that were targeted on October 7 in an effort to track down the story. “Nothing. There was nothing,” she said. “No one saw or heard anything.” She then reached the unit 669 paramedic who relayed to Schwartz the same story he had told other media outlets…

If readers were to cross-check with the podcast itself, though, they would notice a glaring elision from this summary. (Or more likely, they wouldn’t notice — the interview is in Hebrew, leaving most Intercept readers unable to check for themselves.) Just after Schwartz’s reference to calling people at kibbutzim and just before her description of reaching out to the paramedic, she tells the interviewer:

Then there started to be some drips [of information], and suddenly a psychologist who worked, volunteered, with survivors of the Nova [music festival]– so she says, “Actually a woman wrote on our site that she endured sexual assault. But I’m not qualified at all to care for victims of sexual assault, so I passed her to a colleague.”

It would have been impossible for The Intercept, which says it translated the interview, to miss Schwartz’s comment. The relevant section lasts just over a minute. Schwartz speaks of the kibbutzim for six seconds; then about the assault victim for thirty seconds; and finally then about the paramedic for roughly 20 seconds. In its effort to deny rape, The Intercept conceals the most substantial and relevant part of the sequence.

Claim: There is no “testimony.” (There is.)

A November headline on Haaretz reads, “The Scope of Hamas’ Campaign of Rape Against Israeli Women Is Revealed, Testimony After Testimony.” 

According to Ali Abunimah and Electronic Intifada, the article itself disproves the headline, as it notes that a newly formed Israeli commission has “thus far … not taken testimony directly.” This, Abunimah insists, is a “giveaway” of foul play.

Anyone bothering to read the piece would learn that the headline is unremarkable and appropriate. The story speaks of “testimony collected by the police,” testimony “from volunteers at the forensic medicine institute,” and “testimony from Hamas terrorists.”

Argument: Shari Mendes Didn’t Mention Rape Before Nov. (She did.)

Shari Mendes, who worked at a makeshift morgue used to process and identify bodies from Hamas’s massacre, described evidence of sexual assault: corpses of many young women bloodied “particularly round their underwear,” others shot in the breasts, some with broken pelvises.

So Mondoweiss works to discredit her. First, the publication charges that, in her Nov. 18 inverview with CNN, she appeared under a pseudonym. (She appeared under the name Shari.)

The larger attempt to discredit her focuses on a supposed inconsistency in Shari’s CNN interview: “In [a] written report in Ynet, published on October 31, 2023, she did not mention any claims of sexual violence.”

In other words, Mondoweiss casts her CNN testimony about rape as a new embellishment, because 18 days earlier she said nothing of the sort.

The “written report” cited by Mondoweiss is a news story that cites five workers at the morgue. Here, from that Hebrew article, is the entirely of the section that quotes Mendes:

“In my civilian life, I’m actually an architect,” [Shari] says, “but on October 7, the world changed, and from my routine life we went over to rooms for identification and purification of the bodies, some of which were in terrible condition, and yet, I cleaned them all with love, dedication and respect.”

As time passed, she tries to come to her senses, and it is not easy for her. “We are still shocked by the amount of evil we saw in the bodies and the condition of some of them. We still have nightmares from the smell. It will take some time before we manage to forget it.”

She says that until this interview she did not allow herself to cry. “I’m afraid that if I cry, I’ll fall apart. I’m a woman who runs away from crying and holds a passion. I also don’t let myself feel. What I want most is for every mother to know with what love and tenderness we purified her daughter,” she says.

Then she bursts into tears.

This is meant to be proof that Mendes’s dishonesty lied to CNN.  

At any rate, contrary to Mondoweiss’s insinuation Mendes did discuss evidence sexual violence before her CNN appearance, and even before the publication of the cited Ynet article. On Oct. 20, she was quoted in the Daily Mail referring to “evidence of mass rape so brutal that they broke their victims’ pelvis – women, grandmothers, children.” In a video posted on Oct. 24, she notes that those at the morgue saw “genitals cut off” and stated that “woman have been raped.” Ynet itself had previously quoted a video clip in which Mendes says that morgue workers have “seen women who had been raped.” She is similarly quoted in an Oct. 30 piece on a Fox News.

