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At Special Session on Sexual Violence Against Israelis, Speakers Call on Women’s Organizations, the UN, and the World to Speak Out

For Immediate Release 

December 4, 2023

Media Contact: Jacqueline Olson, 

At Special Session on Sexual Violence Against Israelis, Speakers Call on Women’s Organizations, the UN, and the World to Speak Out

The session, titled “Hear Our Voices” — held by the Israel Mission to the UN, NCJW, Sheryl Sandberg, others — at the United Nations and was dedicated to unequivocally condemning the rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women and girls. The event featured a keynote address by Sheryl Sandberg and video message from Hilary Clinton. View photos here (*photo credit: Perry Bindelglass). View event recording here.

New York — Today at 11:30AM EST, Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN), in collaboration with the World Zionist Organization, Interwoven/Shazur, National Council of Jewish Women, and Schusterman Family Philanthropies convened a special session at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to unequivocally condemn the acts of rape and sexual violence committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli women and girls during the attack on October 7—and to give voice to the women who were silenced. 

The event, titled “Hear Our Voices,” featured a keynote address from Sheryl Sandberg, a video message from Hilary Rodham Clinton, and remarks from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as well as women’s rights and human rights experts. During the special session, members of Israeli first responder teams that have been working on the ground since October 7 also spoke to the horrors they have borne witness to. These speakers included Chief Superintendent Yael Richert from unit Lahav 433 at the Israeli National Police; Shari Mendez, member of an Israel Defense Forces reserve unit established to identify and prepare the bodies of deceased female soldiers for burial; and Simcha Greiniman, volunteer with Zaka, a nongovernment rescue and recovery organization. These individuals have been engaged in sensitive and difficult missions: sorting through the remains of bodies in the multiple scenes of the massacre committed by Hamas terrorists — excavating bodies, preparing them for burial, and conducting official investigations. 

Select remarks from speakers are included below. 

Sheryl Sandberg, Founder of 

“Rape should never be used as an act of war. This truth must be upheld despite the politics of our time. Because no matter what marches you are attending, what flag you are flying, what religion you practice, or if you practice none at all, there is one thing we can all agree on: there are exactly no circumstances that justify rape. None.” 

“I call on all women’s organizations, every single one, every woman, every man, to unite by speaking out about these atrocities….I especially call upon global political leaders to step up. We need to hear your voices saying loudly and clearly: rape is unacceptable. And then we need those words backed up with action. It’s inexcusable when those who have the capacity to make a difference don’t.”

“This goes beyond politics. If we can’t agree that rape is wrong, then we have accepted the unacceptable. Then the question will be not what is happening in the Middle East, but what is happening to our humanity.” 

Hillary Clinton, Former Secretary of State

“As a global community, we must respond to weaponized sexual violence wherever it happens with absolute condemnation. There can be no justifications and no excuses. Rape as a weapon of war is a crime against humanity. Such atrocities have no place in any society or any conflict.”

“Organizations, governments, and individuals who are committed to a better future for women and girls have a responsibility to condemn all violence against women. It is outrageous that some who claim to stand for justice are closing their eyes and their hearts to the victims of Hamas.” 

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations 

“Hamas terrorists were told to commit these acts of sheer evil in order to terrorize us and our families…this is the enemy that we are facing…an enemy that proudly weaponizes the cruelest forms of sadism.”

“This is why today’s event is of the utmost importance. Sadly the very international bodies that are supposedly the defenders of all women showed that when it comes to Israelis, indifference is acceptable…their silence has been deafening.”

Sheila Katz, CEO of National Council of Jewish Women 

“Israeli women and girls were recently tortured, raped, and killed—forever silenced by Hamas. And when evidence emerged indicating the use of rape as a weapon of war by Hamas, the voices we expected to speak up fell into the loudest silence we could have imagined. When people use the language of feminism while brushing aside gender-based violence because of the identity of the victims, they’re sending a clear signal that women’s rights are negotiable. That rape is sometimes okay. That some women have more dignity than others. That is more than hypocrisy, it is a betrayal of all women.” 

“Our work toward accountability, including by hosting this event, have already yielded results. This past week, the United Nations recognized the gravity of the sexual violence on October 7. UN Women issued a statement just on Friday expressing their alarm, for numerous reports of gender-based violence. But our work is not over. So we are here today to make sure the voices of Israeli women are heard. We are here today to bear witness. And we are here today to speak out.” 

United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

“The atrocities committed on October 7th and the international communities’ reluctance, even refusal, to condemn or even acknowledge them doesn’t just strike fear in the hearts of Israeli women. It strikes fear in the hearts of every woman and girl around the globe…The world community must do more. It must demand accountability for these intolerable crimes. The United Nations must denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization that uses rape as a weapon of war. The United Nations must condemn these evil crimes against humanity.”

“When I saw the list of women’s rights organizations that have said nothing, I nearly choked. Where is the solidarity for women in this country and in this world to stand up for our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters?”

“The horrific acts committed on October 7th by Hamas are truly indescribable. I’ve seen much of the raw footage. It takes your breath away in the sheer level of evil it depicts. You can’t unsee when you see it, and it haunts you like no other image you see on a movie screen. The barbaric acts are acts beyond what we have seen from ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other horrific terrorist organizations around the globe.”

Mandana Dayani, Human Rights Activist

“Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran that forced me and my family out of our homeland, remains as oppressive as ever; and it is the same regime that funds the terrorist group Hamas.”

“Peers, friends, universities, and fellow leaders who still remain silent: you have made the deliberate choice to look the other way. You saw the videos, you saw the photos, many recorded and live streamed by the terrorists themselves on our feeds. You know exactly what happened to these girls, and yet you turned away…when our women’s mouths were bound and gagged, you chose not to be their voice.”

“When we commit to speaking out for women and girls, that means all women and girls. When we said believe women, we meant all women. So if you ignore the very clear and obvious violation of just these innocent women and girls, or worse, when you twist propaganda to dare justify it, then you are politicizing their pain. You are denying their stories. You are stating that their rights are undeserving and that their suffering is unworthy of your protection, and you are complicit in emboldening their perpetrators who must be held to account.” 

The full list of speakers and performers is below: 

  • Emcee: Tal Heinrich
  • Ambassador Gilad Erdan 
  • Sheila Katz
  • Sheryl Sandberg 
  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand 
  • Secretary Hilary Rodham Clinton
  • Yael Richert 
  • Shari Mendez
  • Simcha Greiniman 
  • Linor Abargil 
  • Professor Yifat Bitton
  • Mandana Dayani
  • Hatikva performed by Montana Tucker 

View photos here, please provide photo credit to: Perry Bindelglass. 

View event recording here. For any other questions, please email


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