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Israel’s first lady speaks out about 'unbearable' plight of women hostages in Gaza

Michal Herzog, Israel's first lady, spoke to Al-Monitor about her mission to make the world recognize the sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women on and since Oct. 7.
First Lady Michal Herzog at a consolation visit by the Idan family, Oct. 25 Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek.

Israel’s first lady Michal Herzog has been actively fighting for women’s rights since well before her husband, Isaac Herzog, became president in 2021. In the past few weeks, she has become a central figure in the campaign calling on the world to recognize the violence perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli women during and since the group's Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.

On Nov. 22, Herzog, a lawyer, wrote an op-ed in Newsweek headlined, "The silence from international bodies over Hamas' mass rapes is a betrayal of all women." She slammed international women's rights organizations for what she considers their silence on the gender-based violence carried out against Israelis, including the reported ongoing sexual violence against women held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government says that of the remaining hostages there, 19 are women.

"It is not that condemnations of gender-based violence by Hamas have been weak or insufficient — there have been none at all," she wrote, adding, "Statement after statement by organizations like UN Women, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have failed to condemn these crimes. They failed us, and all women, at this critical moment," Herzog wrote. 

Herzog's article prompted widespread reactions from celebrities and politicians. On Dec. 1, almost two months after the Hamas attack, UN Women, which is charged with furthering gender equality and women's rights and empowerment, issued a statement condemning the sexual violence perpetrated that day. 

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