Mondoweiss’s argument, then, relies not only on weak argumentation, but also egregious cherry picking.

And Rami Shmuel …

Mondoweiss pulls a similar stunt with another of CNN’s interviewees, a recovery volunteer named Rami Shmuel. Shmuel told CNN that “There is not a doubt about what our girls went through with terrorists. We found naked women stripped out without any clothes, their legs were spread out.”

Mondoweiss counters:

CNN fails to mention the fact that Rami Shmuel was not present at the festival location during the attack. According to Shmuel’s Facebook post, published on the afternoon of October 7, he was “safe” in a villa in Netivot settlement.

Shmuel claims the next day that he joined efforts to search for bodies and survivors in the area in a personal, unofficial capacity. What Shmuel told his followers on the evening of October 8 did not have any hint of sexual violence: “An hour ago, I left the area, and the scenes are very, very difficult and (…) A war zone in every sense of the word. Hundreds of abandoned bullet-riddled cars, fires still burning in some open areas.” (ellipsis in original)

No hint, they say.

The fact that Shmuel was not at the festival is irrelevant — a red herring with no value beyond throwing off readers. His discussion on CNN is about recovery efforts after the massacre.

More strikingly, although Mondoweiss holds up the Oct. 8 Facebook post as if it is the extent of Shmuel’s testimony, it only represents a sliver of the picture. Shmuel was in the field for ten days, during which his posts went well beyond references to abandoned cars.

After arguing that an Oct 7 rape victim’s unreadiness to speak outside of therapy suggests she doesn’t exist, Ali Abunimah says she might have been raped not by Hamas but by Israelis.

On Oct. 9, he wrote that with every hour that passes and every bit of territory wrested from Hamas, “the magnitude of the disaster, the cruelty of the human animals, and the severe horrors are revealed.” Like in his Oct. 8 post, he shares no specifics about the human impact. Are we meant to conclude from this that he saw no victims?

On Oct. 10, he described a “difficult night” during which the “reality of the great horrors and the disaster” hit him and, for a brief moment, he “cried like a child broken to pieces.” And later that day: “The sights and stories I was exposed to in the last days are something I will never forget until the day I die.”

On Oct. 11 he wrote of “another day of being exposed to horrors” that aren’t shared in the media. It is the front line of hell, he says.

On Oct. 17, he wrote: “Come see how cruelly everyone was murdered here. There is almost no corpse that hasn’t been abused.”

For Mondoweiss to point to Shmuel’s Oct. 8 post as evidence he did not see atrocities —bodies, burned bodies, naked and splayed bodies, or anything else — is plainly dishonest.

Claim: Gal Abdush’s Family Disproves Rape. (It does not.)

A horrifying video of Gal Abdush’s corpse, recorded not long after she was murdered, shows the condition of her remains: dress hiked up to her waist, no underwear, legs splayed, and face seriously burned. The video led Israeli police and some members of her family to conclude she was raped, the New York Times reported.

But The Intercept charges that this report was a “serious mistake,” noting that “subsequent public comments from the family” show they reject this conclusion and linking to a piece on Mondoweiss that raises the same point. Others, too, latched on to this argument.

It is true that some family members — though contrary to how Mondoweiss and The Intercept frame it, not all — have pushed back on the conclusion she was raped. Is this the damning evidence the outlets make it out to be?

Not according to those same outlets. Just days before Mondoweiss insisted the account of Gal’s rape is “undermined” by the beliefs of the family members, it called on readers to dismiss conclusions from Israel first responders because they “lack the professional qualifications to make such assessments (they are not medical experts).” The Intercept, too, brushed off a recovery worker’s account of sexual violence since she “has no medical or forensic credentials to legally determine rape.” They don’t explain why credentials are suddenly irrelevant when it comes to the Abdush family members.

In pushing back against the rape conclusion, Gal’s brother-in-law Nissim Abdush, and her sisters Miral Alter and Talia Bracha, separately pleaded that we remember the victim has two young children. The psychological impact an account of sexual violence would have on the kids was clearly on their mind. Mostly, though, they cited the timing of communications from Gal and her husband Naji, who was also murdered.

