The following article by Jonathan Cook was first posted on his blog at Substack. It highlights the inconsistencies in the official Israeli account of events on and since October 7th and the willingness of much of the western media to go along with this, making it easier for Israel to pursue its genocidal policy in Gaza and its ethnic cleansing in the West Bank.

Jonathan Cook updated this article, which we have reposted below as 2.Hamas ‘mass rape’ claim lacks evidence. But it’s being used to justify genocide.


How do politicians, diplomats, the media and even the human rights community keep us politically ignorant, docile and passive – a collective mindset that prevents us from challenging their power as well as the status quo they benefit from?

The answer: By constantly misrepresenting reality to us and their own role in shaping it. And they do it so successfully because, at the same time, they gaslight us by flaunting the pretence that they crave to make the world a better place – a better place where, in truth, the unspoken danger is that, were those advances to be realised, their own power would be severely diminished.

A perfect illustration of how this grand deception works was provided in a report at the weekend in the supposedly progressive Guardian newspaper, headlined “World faces ‘heightened risk’ of mass atrocities due to global inaction”.

The opening paragraph reports that human rights activists fear the “international community has given up on intervention efforts to stop mass atrocities, leading to fears that such occurrences may become the norm around the world”.

In practice, this “failure”, according to the report, has manifested in an abandonment by western states of the principle of R2P – or “responsibility to protect”. This principle and related “humanitarian” pretexts were used to justify the US and its allies meddling since the 1990s variously in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, with disastrous consequences.

Millions were killed as a result of R2P-type interventions and tens of millions displaced, leading to mass movements of people that are seen today by western states in terms of an “illegal immigration threat”.

Sustained massacre

The context for the human rights community’s concerns, we are told, are growing abuses of the Genocide Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both were adopted in the immediate wake of the second world war to prevent a repeat of the Nazi holocaust and widespread atrocities committed against civilians on both sides of the fighting.

One might have assumed, at this point, that such fears have been heightened – resulting in their being raised at the United Nations – by the most egregious genocide of modern times: the sustained massacre over two months of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the wanton destruction of the vast majority of their homes to drive the survivors out of Gaza and into Egypt.

More than 18,000 Palestinians are known to have been killed by Israel so far, most of them women and children. More than 100,000 homes have been made uninhabitable. Some 2.3m Palestinians have been herded into a tiny, ever shrinking space, close to the border with Egypt, denied water,food, and fuel.

This combined act of genocide and ethnic cleansing is the most intense, visible and industrial – using the very latest and most powerful weaponry available – in living memory.

But extraordinarily, that does not appear to be the central concern of the “international community”. According to the Guardian, the following are the global crises primarily driving a steep rise in atrocities:

“The mass killing of civilians in Syria and Ukraine, and the internment of over a million Uyghurs and other Muslims in China, have been followed by war crimes in Ethiopia, and a resumption of ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s Darfur province, 20 years after the start of the genocide there.”

Notice anything significant about this list? It comprises only mass atrocities being committed by those not firmly within the US imperial sphere of subservience.

The mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza, which has been in the headlines for many weeks, cannot be credibly overlooked. So it is mentioned – but notice how the spotlight is sharply directed away from the present, highly pertinent events in Israel and Palestine. The genocide in Gaza, which has driven many millions of protesters on to the streets across Europe and North America, becomes an afterthought:

“The 7 October Hamas killing of 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and the consequent Israeli invasion of Gaza, in which women and children have accounted for most of the estimated 16,000 dead, have added to the bloody chaos.”

Manifold deceptions

The deceptions here are manifold, and not just because Gaza ought to be top of the list of concerns, not at the bottom.

The formulaic framing in this paragraph is designed – as ever in western reporting – to create a false equivalence between Hamas’ actions and Israel’s, and engender a sense that Israel’s mass slaughter of Palestinians is caused, and excused, by Hamas’ preceding mass slaughter of Israelis.

