Israeli “commission” on 7 October rape claims exposed as fraud

In early December, the White House received Cochav Elkayam-Levy, whom it described in a press statement as the “Chair of Israel’s Civil Commission on October 7 Crimes by Hamas Against Women and Children.”

The subject of multiple media profiles, Elkayam-Levy played a key role in giving international legitimacy to Israel’s baseless atrocity propaganda about mass rapes.

But now Elkayam-Levy and her commission have been exposed as frauds.

This comes as The New York Times has just debunked a sensational and lurid story about two Israeli girls being raped on 7 October, a false story contained in its notorious “Screams without words” article published in late December.

During her meeting with Biden administration officials, Elkayam-Levy “spoke about her work to gather testimony and document evidence of the events of 7 October and develop a comprehensive accounting of gender-based violence committed by Hamas,” the White House said.

That meeting came days after Haaretz, Israel’s equivalent of The New York Times, published a glowing puff piece about Elkayam-Levy.

Screenshot of Haaretz article shows image of Elkayam-Levy and headline

A 30 November 2023 puff piece about Cochav Elkayam-Levy by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper gave credence to false claims of sexual violence on 7 October.

The article’s shocking headline asserted that “The Scope of Hamas’ Campaign of Rape Against Israeli Women Is Revealed, Testimony After Testimony.”

A no less sensational subhead claimed that “The aggregation of evidence collected by Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy and her Civil Commission presents a horrifying picture that leaves no room for doubt: On 7 October, Hamas terrorists systematically carried out acts of rape and sexual abuse.”

One clue that this was rubbish was buried in the Haaretz article itself, the admission that “Thus far, the commission has not taken testimony directly, but it will begin to do so soon.”

Big prize for nonexistent report

Elkayam-Levy has hit the headlines again, after winning the Israel Prize, the highest cultural honor bestowed by the self-described Jewish state.

Israeli education minister Yoav Kisch, whose ministry administers the prize, hailed Elkayam-Levy’s “work in the international arena to expose the atrocities of Hamas” as “a crucial pillar in our ongoing struggle for justice and in our efforts to confront the perpetrators.”

“The people of Israel deeply value your work and extend their heartfelt gratitude to you,” the minister added.

Hebrew University, where Elkayam-Levy is a postdoctoral fellow on “gender, conflict resolution and peace,” added its congratulations as well.

But not everyone in Israel is quite so appreciative.

And as is often the case, these damaging admissions are emerging in the context of infighting among Israelis: recriminations that Elkayam-Levy got the prize at the expense of supposedly more deserving individuals.


It turns out that Elkayam-Levy’s “civil commission” – described by the White House as if it were an official Israeli body – does not even exist.

And nor has the imaginary commission produced a long-promised report documenting Hamas’ supposed sexual violence.

“People disconnected from her because her investigation is not accurate,” a government source told Ynet, the media outlet affiliated with Israel’s mass circulation newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

The government source cited how Elkayam-Levy disseminated a story about Palestinian fighters “slicing the belly of a pregnant woman – a story proven to be untrue, and she spread it in the international media.”

“It’s no joke. Little by little, professionals have begun to distance themselves from her because she is unreliable,” the source added, citing the damage such false accounts do to Israel’s already battered credibility.

It had previously been exposed that Elkayam-Levy also tried to pass off an old photo of a deceased Kurdish female fighter in another country as a victim of the 7 October violence.

Collecting money

There’s also a strong suggestion of financial opportunism.

According to Ynet, a proposal to fund the “civil commission” estimated that it needed a cool $8 million for its work in 2024, of which $1.5 million would go to “management and administration.”

“At first she really was very active, and it was very nice,” the government source told Ynet. “And then she started calling herself ‘civil commission.’ People got confused, members of [the US] Congress turned to people who work with Israel and asked what this was about – did Israel create a commission? It’s a confusing name.”

“And to the question of is there such a thing at all? Is there such a body? The answer is: no,” the source added. “She is the body. She is this civil commission.”

Elkayam-Levy does run something she calls the Dvora Institute for Gender and Sustainability Studies, but in spite of an impressive-looking website, the outfit is “a one-woman operation asking for million-dollar donations,” according to the government source.

“She took donations from loads of people and she began asking for money for lectures,” the government source told Ynet.

The Dvora Institute is soliciting tax-deductible donations in the United States through the Jewish Communal Fund of New York.

Bogus commission

Israel’s Channel 13 also took up the story in a report you can watch at the top of this article, with English subtitles added by The Electronic Intifada.

“They mention her starting a ‘civil commission’ to raise awareness. It bears mentioning that the name ‘civil commission’ is very bombastic. The commission is her. And she is the commission,” Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker says.

On its website, the Dvora Institute names nine people as members of an “advisory board” for the “civil commission,” but is ambiguous about whether they are members of the commission itself.

They include Irwin Cotler, a prominent Canadian Israel lobbyist; Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, an adjunct professor and former dean of students at Columbia University Law School; and Ilya Rudyak, a visiting professor at California’s University of the Pacific and the former “head of the weapons department aboard an Israeli Navy submarine.”

Requests for comment have been sent to several members of the “advisory board.”

“There is no Horrors Report”

According to Drucker, the head of the Israel Prize committee said that the award had gone to Elkayam-Levy because “she authored the Horrors Report” – a report on the mass rapes.

“But then we realize that there is no Horrors Report,” Drucker observes. “There is simply no such report. It hasn’t been written, not by her and not by anyone.”

