|• Langue originale : anglais
After dismantling a New York Times front page feature alleging “a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7” by Hamas, The Grayzone is demanding answers of the paper for its journalistic malpractice.
Editor’s note (The Grayzone): The following was submitted to New York Times editors and lead author, Jeffrey Gettleman.
The Grayzone has identified serious issues with the credibility of key sources quoted in the New York Times’ December 28 story, “Screams Without Words: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on October 7.” Authored by Jeffrey Gettleman, Anat Schwartz, and Adam Sella, the article purports to prove “a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7” than even Israeli authorities have been willing to allege. However, the Times report is marred by sensationalism, wild leaps of logic, and an absence of concrete evidence to support its sweeping conclusion.
The Times has come under fire from family members of Gal Abdush, the so-called “girl in the black dress” who features as Exhibit A in Gettleman and company’s attempt to demonstrate a pattern of rape by Hamas on October 7. Not only have Abdush’s sister and brother-in-law each denied that she was raped, the former has accused the Times of manipulating her family into participating by misleading them about their editorial angle. Though the family’s comments have sparked a major uproar on social media, the Times has yet to address the serious breach of journalistic integrity that its staff is accused of committing.
The Israeli police have also issued a statement since the publication of the Times’ article asserting that they themselves are unable to locate eyewitnesses of rape on October 7, or to connect the testimonies published by outlets like the Times with anything remotely resembling evidence.
We call on the New York Times to publicly address the comments by the Abdush family accusing Times reporters of misleading them and lying about the circumstances of her death. The Times must also address the statement issued by Israel’s police subsequent to the article’s publication and explain why Gettleman and his co-authors apparently omitted it.
Further, we demand a response to our thoroughly sourced debunking of testimony by key witnesses quoted in the story, as well as the documented record of discredited claims and ethically dubious activity by those same witnesses.
We have provided several questions for your consideration. If you are unable to furnish responses which satisfactorily address the issues we have raised about the credibility of your article, we believe it must be retracted in full.
You write, “Based largely on the video evidence — which was verified by the New York Times — Israeli police officials said they believed that [Gal] Abdush was raped, and she has become a symbol of the horrors visited upon Israeli women and girls during the Oct. 7 attacks.”
However, the sister of Gal Abdush, Miral Alter, stated in a January 2 Instagram comment that “she was not raped […] There was no proof that there was rape, it was only a video.” She also pointed out that the timeline between Gal’s last message to the family and the time of her reported murder made it impossible for a rape to occur: “How in 4 minutes [were] they also raped and burned [?]”
Alter concluded, “the New York Times that came to us indicated that they wanted to do a story in memory of Gal and Nagy [her husband] and that’s why we approved. If we knew that it was a headline like rape slaughter, we would never agree. Never.”
Is Alter’s statement accusing you of misleading her family true? And why have you ignored her comments bluntly stating that her sister had not been raped? Did you and Alter ever discuss your theory that Abdush was the victim of a sexual assault?
Gal Abdush’s brother-in-law has also spoken out against the claims contained in your article. In a January 4 interview with Israel’s Channel 13, Nissim Abdush denied that Gal had been raped, insisting that it would have been impossible given her husband was present with her at the time. “The media invented it,” he stated. Nissim Abdush also accused the international press — presumably referring to you — of resorting to sensationalism in place of evidence-based journalism. Finally, he lamented that the false claims of his sister-in-law’s rape were harmful to the psychological health of her orphaned children.
Once again, why have you failed to incorporate statements by a family member of Gal Abdush explicitly contradicting key claims in your article?
Eti Bracha, the mother of Gal Abdush, told Israel’s YNet she was first told that her daughter had been raped when she was contacted by you. “We didn’t know about the rape at first, we only knew when the New York Times reporter contacted us. They said they cross-examined the evidence and said that Gal had been sexually assaulted. Until now we don’t know what exactly happened,” added the mother.
Is it normal journalistic protocol to influence a family’s perspective of a loved one’s killing, when the crime remains unsolved? How did the New York Times obtain evidence which the Bracha-Abdush family had not yet seen? And what evidence existed beyond the video mentioned in your article?