It should hardly need restating that Hamas’ breakout of the prison that is Gaza – and its predictably dire consequences – was preceded by decades of Israeli military abuses of Palestinians under military occupation and an illegal 16-year siege of their territory depriving more than 2 million people of their freedom, basic rights and dignity.

There has been a constant, slow-motion atrocity in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for decades – long before the human rights community, the UN and the Guardian raised their new concerns about “a heightened risk of atrocity crimes”.

There is, too, a clear difference between the exceptional, one-off violence Hamas was able to wreak on October 7 because of dramatic and unexpected failures in Israel’s surveillance and control of the Palestinian population in Gaza and Israel’s intensification of the structural violence of a decades-long occupation and siege.

These, all too obviously, are not the same things – and they do not pose even vaguely comparable threats to the status of the Genocide Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To suggest otherwise – as all western reporting does constantly – is to exaggerate the threat posed to international law by the atrocities committed by Hamas and dramatically underplay the significance of Israel’s genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Weapons testing lab

But there is a far deeper problem with the framing of these concerns. The critical problem is not “global inaction” over mass atrocities. It is the opposite: intense western – chiefly US – support for, and complicity in, such atrocities.

This problem is highlighted only too clearly by events in Gaza. Which is precisely why it is included reluctantly, and only as an afterthought, in the list of threats to international humanitarian law. The US is not helpless in the unfolding genocide. It is actively facilitating it. In fact, Israel’s genocide and ethnic cleansing would be impossible without not just US collusion but active participation.

The mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza is occurring because the US has supplied many of the heavy-duty bombs razing Gaza’s high-rises and killing its children.

The slaughter is occurring because the US has sent warships to the region to intimidate neighbouring Arab states and militant groups into remaining quiet as Gaza’s civilians are murdered.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah, for example, is quite capable of ending “global inaction”, by engaging Israel militarily and drawing Israeli firepower away from Gaza. But no one in the “international community” presumably wants that kind of “action”.

Upgrade to paid

The mass slaughter in Gaza is occurring because the US used its veto at the UN Security Council last Friday to block a ceasefire.

It is occurring because the US has funded the Iron Dome missile interception system that stops Hamas being able to fire rockets on Israeli communities – mirroring on a tiny scale Israel’s destruction in Gaza – to raise the political pressure in Israel for a ceasefire.

The slaughter is occurring because Washington has for decades propped up Israel’s military with the bulk of the US overseas aid budget, and let Israel use the Palestinian territories as a profitable laboratory for testing new weapons systems, surveillance techniques and cyber technology.

Peace talks blocked

The problem here is most definitely not “inaction”. It is that the US picks and chooses when and how it wants to be active in creating, sustaining and ending conflicts around the globe.

Noticeably absent from the list of concerns about the spread of atrocities is the suffering of Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been waging a genocidal war for years. On average, four Yemeni children have been killed or maimed each day over the past eight years by Saudi atrocities.

Why is Yemen overlooked? Because factions there are seen as allies of Iran and therefore enemies of the West whose lives count for nothing. Because Riyadh is a critically important US ally and supplier of oil. And because the US and Britain have been arming the Saudis to the hilt to commit the genocide there.

Similarly, in Ukraine. The vast majority of the casualties on both sides of the fighting might have been avoided if peace talks had not been blocked by the US and Britain in the first weeks after Russia’s invasion.

It was that “action” and others – such as the threatening expansion of Nato to Russia’s borders and the West’s flooding of Ukraine with weapons on the false promise that Nato would have Kyiv’s back – that ensured nearly two years of war and its tragic death toll.

As with Gaza, the problem has not been inaction, it’s been far too much action from the US and its lapdogs in Europe of the very kind designed to assist in slaughter and genocides.

‘You must obey’

There is, however, a reason why the “international community” is raising concerns about “atrocity crimes” now, while downplaying or denying the worst possible atrocity crime – genocide – in Gaza.

And that is because Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7 signifies a dangerous moment for western domination of the so-called “global, rules-based order”. The concern is not really about a rise in mass atrocities. The West is just fine with atrocities when it commits them or it helps others carry them out.

