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Gail Asper and Ayelet Razin Bet Or

Alayelt Razin Bet Or, Gail Asper, Al Benarroch and member of JCFS staff who planned the event

JCFS Puts On Powerful Program About Hamas's Sexual Violence -Heather Wells of CBC Ought to Apologize for Referring to Hamas's Sexual Offences as Alleged Offences

by Rhonda Spivak, January 28, 2024

JCFS’s program “Hear Our Voices: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Hamas Terror Attacks” that took place with a large crowd of 400 people at the CMHR on Jan 24, 2024 (with close to 600 people watching online) was a very powerful program. It was also important and timely as a mere couple days prior to the event Hamas released a document trying to rebrand itself not as a terror group but as a “national liberation and resistance movement.” In the document Hamas vehemently denied that it murdered, and raped Israeli civilians, including women and children, but claimed to have just attacked soldiers. Hamas is now denying the acts which it actually video- taped in real time, because it is now coming to realize that it will not be able to rule Gaza any longer, and hopes to become a political faction that is part of the Palestinian Authority which it thinks will be the likely ruler of Gaza in any “day after” scenario (and eventually Hamas hopes to win elections in the West Bank). 

It is thus now more important than ever to speak up against Hamas’s falsehoods and shine attention on Hamas’s sexual and gender based atrocities against innocent Israel Jewish women in Southern Israel. The JCFS event  was co-sponsored by the Asper Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and Jewish National Fund (MB and Sask).

Before reporting on the event below, it should be noted that Heather Wells on CBC Radio the morning after the program referred to  the sexual offences committed by Hamas as "alleged," notwithstanding Hamas terrorists videotaped and broadcast themselves committing these barbaric acts. This reference by Wells is egregious and shameful. She ought to apologize. Additionally a CBC report of the event referred to it being attended by dozens of people, which completely minimizes the number of people who were there.


Ayelet Razin Bet Or, an Israeli sex crimes prosecutor, women’s rights expert and former director for Israel’s Authority for the Advancement and Status of Women in the Ministry of Social Equality was the featured speaker at the event. It was moderated by Gail Asper, well known philanthropist, corporate lawyer, and community leader who explained that the daughter of friend of hers was at the rave music festival, where Hamas murdered, raped and gang raped many young people, but she miraculously survived As Asper told the CJN, her friend’s daughter, “survived the attack on the music festival, hiding under the bodies of others in a bomb shelter.” She was one of only seven out of 30 in the shelter who survived—two of the dead were the woman’s close friends, and a third was taken hostage. “By chance she made it, she could have been raped and murdered,” Asper told the CJN, adding the young woman is “traumatized beyond belief.” Asper also noted that her friend, who is a lawyer, recently saw the 47 minute video produced by Israel that is a collection of clips that Hamas terrorists took on Oct 7 of their atrocities, and felt that it should be seen by everyone in general, even though she had to look away for parts of it. 


Razin Bet Or, said that she has made it her "life's mission" to "bear witness," saying "It is a burden but a duty." She added, "We are here to speak about unspeakable acts," including "'rape, sexual assault and genital mutilation," which was perpetrated by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in a premeditated manner," while they were on "strong drugs." 


Razin Bet Or, noted that UNICEF made no tweets condemning Hamas terror, the World Health Organization made only two statements condemning Hamas, and UN Women also made no statements condemning Hamas terror. The world was essentially silent about the sexual abuse of Jewish Israeli women, which is likely ongoing againts female civilians held hostage in Gaza. She noted that one of the reasons that Hamas likely has not released all of the women it still holds captive is because there will be evidence that they were raped in captivity and there is growing concern some may be pregnant. 


What was devastating for Razin Bet Or, who considers herself a feminist, was the lack of support these women and all Israelis received from the worldwide feminist community. Israeli women were abandoned.