At 6:51 a.m., Gal sent a Whatsapp message noting that she was near the border with Gaza. Nissim, the brother in law, said he spoke to Naji at 7:00, who shared that he was injured in the hand and that Gal was dead. Miral, in a comment on Instagram, recalled hearing slightly different account of Nissim’s conversation with Naji: That at this point Gal was shot and wheezing a death rattle. At 7:44, Naji sent his brother Nissim a final Whatsapp message: Take care of the kids.

Nissim was emphatic in saying he did not believe she was raped. Talia, in an Instagram post, said that we can’t know what Gal endured and rejected accounts of what happened.

Miral, in her Instagram comment, argued Gal wasn’t raped and couldn’t have been assaulted in the time between her last message and Naji’s call to Nissim. But she subsequently deleted her comment, and later told the Times she was confused and trying to protect her sister: “Did she suffer? Did she die right away? I want to hope she didn’t suffer, but we will never know.”

What we do know is that the couple’s ordeal didn’t end at 7:44. At some point after sending his last message, Naji was killed and his body was burned. In Naji’s communications, he apparently never mentioned Gal’s burnt face, though that doesn’t mean it was not burnt. Atrocities subsequent to Gal’s death cannot be ruled out. The United Nations mission report acknowledges “the mutilation of corpses, including decapitation” and notes that “photos and videos revealed widespread mutilation of bodies, involving both attempted and actual decapitation.” It also references “accounts of individuals who witnessed at least two incidents of rape of corpses of women.”

Separately, Mondoweiss and The Intercept insist that the New York Times story on sexual violence hinges or centers on the Abdush case. That is false.

Mondoweiss in January claimed that “There is currently no trace of the video [recorded by those who discovered Gal’s body] on the internet.” That, too, is false.

Claim: Sapir’s Testimony Cannot Possibly Be True. (It can.)

A woman named Sapir told the police, and later journalists, of witnessing sadistic gang rape, murder, and mutilation including the severing of breasts.

A Grayzone author insists the testimony is a “transparent fraud” — including because she spoke of the victims breast being severed. There is, though, corroboration of this very type of bodily mutilation. In video testimony, someone who appears to have worked at one of the makeshift morgues for murdered Israelis independently describes encountering corpses with missing breasts. 

Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah charges that Sapir is not credible because she had described seeing Hamas fighters at the scene raising decapitated heads. In his words: “So has anyone else said that they saw Palestinian fighters carrying decapitated heads? Even the Israeli government hasn’t said that. But that shows you the credibility of this alleged eyewitness,” Abunimah says.

The New York Times later reported that

The police also said they found Sapir’s bag where she said she had been hiding, and women’s clothing near where she said the rapes occurred. And three severed heads were found farther away, near the bodies of assailants in military fatigues, Israeli officials said, without providing more detail.

The United Nations mission report confirms decapitations, including some attested to in photo or video. Video from October shows Palestinian attackers ecstatically trying to decapitate a Thai worker in with a garden hoe. David Tahar, the father of an Israeli soldier killed in the Oct. 7 massacre, shared that his son’s head was taken to Gaza as a trophy. A video of unknown provenance shared on popular Arabic-language Telegram accounts just after the October 7 attack, which has been viewed by CAMERA, shows terrorists standing in front of an Islamic Jihad al-Quds Brigades flag proudly displaying a severed head.

Mondoweiss’s attempt to itemize why Sapir is a “non-credible witness” likewise falls flat.

Claim: ZAKA Unit Commander Says the Group Only Treats Jews. (The link says otherwise.)

Volunteers from the disaster recovery organization ZAKA were among the first in the field, and some of its volunteers have described seeing evidence of sexual violence. Mondoweiss seeks to discredit the organization as a whole, claiming:

ZAKA’s “operation unit commander” stated that “he puts aside medical consideration and decisions are made on who deserves treatment based on whether they are Jewish.” (Link in original)

But the quote is nowhere to be found in the linked article — neither in the text nor the embedded audio segment that it summarizes.