There are more issues with your reporting on the killing of Gal Abdush. You claim that a video of Abdush filmed on October 8 by someone named Eden Wessely “went viral, with thousands of people responding, desperate to know if the woman in the black dress [was] their missing friend, sister or daughter.”
However, as the independent outlet Mondoweiss pointed out, you “did not link to the video but released a distant, indistinct image from it that revealed nothing.” Mondoweiss questions how you “confirmed the existence of these responses since Wessely’s Instagram account has been banned, and she created a new account in mid-December.”
Further, as Mondoweiss noted, “There is currently no trace of the video on the internet despite the [NY Times] claim that it ‘went viral.’ Moreover, the Israeli press, despite reporting on hundreds of stories about the October 7 victims, never mentioned ‘the woman in the black dress’ even once previous to the December 28 story.”
So where is the video that you claimed “went viral”? If it contained such powerful evidence of sexual violence, why was it not featured in your article? And how did you confirm the thousands of responses to the video by people supposedly demanding information about “the woman in the black dress”?
Haaretz reported on January 4, “The police are having difficulty locating victims of sexual assault from the Hamas attack, or people who witnessed such attacks, and decided to appeal to the public to encourage those who have information on the matter to come forward and give testimony. Even in the few cases in which the organization collected testimony about sexual offenses committed on October 7, it failed to connect the acts with the victims who were harmed by them.”
Why are the Israeli police struggling to find witnesses of sexual assault which your paper confidently described on October 7 as so widespread that it demonstrated “a pattern?”
You describe a 24-year-old accountant identified as “Sapir” as “one of the Israeli police’s key witnesses.”
Yet one of Sapir’s key claims undermines the rest of her testimony. According to the Times, “she saw three other women raped and terrorists carrying the severed heads of three more women.”
Given that no record exists of women being beheaded on October 7, why did you include this claim from Sapir? Does such an assertion not undermine her credibility and raise doubts about the rest of her testimony? And why, at minimum, did you not mention that there is no forensic evidence to support Sapir’s claim?
According to Haaretz, “investigators were unable to identify the women who, according to the testimony of [Sapir] and other eyewitnesses, were raped and murdered.” Israeli Police Superintendent Adi Edry told the paper, “I have circumstantial evidence, but ultimately my duty is to find evidence that supports her testimony and to find the victims’ identity. At this stage I don’t have those specific corpses.”
Why did the New York Times fail to interview Edry and other investigators about Sapir’s testimony, and demand corroborating evidence to support the supposed witness’s lurid claims of gang rape, mutilation and mass beheadings? How do Edry’s statements to Haaretz reflect on Sapir’s reliability?
You also neglected to note a glaring discrepancy between Sapir’s claims to you and in previous accounts. Sapir is the only known female witness who claims to have seen sexual violence on Oct. 7th. Her story — and that of another male “witness,” Yura, who was with her — has radically changed.
On Nov. 8th, Haaretz reported that a female witness — almost certainly Sapir — claimed that she saw men in fatigues bend one woman over, shoot her in the head, and mutilate her body.
Her friend who was hiding with her — all but certainly Yura — then claims he “didn’t see the rape,” but that Sapir “told him at the time what she saw.”
Fast forward to Dec. 28th, and Sapir and Yura tell the NYT a completely new tale:
According to Sapir, there is now not one woman victim, but two women. And now no one is shot. The first woman was bent over and repeatedly knifed in the back when she flinched. The second woman was raped, had her breast cut off, and the terrorists supposedly played with the breast. Then she saw three severed heads.
And whereas Yura previously did not witness the rape, he now — according to the NYT — says he “described seeing a woman raped and killed.”
So at this point, according to these “witnesses,” there is not one but two female rape victims. And there is no longer a mere shooting, but a breast mutilation, knifing, and three severed heads. What’s more, the male “witness” now suddenly remembers seeing a rape after not seeing one the first time he told the story.