She spoke of the fact that Israel is now conducting "the largest criminal investigation in its history." It is amassing evidence from survivors of the rave, eyewitnesses, and first responders, and mental health professionals that is irrefutable that Jewish women were raped, and gang raped. She provided some gruesome details, including how some female Israeli soldier were shot in the crotch. There is also evidence from the interrogations of terrorists captured by Israel, "which leaves no doubt" that sexual and gender based violence was part of the "premeditated plan." Israel has found written guides in Arabic telling terrorists how to demand in Hebrew "take off your clothes."


Following Razin Bet Or's presentation, she and Asper discussed the unique intersection of feminist silence and antisemitism, and how women and men together can act and feel empowered to ensure that victims are heard and validated, and their rights respected. Asper began by noting that she could think of no better place than to have this conversation than the CMHR.


Razin Bet Or emphasized that because she had training in prosecutions of sexual assault, she felt she could contribute to bringing justice to Hamas's victims, and she urged the audience to speak up about these heinous atrocities  to family, friends, colleagues, journalists, politicians, and on social media. 


She also said that "I'm heart broken. Oct 7 shattered many pieces of my identity." She added that she had believed "in women's solidarity" and " worldwide sisterhood," but many women in the world turned their backs on Israeli women.


She expressed deep gratitude to the Winnipeg Jewish community for inviting her here to share her knowledge on the subject, and noted that  she has experienced trauma given this subject matter, and notwithstanding she has the love of her husband, family and kibbutz where she lives, when she wakes up on Shabbat mornings "something is sitting on my heart." She mentioned that she had been to New York and the UN and  heard from many Jewish people that they are experiencing "trauma" and "fear" due to the steep rise in antisemitism.


Razin Bet Or mentioned she had spoken to Foreign Minister Melanie Joly ,and told her about  "the rise of antisemitism" and how Jews abroad, including in Canada, have been traumatized.


When asked about how to deal with people who deny Hamas atrocities, Razin Bet Or stated, "People who don't want to believe [the truth] will not believe," but people who are "ignorant" or who don't understand" can be given information that will change their perspective.


When asked about how Israel will treat all the victims of trauma, Razin Bet Or noted that "we've never had to deal with this level of trauma" before. For example, first responders who will need to process what they have seen, have not been able to begin to do so since they were called up in the war.


Asper concluded the event by noting that the CMHR celebrates "ordinary people doing extraordinary things, " and said this applied to Razin Bet Or who is now engaging in the extraordinary work of compiling evidence  of sexual and gender based violence in the  Oct 7 attacks. She siad that JCFS had done something extraordinary by inviting Razin Bet Or to Winnipeg to speak. Razin Bet Or added that it is important to support victims of sexual abuse in our own community, and to "validate them."


When reflecting on the evening, Asper said, “I am so inspired by the difficult work Ayelet Razin Bet Or is doing to shine a light on the horrific atrocities perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli women and girls on October 7th. It was also gratifying to see over 400 people in attendance at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and close to 600 people tuning in online. People clearly want more information on this topic and I applaud JCFS for making this event happen.”


It's worth noting that  in Canada there have been those who have denied Hamas's rape of Israeli women. Susan Kim, a Victoria, B.C. city councillor and Ontario MPP Sarah Jama signed a letter which doubted the veracity of women’s evidence about sexual assault on Oct. 7. Jama was censured by the Ontario legislature and removed from the NDP caucus. As well the director of the University of Alberta’s Sexual Assault Centre in Edmonton signing the letter, and was fired as a result.


Prior to Razin Bet Or taking the podium, JCFS Executive Director Al Benarroch spoke, as did Jeff Lieberman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and Deborah Lyons, Canada's newly appointed envoy to combat Antisemitism. Benarroch indicated that JCFS had raised $13,000 toward programs to support women and girls.


Every year, JCFS Winnipeg provides supports to 2,500 women and girls. JCFS Winnipeg’s programs include Child Welfare, Counselling, Settlement, Older Adult Services, Mental Health and Addictions, Food Security, and more. JCFS Winnipeg also provides specialized supports to women like their monthly Rosh Chodesh Groups, Women’s Wellness presentations, and work with victims of domestic violence.




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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.