The audio is of an interview about how to prioritize treating terrorists who are injured while attacking Jewish targets. The interviewer asks the ZAKA official: “When you arrive in the field, and there are two people strewed on the ground — the terrorist, who is terribly [injured], and next to him a Jew who was run over [in a car-ramming attack], with broken legs — do you have some sort of code, who to treat first?” The official ultimately responds to this, and to various other hypotheticals, by stating that in the case of terrorists and also any type of murderer, he would first attend to the victim. Though the interviewer does at times use “Jew” as shorthand for the targets of terror attacks, the medic himself never once says “Jew” or “Arab.” Mondoweiss similarly misrepresents a second, nearly identical discussion about terrorists and victims.

Claim: Raz Cohen Didn’t Mention Rape on Oct. 9. (He did.)

Raz Cohen, a survivor of the Nova music festival massacre, describes hiding in a streambed and witnessing several Palestinian infiltrators raping an Israeli woman before stabbing her to death. The following is his account to the New York Times:

He said he then saw five men, wearing civilian clothes, all carrying knives and one carrying a hammer, dragging a woman across the ground. She was young, naked and screaming.

“They all gather around her,” Mr. Cohen said. “She’s standing up. They start raping her. I saw the men standing in a half circle around her. One penetrates her. She screams. I still remember her voice, screams without words.”

“Then one of them raises a knife,” he said, “and they just slaughtered her.”

Seeking to discredit the testimony, Max Blumenthal charged that, “Since his first interview on October 9, Cohen has altered his testimony several times.” Ali Abunimah names Cohen among witnesses who “lack credibility” because, he alleges, they “changed their stories over time.” The Intercept claims Cohen’s comments in one interview contradict a claim the New York Times attributed to him.

According to Blumenthal: “When Cohen was interviewed on October 9 about the attack on the music festival, …he did not mention any act of sexual assault committed by Hamas militants.” Abunimah likewise cites the charge that on Oct. 9 Cohen “never mentioned anything about sexual assault,” as do Gupta in Yes! Magazine and other anonymous online deniers. The New York Times relayed the charge as follows: “Critics have questioned his credibility because he did not say he witnessed such an attack in his very first interviews with reporters, on Oct. 9.” But these claims are false. Cohen did on Oct. 9 discuss witnessing rape.

In an interview that day, Cohen, who appears to still be anxious from surviving the attack (the video shows him stopping mid-sentence and looking around with a concerned expression because he hears a helicopter) tells his story to an i24 interviewer. “Critics” point to the fact that the interview doesn’t include a reference to rape. The broadcast, though, ends abruptly, before Cohen has a chance to detail his experience in the streambed.

We asked the interviewer, Ariel Oseron, about the jarring ending. He explained that the discussion was cut short because Cohen said it was too difficult for him. But Oseron added: “After he told me in person I reported on his testimony later in the broadcast.”

Indeed, in a segment recorded later that night, Oseron told viewers that his conversation was cut short because Cohen went to the hospital for psychological support. He reported that Cohen later shared with him “horrifying atrocities,” including an account of the terrorists “raping Israeli women.” A few hours later, shortly after midnight, a local news publication posted a story in which Cohen is quoted similarly saying, “The terrorists captured women and harmed them in every possible way, and when they finished their indecent acts they began slaughtering them….”

So much for not having mentioned sexual assault that day. (In an example of that capillary action that moves falsehoods from the conspiratorial fringe to the mainstream, the New York Times repeated the critics’ false charge that Cohen “did not say he witnessed such an attack in his very first interviews with reporters, on Oct. 9.” CAMERA has informed the newspaper of the error. It has yet to correct.)

Claim: Cohen Changed Account to Describe Civilian Attackers. (He did not.)

The Intercept’s reference to a separate contradiction, which they cast as another “serious mistake,” likewise doesn’t pan out. The publication refers to “comments from a key witness seeming to contradict a claim attributed to him” in a New York Times piece on sexual violence. The Intercept doesn’t elaborate further, but the passage links to a Twitter post by one of the authors, Ryan Grim, in which he comments on Cohen’s appearance on CNN. “[Cohen] just told [CNN interviewer Jake] Tapper the men he saw were not actually from Hamas, but rather Gazan civilians who came through the fence after the IDF collapsed,” Grim writes.

