In Israel and Gaza, war is being fought as wars have long been: with bodies and steel, on land and from the sky.
Around the rest of the world, though, the Israel-Hamas war is being waged with propaganda, protest and social media posts, declarations and dismissals, all too often by ideologues speaking to an audience primed to believe them.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the too-long silence about, downplaying and even outright denial of the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas.
Allegations of sexual violence on Oct. 7 were raised early on. But the attacks that day were so shocking and the casualty figures so high and the mission to figure out who was dead and who was kidnapped so urgent that it seems Israeli investigators prioritized identifying victims over in-depth forensic examinations. Stunned recovery teams made every effort to offer dignified treatment of the dead, often failing to photograph the bodies as they were found. Many victims, in accordance with traditional Jewish funeral customs, were buried as soon as possible.
The very work of identifying people was complex and time-consuming: Many bodies were in pieces or charred beyond recognition.
As forensics teams were doing their work, desperate families waited outside the forensic center where truck after truck brought in more and more victims for identification. In some areas, fighting went on for several days, delaying the retrieval of bodies. Some evidence of sexual assault and rape degrades over time, and obviously, it’s difficult to recover material like semen from a badly burned body.
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