“There is this letter she sent two weeks after the catastrophe, after the slaughter of 7 October,” Drucker says. “But it was just a collection of newspaper headlines, a letter only a few pages long. There is no such report.”

Channel 13 actually interviews Elkayam-Levy, who insists, “Of course there is such a report. The first report to come out, by 20 October. The report reviewed the crimes we saw, the most reliable information that we could give in the first moments, to the United Nations bodies.”

Drucker is unimpressed by her claim: “It’s a four-page document. One page is signatures. One page is general statements. And two pages are just newspaper headlines,” he says dismissively.

“It’s not a report in the sense that he and him did to that girl, who God forbid was murdered. This is the crime, this is the evidence. There is no such report,” Drucker adds.

“The education ministry’s response is the same as her response, that there was a prior report and she is working on a new report,” Channel 13’s Drucker says.

Ynet also confirmed from multiple sources that Elkayam-Levy has never completed the report on 7 October sexual violence for which she is receiving the Israel Prize.

Ties to Netanyahu

Drucker reveals that Elkayam-Levy is the niece of Yaakov Berdugo, an advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (As a commentator on Israeli army radio, Berdugo incidentally played a role several years ago in helping to frame a Palestinian man falsely accused of raping a Jewish child.)

But that is not Cochav Elkayam-Levy’s only connection to Netanyahu.

As Mondoweiss reported in early December, the Dvora Institute “works as a close advisory body” to the Israeli prime minister’s national security council.

The Dvora Institute’s advisory committee includes a former director of the Israeli prime minister’s office and three former officials in the national security council.

As for Elkayam-Levy, she is far from the feminist human rights advocate she markets herself as being. She has in fact authored guidelines for the Israeli government to force-feed Palestinian hunger strikers detained in its prisons, a form of torture.

The revelations about Elkayam-Levy’s investigation being a fraud will come as no surprise to readers of The Electronic Intifada.

We exposed many of her dubious assertions and connections in a livestream in early December.

New York Times debunks its own reporting

The exposure of Elkayam-Levy comes as another key element of Israel’s mass rapes narrative has been debunked by The New York Times – the same newspaper that helped spread it in the first place.

In their fraudulent “Screams without words” article published online on 28 December – purportedly a two-month investigation corroborating a broad pattern of sexual violence on 7 October, reporters Jeffrey Gettleman, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella included a horrifying story told to them by “a paramedic in an Israeli commando unit.”

The paramedic “said that he had found the bodies of two teenage girls in a room” in Kibbutz Be’eri, the Times reported.

“One was lying on her side, he said, boxer shorts ripped, bruises by her groin. The other was sprawled on the floor face down, he said, pajama pants pulled to her knees, bottom exposed, semen smeared on her back,” the newspaper added.

The paramedic “did not document the scene,” according to the Times, and the “Israeli military allowed the paramedic to speak with reporters on the condition that he not be identified.”

Screenshot of front page

Every key aspect of The New York Times’ sensational story alleging a broad pattern of mass rapes by Hamas on 7 October has fallen apart. But the newspaper still has not retracted the fraudulent reporting.

The same story had already been reported by numerous outlets, including the Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post.

Fully clothed

But on 25 March, the Times conceded that “New video has surfaced that undercuts the account of an Israeli military paramedic who said two teenagers killed in the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Oct. 7 were sexually assaulted.”

The newspaper states that the footage taken by an Israeli soldier “which was viewed by leading community members in February and by the Times this month, shows the bodies of three female victims, fully clothed and with no apparent signs of sexual violence, at a home where many residents had believed the assaults occurred.”

Residents of Kibbutz Be’eri who viewed the footage “said that in no other home in Be’eri were two teenage girls killed, and they concluded from the video that the girls had not been sexually assaulted,” according to the Times.

The Times said that it contacted the medic who “declined to say whether he still stood by the account.”

Following debunkings of this story by Mondoweiss in early December and by The Intercept this month, the tale of the two raped girls in Kibbutz Be’eri can be added to the long list of Israeli atrocity claims that turned out to be lies.

The two teenagers who it is falsely claimed were raped were identified by The Intercept as “Y. and N. Sharabi, ages 13 and 16.”

The elder of the two girls, along with the girls’ father Eli Sharabi, were actually still missing and unaccounted for more than a week after the 7 October events, according to members of their family.

The BBC reported on 22 October that the 16-year-old’s body had finally been identified.

These facts, which were already public when “Screams without words” was published, should at least have caused the Times to question the consistency and plausibility of the Israeli army medic’s account and to seek further corroboration before publishing it.


Even a UN report whose authors relied largely on Israeli government sources concluded earlier this month that “at least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media” that supposedly took place in Kibbutz Be’eri “were unfounded.”

“It must be noted that witnesses and sources with whom the mission team engaged adopted over time an increasingly cautious and circumspect approach regarding past accounts, including in some cases retracting statements made previously,” the UN report states.

“Some also stated to the mission team that they no longer felt confident in their recollections of other assertions that had appeared in the media.”

“Overall, the mission team was unable to establish whether sexual violence occurred in Kibbutz Be’eri,” the UN report concludes.

By now, almost every element of “Screams without words” has fallen apart – along with the rest of Israel’s mass rapes propaganda.

And yet The New York Times continues to back an article that should – by any minimal standard of ethical journalism – be completely retracted.

It is particularly reprehensible and inexcusable that the Times is standing by the atrocity propaganda it has published as these lies are being used as justification for Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

Ali Abunimah is executive director of The Electronic Intifada.

David Sheen contributed translation and research.