Cohen, though, has been consistent on this point. The Dec. 28 Times story in question reports that he said he “saw five men, wearing civilian clothes, all carrying knives and one carrying a hammer.” The i24 reporter who spoke with Cohen on Oct. 9, meanwhile, reported that he “described to me how the people, the Gaza– the Palestinians who were there, most of them if not all of them were not armed or wearing military uniforms.” The reporter continued: “He said these were regular Gazans, they were not members of any special unit, military unit by Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, these were Gazans who came to have fun.”

Then there’s the anonymous Twitter thread, shared by Abunimah, that suggests Cohen is lying because, at some unknown point during his many hours in hiding, he photographed himself smiling. That this could have happened prior to the incident is, in the minds of deniers, beyond the realm of possibility. That’s how denial works.

That the deniers rely repeatedly on falsehoods and distortions does not necessarily mean every Israeli testimony (or even every Hamas confession) is truthful. Above we mention a fabricated account by a fraudster and unfounded claims by emergency personnel. And such stories can reverberate —  in an interview with the Daily Mail, for example, Shari Mendes had relayed an account of an atrocity that had previously been circulated by Zaka volunteer Yossi Landau, but which turned out to be unfounded.

To play the devil’s advocate, it’s certainly not impossible that other inaccurate accounts might have emerged from the whirlwind of Oct. 7. To play the devil himself, it’s not technically impossible that every eyewitness is lying, that every photo is manipulated, and that we are in the middle of a conspiracy worthy of the imagination of Holocaust deniers. But the sexual assault deniers, like those other deniers, haven’t made that case. They fail to make their case even with the claims above, and others. (We won’t burden you with responses to feeble questioning like “How could she see 100 militants and numerous assaults while lying still, covered [with dry grass]?” as Arun Gupta asks in his Yes! magazine piece, or Ali Abunimah’s charge that, if an Israeli therapist described treating an Oct. 7 gang rape victim, this could refer to Israeli rapists.)

Along with their ugly reactions to Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, and their zeal to defend Hamas with false arguments, the deniers’ bad faith is underscored, too, by the hypocrisy. After Al Jazeera broadcast accusations by Jamila al-Hissi that Israel raped women in Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital, the broadcaster pulled the video, its former managing editor and reportedly Hamas deemed it was a fabrication, and the accuser’s brother said the testimony was erroneous. In multiple articles, Mondoweiss continues to uncritically share the retracted charges.

In previous reporting about rape testimony, The Intercept was quick to acknowledge that lack of corroboration is “not uncommon” and “unsurprising” in sex crimes cases. The accuser then was not an Israeli Jew.

In March, a victim of Palestinian sexual violence spoke out publicly. Amit Soussana, who was held hostage by Hamas before being released as part of an exchange, told the New York Times how her Hamas-assigned guard assaulted her:

“He came towards me and shoved the gun at my forehead,” Ms. Soussana recalled during eight hours of interviews with The New York Times in mid-March. After hitting Ms. Soussana and forcing her to remove her towel, Muhammad groped her, sat her on the edge of the bathtub and hit her again, she said.

He dragged her at gunpoint back to the child’s bedroom, a room covered in images of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, she recalled.

“Then he, with the gun pointed at me, forced me to commit a sexual act on him,” Ms. Soussana said.

Her testimony matched what she told doctors and a social worker just after being released.

An anti-Israel social media account called Propaganda and co, whose denial Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abumimah has cited and who collaborates with Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, immediately cast aspersions on the victim. Ali Abunimah, who had repeatedly pointed to lack of victim testimony in order to denying sexual assault, immediately accused the her of lying. The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, who had likewise cited a lack of victim testimony, immediately slurred her as non-credible.


April 9, 2024 correction: A passage above had misstated the hours when a resident of Kibbutz Re’im heard screaming and crying the home at which Noam Mark witnessed evidence of sexual crimes. The neighbor said he heard the screams until 8 in the morning, not throughout the night.

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