It is about the West’s increasing difficulty of keeping the rest of the world weak, intimidated and subdued through the use of its own atrocities. US military failures in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine – and the growing self-assurance of Russia and China – are marking out new limits to Washington’s supremacy.

The truth is that Hamas’ attack on Israel – horrific as its consequences were – served as a signpost to a different future for many of those who have lived for decades under the thumb, or more often the boot, of the US and its allies. They see that it is possible, even as an oppressed, weak, abused party, to give the bullying global hegemon and its sidekicks a bloody nose.

What is seen by privileged, complacent westerners purely in terms of senseless, barbaric violence is understood by others as a slave revolt – as an “I am Spartacus” moment.

Which is why, just as happened after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so much of the rest of the world is failing to join the West in its self-righteous chorus of outrage and condemnation. They view these professions of indignation as pure hypocrisy.

It is the reason, too, why the US is being so indulgent as Israel goes about its genocidal rampage in Gaza. The importance for Washington is not stopping Israel’s atrocities but making sure Israel reasserts its famed “deterrence” to provide a lesson to those who might be inspired to wage their own slave revolt.

In front of the cameras, the Biden administration is calling for restraint and urging Israel to minimise civilian casualties. But behind the scenes, it is carefully calibrating just how much savagery Israel needs to unleash to send the right message to the non-Western world: You cannot win. You must obey.



The BBC and other media outlets keep revisiting the crimes Hamas committed on October 7, but have failed to report on growing evidence that Israel killed its own citizens that day, often in grotesque fashion. My latest article can be read here:My previous article makes the point that these allegations against Hamas are being used to justify a genocidal bombing campaign that it is known to have killed so far more than 19,000 Palestinians, a majority of them women and children, as well as an ethnic cleansing campaign that has driven some 2 million Palestinians from their homes and left them exposed to disease and starvation in a tiny area, pressed up against the short border with Egypt.

The goal is obvious: to push Palestinians out of Gaza and into Sinai.

But here I want to address another, more specific part of what amounts to an Israeli and media psy-op against western publics: the claim that Hamas leaders ordered their fighters to carry out mass rape against Israelis, and that those fighters indeed used sexual assault systematically, as a weapon of war.

If true, this would count in international law as a crime against humanity.

Gaza breakout

The veracity of this claim is now treated as axiomatic by western media and politicians, even though there appears to be no meaningful evidence for it.

Remember the argument being made by those justifying the genocidal bombing campaign in Gaza is not that isolated instances of rape or sexual assault occurred.

Given that Palestinians flooded out of Gaza that day after Hamas fighters broke through the prison fence, only a fool would argue with certainty that no rapes or sexual assaults occurred.

But it should not be incumbent on those questioning the Israeli narrative – the one contending that there was planned, systematic, mass rape on October 7 – to prove that no sexual violence occurred.

Rather, it is the responsibilty of those making the accusation – Israel, western politicians, the western media – to back up their claim with solid evidence. Otherwise they are simply rationalising the far graver and greater crimes now being committed in Gaza against Palestinians.

Producing a few photos that may, or may not, show evidence of sexual violence is not evidence that Hamas ordered, and its fighters carried out, mass rape.

Relaying testimony that a witness saw a gang rape is not evidence that Hamas ordered, and its fighters carried out, mass rape.

And the claims of the highly ideological and unreliable leaders of Zaka’s first responders unit do not count as evidence either – unless they can be substantiated with other kinds of evidence.

The evidential bar in international law is high for a reason: because the charge is so grave.

But in this case, the bar needs to be high for an additional reason: because Israel’s response – the mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza premised on the supposed savagery of Hamas’ crimes – is graver still by an order of magnitude.

Two long articles in the respected Haaretz newspaper – Israel’s version of the New York Times – purportedly providing the evidence for mass rape are worth picking apart because they form the backbone of claims being recycled by western politicians and the western media.

The first is a kind of evidential overview. The other is a profile of Cochav Elkayam-Levy, who founded the “Civil Commission on October 7 Crimes by Hamas against Women and Children” which has been at the forefront of making allegations of mass rape by Hamas.

