JUSTICE - No. 71

5 Spring 2024 organizations like UN Women, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have failed to condemn these crimes. They failed us, and all women, at this critical moment. As a woman and a mother, my heart goes out to women and children in Gaza suffering the consequences of the war started by Hamas. I believe they deserve aid and support. But this does not mean the erasure of the atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists on October 7. The silence of international human rights organizations, and the unwillingness to believe Israeli women in the face of overwhelming evidence has been devastating. For the Israelis who have always been on the forefront of the fight for women's rights worldwide, this was a moment of crushing disappointment. A disappointment shared with me by one of our most prominent women's rights advocates, Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a former CEDAW vice-chair. ”I knew it would be difficult to get them to issue a reasonable statement,” she said of the UN committee in a Harvard Medical School video conference, ”but never did I imagine that when faced with such undeniable atrocities – given the very purpose for which they have been established – that they would actually resort to not acknowledging it at all.” Ignoring the ”unprecedented, premeditated and extreme cruelty of the sexual violence committed by Hamas,” Prof. Halperin-Kaddari added, meant not only failing Israeli women but failing the entire international human rights system. ”I still am a believer in this system. But this was a huge blow to this belief.” I agree with every word. To mark this year's International Day for the Prevention of Violence against Women, Israeli women – Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze – will gather at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. We will meet in the lingering shock of the violation of our rights, and with the profound sense that all of us who believe in those rights have been betrayed. Yet we will persist in presenting the truth to the world and to every human rights organization. We owe it not only to our own victims, but to all women who will face these crimes in the future and must know that they are not alone. n Michal Herzog is First Lady of the State of Israel. The views expressed in this article are the writer's own. Mrs. Herzog is a lawyer by profession, who has been active in the field of mental health and heavily engaged in voicing the particular cruelty endured by Israeli women in the course of the Hamas attack.

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