Why did you ignore these glaring discrepancies from your own “witnesses”? If these are somehow different witnesses, why did you neglect to interview them or even mention their existence?
You write, “A paramedic in an Israeli commando unit said that he had found the bodies of two teenage girls in a room in Be’eri. 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.”
You report that the paramedic conveniently “kept moving and did not document the scene.” However, “neighbors of the two girls killed — who were sisters, 13 and 16 — said their bodies had been found alone, separated from the rest of their family.”
That paramedic appears to be the same source CNN relied on in its own special report accusing Hamas of a systematic and deliberate campaign of rape on October 7. He is a supposed paramedic from Israeli Air Force Special Tactics rescue unit 669 identified only as “G.” And like your other sources, he has proven to be an unreliable, if not deeply dishonest, witness.
The closest match to the teenage girls described by “G” is Yahel and Noiya Sharabi, who were 13 and 16, respectively. But according to the Times of Israel, the girls’ bodies were “found in an embrace” with their mother, and not “alone, separated from the rest of the family,” as stated by the anonymous neighbors you quoted.
Israeli media has also reported, “Lianne and Yahel [Sharabi] could only be identified through DNA samples. Noiya was identified through her teeth only two days ago.”
How was the paramedic “G” able to detect semen on one of the girls, and bruises on the other, and view their states of undress, if their bodies were, in fact, burned beyond recognition?
Why did you not cross check the anonymous, supposed paramedic’s testimony with evidence from the scene?
“G” was previously interviewed by the right-wing Republic TV of India. In that appearance, he described in a distinctive Brooklyn accent how his “teammate” found “a baby, perhaps not even more than a year old, with multiple points stabbed all over his body and tossed into the garbage.”
This was a clear falsehood, as only one baby was recorded among the dead on October 7: Mila Cohen, who was accidentally shot, not stabbed, and who was not found in any garbage can.
Why did the documented record of fabrication by “G” not lead you to question his testimony? Did you vet “G” to verify that he was actually on the ground in Kibbutz Be’eri when he said he was? How do you know he was a paramedic with an Israeli special forces unit, and not an Israeli intelligence operative?
Similar issues of credibility arise when considering the testimony you collected from an Israeli special forces veteran and mercenary named Raz Cohen.
Since his first interview on October 9, Cohen has altered his testimony several times.
Cohen told the NYT he personally witnessed a white van filled with Hamas militants pull up a mile from the Nova music festival, gather over a woman, and gang rape her: “I saw the men standing in a half circle around her. One penetrates her. She screams. I still remember her voice, screams without words.” He said they then butchered the woman with knives.
A day later, Cohen began to introduce vague suggestions of sexual assault into his testimony, but did not indicate that he witnessed any such acts taking place: “The terrorists captured women and hurt them in any way possible, and when they were done with them, they started butchering them in front of their friends,” Cohen told an Israeli publication.
Cohen was also interviewed by Canada’s CBC on October 10, but was not quoted about witnessing any rape. The same day, Cohen offered lurid new details to PBS, claiming that “the terrorists” not only slaughtered women after raping them on October 7, but engaged in necrophilia as well: “The terrorists, people from Gaza, raped girls. And after they raped them, they killed them, murdered them with knives, or the opposite, killed — and after they raped, they — they did that.”
Testimony he provided to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on October 11 differed slightly, and remained vague: “We see from there a lot of people and girls screaming and murdered by knives. And the girls, the terrorists rape them,” he stated abruptly and without apparent emotion.
By this point, no Israeli media had reported that any rapes occurred on October 7.
Cohen quickly fell off the media’s radar. He would not be heard from again until you interviewed him. The novel testimony he delivered to you raises serious questions about his credibility, and that of your newspaper’s editorial standards.
