Sheryl Sandberg says rape should never be a tool of war and the horrors of the Hamas terror attacks can't be swept under the rug

Israeli soldiers walk near houses that were destroyed in Be'eri, Israel.
Israeli soldiers walk near houses that were destroyed in Be'eri, Israel.Getty Images
  • Israeli authorities are building cases against Hamas militants accused of rape and sexual assault.

  • As some deny or overlook the atrocities, a former tech executive says such violence can't be ignored.

  • "The silence on these war crimes is deafening," Sheryl Sandberg wrote in an opinion essay.

As Israeli officials start to build cases against Hamas militants accused of raping women during the October 7 terror attacks, a former tech executive is issuing a plea to the international community: rape can't be normalized as a feature of war, nor should it go ignored when it happens.

Reports of rape and sexual assault surfaced quickly in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. But in the weeks since, many more horrific incidents have surfaced and been revealed through the testimony of survivors and witnesses, from the footage of body cameras worn by Hamas, and through forensic evidence collected by authorities. Now, Israeli authorities are working to hold the militant group to account for the violence.

But amid this massive collection of documented evidence, the country has still been forced to contend with denials or dismissals of rape or other atrocities Hamas stands accused of committing on October 7.

Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer at Meta and the founder of the nonprofit organization LeanIn.Org, wrote in an opinion piece published Monday by CNN that regardless of all the different sides and views of the ongoing conflict, people should still be able to agree that "rape should never be used as an act of war."

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl SandbergDominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

"We have come so far in believing survivors of rape and assault in so many situations, yet this time, many are ignoring the stories that these bodies tell us about how these women spent the last moments of their lives," Sandberg said. "The silence on these war crimes is deafening. It's time to see beyond historical arguments about the past and political arguments about the future to denounce this now."

Rape and sexual violence have long been tragic elements of war and conflict throughout history, from World War II to the Rwandan genocide and Sierra Leonean Civil War of the 1990s. United Nations Women, a UN entity dedicated to gender equality and women empowerment, refers to wartime sexual violence as one of "history's greatest silences" and one of the world's "most extreme atrocities."

"In many contexts, sexual violence is not merely the action of rogue soldiers, but a deliberate tactic of warfare. It displaces, terrorizes and destroys individuals, families and entire communities, reaching unthinkable levels of cruelty against women of all ages from infants to grandmothers," a UN Women publication on rape as a tactic of war reads.

While these tactics have been strongly condemned by Western and humanitarian leaders in the past, incidents of rape and sexual violence still continue to be documented in more recent conflicts, like the wars in Ethiopia, Ukraine, and Sudan. Accountability and justice in these cases have been hard to come by.

Sandberg said that when people don't loudly condemn the incidents of rape and violence like those committed in Israel on October 7, or elsewhere around the world, it represents a "massive step backward" for all victims. Regardless of what stance one might take on the Israel-Hamas conflict, she said everyone should be able unite in being against terrible atrocities such as rape.

"We can each 'be a witness' and together call out this unacceptable horror and unimaginable suffering," Sandberg wrote in her op-ed. "We must denounce these rapes in every conversation, at every rally, and on signs held on every street corner. We must forget our conflicting politics and remember our common humanity."

Read the original article on Business Insider