News and Events

Israeli Physicians Speak Out Against Sexual Violence

Publication Date: 5/19/2024 9:00 AM

Senior physicians from Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel and Emek Medical Center (Emek) in Afula published a poignant article in March in response to silence by world health and women’s organizations in the face of the sexual violence carried out by Hamas during the outbreak of the war.

Professor Ido Solt. Photography: Rambam HCC.
Professor Ido Solt. Photography: Rambam HCC.

The Lancet, one of the world’s leading and prestigious medical journals, is well known for publishing op-eds on a variety of controversial but important issues that dovetail with medicine and ethics. The journal recently published a piece by Professor Ido Solt, director of Rambam’s Mrs. Edith and Professor Dov Katz Maternal and Fetal Medicine Unit, along with Dr. Noah Zafran, head of the obstetric emergency service and Dr. Shira Baram, a fertility specialist at Emek. The piece urges international professional groups to decisively condemn Hamas' actions and advocate for the swift release of the remaining hostages in Gaza.

In their article, “Conflict-related sexual violence—time to stop Hamas” the authors sharply criticize the silence of organizations worldwide and the extensive time that has lapsed between the moment there was a clear picture concerning the atrocities, until leading organizations such as United Nations Women responded.

The physicians noted that it took UN Women almost two months to publish their unequivocal condemnation of the brutal attacks by Hamas. They wrote, “The silence of health-care organizations and women's rights organizations expresses the hypocrisy and double standard of the liberal world towards the violation of women's rights during this conflict,” in reference to a previous UN resolution that demanded the complete cessation of all sexual violence to civilians during warfare, which is considered a war crime.

The letter was written long before the New York Times covered the topic and before the issue began to gain more traction. In the background, the silence of the women's organizations continues to be palpable. The letter describes the evidence that has accumulated regarding the sexual assaults on October 7. It offers medical context and refers to the medical literature on sexual assaults as a war crime and the long-term effects experienced by victims, following volumes of literature on this subject. Unfortunately, the scope of the phenomenon in the world is shocking.

The idea arose following publications that surfaced in medical literature that touched on the events of October 7. As gynecologists, the authors wanted to bring to light the issues that are relevant to their profession. Their goal was to raise awareness especially within the international medical community, global health and women’s health organizations, by attempting to get an opinion piece published in the international press. The letter was written a few weeks after evidence began to emerge and was not published on behalf of the Israel Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but by the three doctors. These physicians seized the opportunity and decided to raise the issue before it became a hot topic.

Initially, the article was rejected by other professional journals. Solt, Zafran, and Baram recognized that rejection did not mean the journals were denying what had happened or ostracizing Israel, as many have implied, but rather reflected the priorities of that publication. They kept submitting the article, and were pleased when it was published in The Lancet – a journal known for taking on controversial topics.

Solt, Zafran, and Baram represent an exemplary collaborative team who understand that sexual violence is unacceptable at any level. Their conclusive decision: It was important to give voice to what has happened and not sit idly by.

Based on a Hebrew article published on Ynet.