How and why did Cohen’s story transform so dramatically over time, providing explosive new details at a moment of political urgency for the army in which he served? Was it plausible that a group of hardened Hamas commandoes suddenly paused their surprise attack, which was focused on taking as many captives as quickly as possible, stood in a circle and gang raped a woman, one after another, while Israeli forces mobilized to attack them? Why did Hamas militants use knives to kill their victims, as Cohen alleged, when they carried rifles and grenades? Why did he drop his earlier allegation of necrophilia when speaking to the Times? And why did he mention seeing “a lot of people and girls” being raped to the ABC on October 11, but alter his testimony to refer specifically to a single female victim when interviewed by the Times?
Perhaps most importantly, why did Cohen’s friend, Shoam Gueta, who took shelter with him on October 7, not describe witnessing a gang rape when interviewed by the Times?
There is also the issue of Cohen’s odd behavior during the October 7, and in its aftermath. Would someone who claimed to have witnessed a horrific gang rape and mass murder have been taking selfies of himself smiling and making the trademark Hawaiian “shaka” hand gesture? And if that source appeared in an October 7-themed fashion show to gain celebrity and potential profit off their experience at the Nova music festival, would that not also raise questions about their credibility? Because that is precisely what Raz Cohen did.
You prominently feature testimony by Yossi Landau, Southern Commander of the ZAKA organization. For critical background on Landau and his organization, we refer you to Max Blumenthal’s December 6 investigation for The Grayzone, “Scandal-stained Israeli ‘rescue’ group fuels October 7 fabrications.”
Were you aware, as The Grayzone documented, that Landau’s previous claims of having seen beheaded babies and a fetus cut from a dead woman’s womb on October 7 have been discredited not only by the Israeli newspaper by Haaretz, but by the Biden White House, which retracted the president’s claim that he had seen photographs of beheaded babies? In fact, only one baby is recorded among those killed on October 7, which means any claim to have seen multiple dead babies must be dismissed out of hand.
Were you aware that failing to provide photographic evidence to back up his dubious testimony, Yossi Landau has said that those who question his claims “should be killed”?
Why did you not mention ZAKA’s lack of coronary credentials, which makes it unqualified to provide forensic evidence? And why were Times readers not informed of ZAKA’s active relationship with the Israeli military?
Were you aware that the founder and longtime leader of ZAKA attempted suicide in 2021 after facing multiple charges of rape of youth of both genders, and that Israeli media published reams of reports documenting corruption and theft of donations by ZAKA leadership?
Taken together with Landau’s well-established pattern of lying about October 7 atrocities, the organization’s record of high-level corruption and malfeasance should have raised bright red flags for any journalistic professional.
The Times states that women were “shot in the vagina” on October 7. Did this occur during combat, as many women were serving as active duty soldiers on base as part of the Gaza Division at the time? Were they shot in other parts of their body as well? How does this prove your confidently stated assertion that rape occurred on a systematic level on October 7?
You also write of a “woman’s corpse that emergency responders discovered in the rubble of a besieged kibbutz with dozens of nails driven into her thighs and groin.” In what way did this support your conclusion of a “pattern of gender-based violence” on October 7? Did a Hamas militant meticulously drive nails into a woman’s pelvic region before bringing an entire home down on her? Or were the nails actually part of furniture, drywall or other parts of the housing structure which collapsed on the female victim? The latter instance would seem far more plausible, as such injuries are now commonly witnessed — though never detailed by the Times — in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of civilians have been killed by the Israeli military in their homes with heavy munitions.
Finally, who or what was responsible for reducing parts of a kibbutz to rubble? Did Hamas militants armed only with automatic rifles and RPG launchers have the capacity to destroy entire homes? Or was the female Israeli casualty described in your article, in fact, a victim of friendly fire from an Israeli tank shell or Hellfire missile?
The public now knows that many Israeli noncombatants were killed by their country’s military on October 7. They know this largely thanks to the work of The Grayzone and other independent outlets. We were initially attacked for our work, but now Israeli media is demanding answers as well. Major legacy media organizations like yours continue to ignore serious political scandals like these while pursuing factually-challenged, shamefully unethical journalistic efforts aimed at legitimizing the Israeli government’s public relations objectives.
Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” (7 October 2023)
Source : article publié sur le site web The Grayzone
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