Tracing the Dubious Allegations of Sexual Violence Made Against Israeli Forces

Earlier this week, several United Nations “experts” issued a statement claiming there were “credible allegations” of Israeli forces committing sexual violence against Palestinian women. As CAMERA has already noted, among the authors of the statement were individuals with histories of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias. Moreover, the statement was noticeably devoid of any evidence. Similarly absent was any information to assess the credibility of the allegations, such as dates, times, locations, or identities. All readers had to go on was the word of the hardly impartial authors.

CAMERA was not alone in noticing the curious lack of details. At least one journalist, who asked not to be named, corresponded with the UN “experts,” asking if they could provide any details and sources for their allegations. The response from one of them, Reem Alsalem, was to say that she could not provide any details or sources. In fact, she even appeared to suggest that they’re not even sure where the alleged victims are.

The only source for the allegations they were willing to point to, after repeated requests by the journalist, was a public report by an organization called Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC). Given that this is all the public has to go on to scrutinize the allegations, it is worth examining WCLAC’s report. After all, if the UN “experts” consider the report credible, that gives some insight into the quality and nature of the undetailed allegations they have made themselves.

Knowingly Attempting to Create a False Equivalence

The WCLAC report begins with a curious argument. To provide some context, the report was sent to the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, who had visited Israel in January to probe the use of sexual violence by Hamas during the October 7 massacre.

In the letter to which the WCLAC report is attached, the organization expresses concern that the allegations they are raising against Israeli forces do not rise to the level of gravity that Ms. Patten’s mandate requires. The letter “raises a significant concern regarding the mandate” Ms. Patten apparently presented to WCLAC, which “limits sexual violence to acts of a grave nature, such as rape and trafficking” for purposes of her mandate. Apparently concerned that none of their allegations rise to that level of gravity, the organization calls for her to “reinforce” her mandate to “amplify” vague concepts such as “humanitarian work, upstream prevention, justice and accountability…” The letter than raises a “demand to consider Israeli’s (sic) violations of different forms of violence including sexual and reproductive rights and in your upcoming report on OPT” (an acronym for “occupied Palestinian territories”).

Put more simply, WCLAC wants the UN representative to change her mandate so as to create an equivalence between Hamas’s systematic use of horrific sexual violence on October 7 with the allegations WCLAC makes in its attached report against Israeli forces.

What are those allegations?

The report references 14 specific victims. Eight of victims allege either being patted down or strip-searched. When detailed, the report identifies the soldier(s) doing the patting down or strip-searching as female. Four of the allegations involve inappropriate, sexualized comments made toward the alleged victims. Four of the incidents allegedly involve Israeli forces beating the victims’ genital areas. One of the allegations involves groping.

As will be elaborated below, the evidence is exceedingly thin. To give an idea of what WCLAC is attempting to equate to Hamas’s atrocities on October 7, consider the one allegation for which there is documentary evidence: the patting down of a fully clothed woman by what appears to be a female soldier. The report links to video of the incident which can be seen here. There is nothing to indicate the patting down was inappropriate or more violating than, say, getting patted down by the TSA at an airport.

Of course, if true, some of the other alleged incidents deserve condemnation and punishment. That they don’t rise to the gravity of what Hamas did on October 7 does not excuse such behavior. But the attempt to create a moral equivalence between these acts and Hamas’s systematic use of rape, by an activist organization known for excusing terrorist violence (see below), is not just cynical but obscene.

Methodological Failings

Not only do the alleged acts fall short in terms of gravity, but they also come with serious questions of credibility.

17-year-old Rina Shnerb, who was murdered in a terrorist attack carried out by the PFLP.

For one, consider the identity of one of the three named researchers: Khalida Jarrar, a well-known leader in the internationally designated terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Among her activity, she was named by the Shin Bet as the head of a PFLP terrorist cell in the West Bank that was responsible for numerous terror attacks, including the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb. Suffice it to say, a senior terrorist who has been involved in attacks against Israel is hardly a credible source when it comes to making allegations against Israel.

Now consider the identity of one of the other named researchers, Nadwa Barghouthi. In addition to her affiliation with WCLAC, Barghouthi has also served as a board member of the organization Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) (see here, page 32). The WATC was among several other Palestinian organizations for which Visa, Mastercard, and American Express terminated donation facilities in 2018 over their connections to the PFLP. In 2017, WATC even dedicated a youth center for girls named after the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led an attack that murdered 37, including 12 children.

Some of the other research appears to come not from WCLAC, but from other organizations. For example, the report cites a statement attributed to a B’tselem researcher, Manal Al-Jabari, for the claim that she has “documented 20 similar incidents” to one detailed in the WCLAC report, allegedly involving three Palestinian women being strip searched by female soldiers. Omitted, however, is that, according to the cited article, Al-Jabari was saying that those “20 similar incidents” occurred over a period of 15 years. By omitting this lengthy timeline, WCLAC is artificially inflating the alleged issue.