The profile article concludes: “The aggregation of the evidence presents a horrifying picture that leaves no room for doubt: Under cover of the massacre, Hamas carried out a campaign of rape and sexual abuse.”

Having made this bold assertion, however, the article and its companion piece then spend a great deal of time setting out the many and varied reasons why there is little evidence that Hamas carried out systematic, mass rape.

Doubtless, as these articles state, the Israeli military and police were too busy fighting Hamas to record and collect evidence. Doubtless, some bodies were too burned – most likely by Israeli shelling and missile strikes, as my previous article highlighted – for forensic examination to be possible. Doubtless, many potential witnesses were killed that day.

But the absence of evidence cannot be treated as evidence, as it is by Haaretz and the western media. Only those reading these two articles through an entirely ideological lens – one seeking to play on a racist trope of the primitive, predatory Arab male so as to rationalise the mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza – can fail to notice that lack of meaningful evidence.

Regarding the claim that the Hamas leadership ordered its fighters to carry out rape, the main overview article cites David Katz, an Israeli police commander investigating the October 7 attack. According to Haaretz, he says “it’s premature to determine whether Hamas terrorists received specific instructions to commit rape”.

In other words, there is no evidence for such an order.

The actual evidence that mass rape was carried out cited in the two articles essentially amounts to this:

“According to a police source, so far, they have one witness account of a rape. The witness’ account was recently revealed in the media. She attested to seeing a woman being gang raped, mutilated and murdered…

“Senior security officials say that some of the terrorists from Hamas’ elite Nukhba Force unit and other Gazans held by the Shin Bet security service and the police have accused their comrades of sexual violence…

“The police also have dozens of accounts from Zaka volunteers and soldiers about women’s bodies being found inside homes without underwear. Those accounts also describe physical signs of sexual abuse on bodies at the crime scenes.”

Fabricated claims

That this amounts to the sum of evidence for the claim that Hamas carried systematic, mass rape should be shocking to anyone other than the most fanatical Israel defenders.

The idea that the testimonies of Hamas fighters – or of anyone else in Israeli detention – can be treated as credible evidence is patently absurd. As has been well documented, torture is standard practice in interrogations of Palestinians, and is even used against children.

No one can seriously argue that Hamas fighters interrogated by Israel following the October 7 atrocities were not subjected to the most extreme “pressure” techniques. Is it likely that none were willing to falsely “confess” to witnessing rapes to ease that pressure?

Such “testimonies” would be worthless in any court of law outside Israel.

As for the allegations from male Zaka volunteers, a hardline religious organisation best known for collecting Jewish remains for burial, they are best treated with the utmost scepticism.

These are the same male volunteers already caught inventing or relaying the most lurid, fabricated claims against Hamas, such as that it beheaded 40 babies, put a baby in an oven, hung other babies from a clothes line, and ripped a foetus from its mother’s womb.

According to Israel’s own figures, two infants were killed that day.

The Zaka volunteers appear to have an ideological agenda: to fuel as much hatred against Palestinians as possible to justify the kind of genocidal response we have been witnessing over the past two months.

Fearful witnesses

That leaves an anonymous witness testimony, that may or may not be credible, and a handful of photos whose contents are ripe for interpretation and dispute.

Assuming that all of this evidence can be taken definitively at face value, that would still not show that Hamas ordered rape or that Hamas fighters carried out systematic rapes, or even conclusively that Hamas fighters carried out any rapes.

It would at most demonstrate that there were isolated, opportunistic instances of rape, and that they were carried out by a few of the people who broke out of Gaza that day, not necessarily Hamas fighters.

The reason why Israel’s apologists for genocide need to inflate their claim is because, sadly, opportunistic rape would be entirely unremarkable in any violent, militarised situation – and indeed unremarkable in behaviours towards women in western societies in general.

It would mean that any sexual violence against Israeli women that occurred on October 7 was as representative of a general Palestinian savagery as sexual violence by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian women – examples can be found here and here – is of a general Israeli savagery. Which is not at all.

