Israeli rights group admits it helped spread false claims about 7 Oct. rapes

Screenshot of cover of report on alleged sexual violence

The report by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel played key role in disseminating Israel’s false claims of mass rape on 7 October.

An Israeli human rights group is walking back its endorsement of Israel’s evidence-free claims of a systematic campaign of sexual violence by Hamas fighters on 7 October.

The “position paper” published by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in November had served for months as a key talking point for Israeli propagandists.

“It is becoming more apparent that the violence perpetrated against women, men and children also included widespread sexual and gender-based crimes,” the position paper claimed.

But now, the human rights group aims to absolve itself of the damage its irresponsible claims have done, offering justifications and excuses for why it published a report riddled with falsehoods that have been used to justify and fuel Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

“In the extensive investigations conducted in the months following the publication of the position paper in November, some testimonies referenced within it have been disputed or deemed unverifiable, and more may face similar scrutiny in the future,” Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said this month in a “clarification” statement it has also added to the online version of its November report.

“We regret their inclusion in the position paper,” the group states, claiming that “a substantial portion of the information that is now available was not accessible when the document was originally drafted.”

Face-saving spin

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel also acknowledges that it “lacks the sufficient staffing, resources or professional tools required to carry out the thorough and competent investigation” of the kind it advocated in its November paper.

It now claims that its call did help “prompt an investigation by a professional body – a team led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Pramila Patten.”

This however is just more face-saving spin.

Israel and its propagandists paraded the report issued by the Patten team in early March as a UN endorsement of their mass rape lies – something that was made easier by how the UN authors bent over backwards in their attempts to lend credence to the Israeli claims.

But the Patten team had no mandate to carry out an independent investigation, and relied almost entirely on information provided by Israel and Israeli organizations, including proven liars and fabricators such as the Jewish extremist group ZAKA.

And in fact, despite the way the UN report was spun in mainstream media, the Patten team ended up debunking many of the most sensational Israeli claims related to sexual violence, as we demonstrated on a recent episode of The Electronic Intifada Livestream.

For instance, members of the UN team examined thousands of photos and videos provided to them by Israel and concluded that “no tangible indications of rape could be identified.”

The Patten team also acknowledged that some of the most widely disseminated and sensational Israeli atrocity claims, those said to have occurred in Kibbutz Be’eri, were “unfounded.”

“Overall, the mission team was unable to establish whether sexual violence occurred in Kibbutz Be’eri,” the UN report states – generous wording calculated to mask the fact that the UN team saw no credible evidence.

Patten shies away

While initially happy to be used by Israel, Pramila Patten – not an independent actor, but a political appointee of the UN secretary-general – now appears to be shying away from being the UN face of Tel Aviv’s atrocity propaganda.

Until recently Israel’s darling, Patten apparently displeased the genocidal regime’s diplomats in New York last week when she pulled out of a UN Security Council briefing organized by the US government, titled, “Condemning hostage-taking in Israel on October 7 as a psychological tool of terrorism.”

The session went ahead without Patten, and was predictably used as a platform for Israeli atrocity propaganda including the baseless rape claims.

Hiding behind UN report

In backing away from its irresponsible November report, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel still asserts “that due to the fragmented nature of traumatic memories, they are often expressed in incomplete, confused or contradictory ways. Therefore, it is neither accurate nor just for persons lacking the required expertise and tools to assess the credibility of witnesses.”

“Accordingly, moving forward, we will rely on the Patten report and, when available, additional reports and documents produced by competent investigative bodies,” the group states. “We will continue to monitor their findings and reports while drawing necessary professional conclusions.”

It is unclear what other “competent investigative bodies” Physicians for Human Rights-Israel may be referring to, since no credible independent investigations are known to be taking place.

One widely touted initiative, a so-called “civil commission” to investigate alleged sexual crimes on 7 October, has been exposed by Israeli media as a fraud.

Hiding behind the Patten report in this manner amounts to a rejection of the role of independent journalists whose work proved instrumental in debunking the false atrocity tales that Physicians for Human Rights-Israel itself initially helped disseminate.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel should instead acknowledge that it did not take special expertise to expose Israel’s lies, and that independent journalists had done so long before Patten’s “professional” team confirmed their findings.

It merely took consistent attention to the evidence – or lack of it – and unwillingness to be swept up in mass delirium.

Too little, too late

After more than seven months of the Israeli genocide in Gaza – a word Physicians for Human Rights-Israel still refuses to use – the group acknowledges that “the Israeli government and other entities have been exploiting reports of sexual violence in a manipulative and cynical manner.”

It adds: “Sexual violence and allegations of sexual violence must never be weaponized as tools of warfare or propaganda.”

Too little, too late!

Despite being an Israeli organization, it is worth acknowledging that for many years, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel played a consistent role in supporting Palestinians who have waged prolonged hunger strikes against their imprisonment without charge or trial by Israel.

The credibility and trust Physicians for Human Rights-Israel may have built up through that work over many years has taken a severe, possibly fatal blow.

The damage to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s reputation will not be repaired – if it can be at all – by this partial and qualified mea culpa over its role in spreading genocidal, anti-Palestinian atrocity propaganda on behalf of the Tel Aviv regime.

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