Elsewhere, WCLAC simply fails to produce evidence it claims it has. One footnote reads “Link to the interview:” but then doesn’t include the actual link. Another footnote, for a sentence making claims about footage and videos of women testifying to various allegations, does not go to any actual such information. Clicking the link ( will take the reader only to their own Google Drive.

Another curious shortcoming relates to an allegation that every witness WCLAC spoke to claimed to have received a threatening phone call from someone from the IDF warning them not to talk about their abuse. It’s understandable if none of the victims managed to record the conversation, but one wonders if WCLAC bothered to ask for phone records to see if any such calls could be identified.

It is also worth exploring who the allegations are connected to.

Ahed Tamimi in one of her propaganda videos striking at an Israeli soldier.

Of the four most serious allegations, involving alleged beating of genital areas, only one is actually named, Ahed Tamimi. Her name is well-known for her years of propaganda work against Israel, often involving videoing herself attacking Israeli soldiers, or trying to bait soldiers into attacking her. She was arrested several months ago after responding to October 7 by declaring, “We are waiting for you in all the West Bank cities from Hebron to Jenin – we will slaughter you and you will say that what Hitler did to you was a joke.” As pointed out by one blogger, after initially claiming that those posts were on an imposter account, her mother then changed her story to claim that the account was actually Ahed’s but had been hacked.

Notably, after Tamimi made the allegations of abuse, the Israel Prison Services strongly denied her accusations and even published images of her in her prison cell smiling and appearing entirely unharmed. Despite Tamimi having been released in November, no evidence appears to have been produced to corroborate her claim of physical abuse.

Other named victims also have backgrounds that raise red flags. Hanadi Halwani, who alleges soldiers made sexualized remarks toward her, is among the top ranks of the Hamas-affiliated Murabitat, an Islamist group well known for incitement and harassment against Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. Another named victim, Hanan Barghouti (unclear if any relation to Nadwa Barghouthi, who interviewed Hanan), alleges that she was inappropriately touched by Israeli soldiers during her arrest. Notably, this is her second time being released from prison due to a hostage deal. She was previously released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, after which NPR quoted her as calling on “every Palestinian to kidnap a soldier.” Once again, after being released in November as part of the new hostage deal, Barghouti responded by praising Hamas’s terrorist leader Muhammad Deif and calling for all of Israel’s prisons to be emptied (ie, by taking and using Israeli hostages).

It’s worth noting, too, that the allegations around two of the other individuals allegedly beaten in their genitals, identified only by initials as A.J. and T.S., appear to be based entirely on Hanan’s testimony. There is no indication that WCLAC sought to corroborate Hanan’s claims regarding these other two alleged victims.

Of course, one shouldn’t entirely discount testimony from someone because of their terrorist or activist background. But as with any allegation of criminal activity, it cautions that such allegations need additional investigation and corroboration.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that WCLAC bothered.

WCLAC’s Background

The credibility concerns stemming from shortcomings and red flags in the report’s methodology are only exacerbated by the nature of the organization behind the report.

WCLAC has a long record of extremist activism against Israel. One need only read the absurdly politicized language in the report itself to understand this. Israeli counter-terror operations to detain wanted Hamas terrorists are called “home invasions,” the IDF is described as the “Israeli Occupation Forces,” and the Jewish state is repeatedly accused of carrying out a “relentless genocide.”

WCLAC is notable for its repeated efforts to legitimize Hamas’s terrorism. For example, it promotes the idea that Hamas has a “legal right to resist [Israeli] occupation with recourse to ‘all necessary means at their disposal,’” which by definition is inclusive of the mass murder, torture, and rape of Israeli women. 

The organization also has a history of trying to shift blame for Palestinian wrongs onto Israel. According to WCLAC, it is “Israeli occupation and apartheid” that “have entrenched patriarchy within Palestinian society and increased intra-societal and -family violence against and oppression of women.”

And this is what WCLAC appears to be trying to do once again. With the world horrified at the well-documented, systematic use of sexual violence by Hamas, WCLAC appears to be trying to shift attention away from Hamas and blame Israel for sexual violence based on a thin record of evidence.

That individuals like Albanese and Alsalem would work to amplify this cynical game is, of course, unsurprising, given their record of antisemitism and open anti-Israel bias. Indeed, despite her role as a UN “expert” on violence against women, Alsalem was curiously silent about the violence against Israeli women, despite the abundant evidence. To suddenly find her voice on the conflict when it can be used to shift blame toward Israel is not just transparent, but morally indefensible.

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