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We have to be outraged': Calling out silence over Hamas' sexual violence

2023-12-06 (#190)

Westchester County, NY DA Mimi Rocah and Joyce Vance join Morning Joe to discuss the lack of international outrage over the reports of sexual violence committed in the Hamas terror attacks.

Video Transcription:

So today the united nations is going to

hold a hearing on the sexual and gender

based violence reported during the attack and the

silence from the international community that followed.

Joining us now, former U. S.

Attorney and MSNBC legal analyst, Joyce Vance,

District attorney for New York's Westchester County, Mimi Roka.

They are co authors of a new opinion

piece in Slate calling out the lack of

international outrage over the reports of sexual violence

committed in the October 7 hamas terror attacks.

A lot of it is seen on video and documented

in video of women who were raped, killed while they

were being raped, young girls who were raped.

I mean, the evidence is clear, and

yet, Mimi, I'll start with you.

There has not been a focus on this as a

war crime or on this enough, according to many who

believe women's rights are not even being considered here.


Thank you so much, Joe Mika,

for talking about this important topic.

And I guess the thing I would say, given the clip

you played, is why we don't have to be balanced in

our outrage, which I think is the phrase that was used.

We should not be balanced in our outrage, not

against the Palestinians, by the way, she said Palestinians.

It's against Hamas.

Hamas did this on October 7.

And we have to be outraged because, first of all,

the girls who had their pelvic bones broken because they

were raped so much, whose legs were broken, who were

shot while people were still raping them, they deserve us

to be outraged, as any woman of any background would.

Second, because there are still young women hostages,

and we have every reason to believe something

horrible may be happening to them.

And so we have to be outraged.

The whole world has to be outraged and demand their

release now, just as we've done for other girls who

were taken captive in other parts of the world.

And finally, Mika, and this is the most nuanced

point, but I hope women everywhere understand it.

It's because this hurts women everywhere when we say,

tell us, don't believe what your eyes are seeing.

When we let people with an agenda like

Hamas men dictate when we believe rape happened. No.

We have evidence here.

I'm a prosecutor.

Joyce is a prosecutor.

We look at the video.

We listen to the witness testimony.

We hear the accounts of people who saw

it, and we can't let other people tell

us when to believe rape happened. It happened.

And we have to support all women everywhere.

Joyce fans, your take and what do

you think needs to be done?

So I think, Mika, that Mimi makes

the most important point here, and it

gives us the starting point going forward.

This is, as y'all have been discussing

this morning, a hopelessly complicated crisis.

The question is, what's the path forward?

And perhaps a small piece of that starts

with an acknowledgement of our common humanity.

It's not complicated to condemn rape.

It shouldn't be difficult.

And often in the heat of the moment,

it's difficult for people to reconcile their emotions.

Now, the United Nations hearings give us

an opportunity to evaluate the evidence, and

that's what Mimi and I do.

As prosecutors, we're used to discussing the

evidence, even in these horrific sexual crimes,

in a very straightforward manner.

This will be painful and difficult

for many people to listen to.

But the evidence, the eyewitness accounts, the accounts of

medics and first responders absolutely confirms that these rapes

took place, that they were torture rapes.

Now, it's incumbent upon women in the international community

and here domestically, to take a moment to reflect

and to evaluate on what the evidence says.

And then we can speak with one

voice and say, this is wrong.

It doesn't matter if it happens in war.

It certainly shouldn't make a difference that

the victims are Jews and Israelis.

We can condemn this and acknowledge our shared

humanity and begin to move forward to deal

with the other implications of this cris.

Mimi during World War II, military code law was that

American soldiers who raped a woman could be executed.

And that actually relaxed a bit just

because men of color were convicted unfairly

and Eisenhower intervened in a case.

And then by the time we got to Germany, it

wasn't necessarily that an American soldier would get convicted.

And George Patton was infuriated.

And that was the ethos of the US.

Military during that war.

If any American soldier raped a

woman, they should be executed.

How did we get from that to today where

you have American leaders trying to equivocate here?

I don't totally know the answer to that, but my

educated guess or opinion is that it's about victim blaming.

And that's why I say this is so dangerous to

all women, because for many complicated reasons, as Joyce says.

And I'm not here as an expert on

foreign relations or the war itself or anything.

I'm here on this one issue about women and

sexual assault and believing victims and believing the evidence

that we see in front of our eyes.

But I also am very familiar with victim blaming.

I mean, we know it in this country.

From her skirt was too short, she drank too

much, and we've all fought, I think, quite hard

for decades to get away from that.

And this feels very reminiscent of that.

The girls at the music festival have nothing

to do with the bombing that's happening now.

But yet when you pivot from, yes,

rape is bad, but don't bomb Gaza,

you're inherently blaming these victims for that.

And I think that's what's going

on here with some people.

I mean, this is a generalization, and it's wrong, and

it's dangerous for all of us, for all women everywhere.

Joyce what you and me are concerned

about in part, is the international community's

failure to condemn the rapes.

What more do we need to know about that.

Who are we talking about?

What have they failed to do?


So there was silence for a lengthy period of time.

There were even some folks who suggested,

as Mimi's been discussing, that the accounts

of these rapes weren't credible.

I think today there's a little bit of a restart.

The United Nations was extremely slow

to acknowledge and condemn these rapes.

Now we appear to be on that path.

These are war crimes, and they

can be prosecuted as such.

It's also a possibility, quite frankly, that the

Justice Department could engage on the topic of

American women who were kidnapped and who were

raped, and there could be prosecutions.

Israeli law on conspiracy is a little bit

different than our law in the United States.

It's more demanding and restrictive in terms of

the need to specifically show an agreement that

encompassed an agreement that Israeli women would be

raped as part of this operation.

There is evidence that indicates that there was

preparation and advanced planning, including linguistic help, people

being told how to speak Israeli, to tell

women to pull down their pants.

There's been some testimony from people who were

involved on the Hamas side that there was

perhaps a religious waiver, a fatwa, that permitted

them to violate traditional Muslim dictates against rape.

All of this deserves examination and scrutiny, and really,

it demands it, because, as Mimi says, if women

aren't safe in Israel, then women aren't safe anywhere.

If we can use justifications to blame individual

victims, young women who were asleep in a

kibbutz and here we're talking in some cases

about teenage girls and younger.

If we can blame women who were attending a

concert for the policy seas of a nation that

they may or may not have supported and used

that to justify rape, women are not safe anywhere.

So we need to begin to speak out more

strongly than we have up until this point. Former U. S.

Attorney Joyce Vance and District Attorney for

New York's Westchester County, Mimi Roca.

Thank you both very much for coming on this morning.

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