The same Israelis and westerners who express concern that Israeli women are fearful of coming forward to tell of their experiences on October 7, as Elkayam-Levy stresses, have in the past shown precisely zero concern that Palestinian women, who live under a belligerent military occupation, have been fearful for decades of telling of their experiences at the hands of unaccountable Israeli soldiers.

However, unlike the lack of evidence that Hamas ordered rape as a weapon of war, we do have evidence – from the Israeli media – that an Israeli military leader encouraged Israeli soldiers to rape Palestinian women to “boost morale”.

So how have we reached a point where it is taken as “self-evident” in the West that Hamas ordered systematic, mass rape, and that this forms part of the basis for Israel’s right to wage a genocidal campaign against Palestinians masquerading as “self-defence”?

Burden of proof

Significantly, the claim of systematic rape made against Hamas is being enthusiastically embraced by some Israeli and western feminists as the latest MeToo moment – but on a far greater scale than ever before.

That seems to be the case with Elkayam-Levy, founder of the October 7 civil commission and a former spokeswoman for the Israeli military. She views the issue of Hamas rapes entirely through an ideological lens – and one designed to silence critics of her project, including women.

While claiming victimhood for herself and her commission, she celebrates the fact that its campaigning helped pressure the University of Alberta to sack Samantha Pearson, the head of the university’s sexual assault centre, for requiring evidence of the rape allegations against Hamas.

She names Reem Alsalem, a special rapporteur at the United Nations Human Rights Council on protecting women from violence, as their next target for dismissal. She states: “Our intention is to expose the world to a figure who is just abusing – I have no other word for it – global public funds.”

Elkayam-Levy worries that October 7 is being made to “vanish from the timeline”, even as she recounts the intense interest from western journalists in amplifying the commission’s evidence-lite claims.

And of course, she calls out as “antisemites” those who advise caution and believe evidence is important, especially when a genocide is being rationalised in Tel Aviv and western capitals on the basis of the mass rape allegations.

Faced with the demands for evidence from UN bodies, she expresses outrage: “Am I the one who needs to provide the evidence for the terrorists’ deeds? What kind of travesty is it that they are imposing the burden of proof on me?”

The answer, of course, is that Elkayam-Levy imposed that burden on herself, by founding the commission at the centre of the campaign to accuse Hamas of carrying out systematic, mass rape.

‘Believe women’

The dangerous consequences are all too clear. Crying “Believe women” – or largely in this case, “Believe Hamas torture victims and proven male fabulists from Zaka” – is being weaponised to mean “Kill Palestinians”.

Simply accepting these claims as self-evident when the evidence is absent is to particpate in the abuse of rape allegations to justify subjecting Palestinians in Gaza – including many, many thousands of women and children – to atrocities on an even greater scale.

Yes, in theory it might be possible to give the benefit of the doubt to those claiming Hamas committed systematic, mass rape while still opposing the mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza as a response. But that is not the world our politicians and media inhabit, or allow us to inhabit.

Which is why the evidential bar has to be high. But in Israel’s case, the evidence is thin indeed.

That high bar is not just relevant for jurists and the law courts. It must apply to those reporting right now on events in Israel and Palestine. Yet, once again, the western media has failed in its most basic duties.

Like doctors, journalists should strive to do no harm. We should record and explain, not smooth the path to genocide by peddling minsinformation.

We should seek to hold the powerful to account, not make the commission of their crimes easier.

And at our best, we should want to strengthen society’s democratic impulses through the dissemination of accurate information, not trade in incitement and defamation.

None of this is happening. The same western media that has suppressed testimonies showing that Israel carried out crimes against its own citizens on October 7 is inflating the number and extent of Hamas atrocities, unsupported by evidence.

The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that the media are willing and active participants in the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza. Those crimes are not just willed by Israel; they are willed by western elites who view Israel as a projection of their power into the oil-rich Middle East.




also see:-

Uday, One Day – Jim Aitken, Culture Matters

EL&SD coverage of Palestine, Zionism and Israel since 2002