UN report launders Israel’s fraudulent “mass rape” propaganda

By Asa Winstanley and Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 7 March 2024

UN official Pramila Patten posing for photos with Israeli politician Gilad Erdan. (Israel MFA)

Just as Israel’s long running propaganda campaign alleging a strategy of “mass rape” by Palestinians on 7 October was unraveling at high speed, a United Nations official stepped in this week to try to stick it back together.

The Israeli government is grateful to the official, Pramila Patten, who released a high-profile report on alleged sexual violence at a press conference in New York on Tuesday.

It came after a two-week visit to Israel between January and February by Patten and her team.

This is key timing for Israel. Since December, the most important proponent of the propaganda narrative has been The New York Times.

But as The Electronic Intifada has been reporting, the Times is embroiled in a growing scandal over the veracity of its reporting on the issue.

A now infamous article – “’Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7” – has been completely debunked by a small group of independent journalists: The Electronic Intifada, The Grayzone and Mondoweiss and the Twitter user @zei_squirrel.

And despite several of its writers giving credence to the false claims of mass rape, The Intercept has done additional reporting further discrediting the Israeli claims.

In their latest piece on Monday, The Intercept’sJeremy Scahill and Ryan Grim identified and talked to family members related to two of the three alleged victims of sexual violence singled out in theTimes piece.

The family insisted: “It’s not true. They were not sexually abused.”

The family of the third supposed rape victim – Gal Abdush – had already disowned the Times article back in January.

The Times is facing a growing internal rebellion among its staff over the article.

An episode of The Daily, the widely heard podcast produced by the newspaper, was canceled in January after failing a fact check. Times whistleblowers – as well as staff of Arab and Muslim heritage – are facing a witch hunt by the paper’s management, who are desperate to stem the leaks about the internal turmoil.

Pramila Patten’s report, then, seems almost as if it was timed to save the Times and, by extension, the Israeli government and its US government accomplices.

But contrary to media spin, the Patten report further exposes the claims of systematic sexual violence as a fraud.

Whatever motive she has, Patten is not the unbiased UN official seeking to combat sexual violence during conflict that she claims to be.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported last month that during her visit to Israeli settlements near the Gaza boundary, “In each meeting she attended, Patten consistently expressed her solidarity, empathy and sympathy towards Israel.”

Patten’s visit was not a formal UN investigation, and the resulting report presents no new evidence. It is conspicuously vague on specifics and admits to being based almost entirely on Israeli government and military sources.

A key conclusion buried in the report concedes that the UN team “was unable to establish the prevalence of sexual violence and concludes that the overall magnitude, scope, and specific attribution of these violations would require a fully-fledged investigation.”

As Patten’s report itself notes, Israel has consistently refused to cooperate with independent UN investigators.

Crucially, Patten and her team were unable to locate a single victim and did not speak to any alleged survivors of sexual violence or rape – despite making a public appeal for such survivors to come forward and speak confidentially and with assurances of safety and privacy.

Notwithstanding all these limitations, Patten’s report claims that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe rape took place during the 7 October events. She bases this conclusion on “circumstantial” information which she claims “may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence.”

The report alleges that Patten’s team saw “clear and convincing information that some hostages taken to Gaza have been subjected to various forms of conflict-related sexual violence.”

It also asserts that there is “reasonable grounds to believe” that sexual violence against Israeli prisoners in Palestinian custody “may be ongoing.”

Again, the report does not explain what these “reasonable grounds” are.

Nor does it explain what this “convincing information” is or where it comes from.

Patten’s report does say her team spoke to returned “hostages” – the Israeli prisoners released by Palestinian armed groups since 7 October – but, crucially, does not say that any of them claimed to have been sexually assaulted.

The claim that Israeli captives are being raped does serve a key Israeli narrative about the need to continue the genocidal war against Gaza.

In a statement on Tuesday Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan made clear one of the motives for Israel’s intense misinformation campaign seeking to portray Palestinians as rapists: “The meaning of a ceasefire is to lengthen the suffering of the hostages. Any call for a ceasefire is blatant support for Hamas to continue their sexual violence!”

In other words, Israel is trying to smear those calling for an end to its genocide in Gaza as rape apologists.

Notably, the Patten report repeatedly speaks of “clear and convincing information,” as opposed to evidence.

Pramila Patten accompanied by Israeli fabricator and Jewish extremist Yossi Landau. The UN official reportedly expressed “solidarity” with Israel during her visit to the settlements. (Israel MFA)

Considering Patten’s apparently preconceived “solidarity” with Israel, it is perhaps not surprising that she seems determined to launder the debunked “mass rape” atrocity propaganda through the UN system.

During Patten’s visit to the Israeli frontier settlements and army bases that were the target of the Hamas-led military assault on 7 October, she was accompanied by controversial Israeli figures.

Photos released by Israel’s foreign ministry show that Patten was accompanied by Yossi Landau, the regional head of ZAKA, a Jewish extremist group which has been responsible for fabricating some of Israel’s most lurid debunked atrocity stories since 7 October.


These have included the disproven claim that 40 babies were beheaded by Hamas.

As The Grayzone has revealed, Landau was also personally responsible for fabricating the claim that an Israeli baby was killed after being ripped out of its mother’s womb.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with ZAKA members in November and emphasized their important role in Israeli propaganda.

“We need to buy time, which we also buy by turning to world leaders and to public opinion,” he told the group. “You have an important role in influencing public opinion, which also influences leaders. We are at war; it will continue.”

Landau has described his work as a “holy mission.”

According to a second Yedioth Ahronoth article on Wednesday, ambassador Erdan is quite pleased with the Patten report.

“Finally, there is someone within the UN who is willing to listen to Israel and take these concerns seriously, rather than brushing them off and focusing almost exclusively on the situation in Gaza,” the paper’s diplomatic correspondent Itamar Eichner, summarized.

He wrote that “Israeli officials are cautious about openly embracing and praising Patten for her report,” however “behind closed doors there is great admiration for her professionalism, advocacy and attentiveness to the Israeli perspective.”

Patten’s report even admits that it was based on information that was “in a large part sourced from Israeli national institutions.”

These “institutions,” the report explains, included the Israeli military, the internal intelligence agency Shin Bet and the Israeli national police.

In other words, the UN is taking the word of the same Israeli armed forces and spies carrying out the genocide in Gaza, even while Israel uses provably false allegations about “mass rape” to justify its actions.

These are the same state forces shown to have lied repeatedly, that have killed more than 150 UN personnel – the largest number of the world body’s staff to be killed in any conflict – and that have leveled accusations of “terrorism” against UN workers without producing a shred of evidence.

Although widely reported in the corporate press as bolstering Israel’s claims about a Hamas campaign of sexual violence, the Patten report is a deeply flawed document that makes very vague accusations and recycles already debunked Israeli propaganda talking points.

But at the same time, it contains multiple admissions about how weak Israel’s claims are and how some of them are demonstrably false.

The bottom line is that – despite months of intense Israeli propaganda parroted by a compliant Western press – the report admits that “in the medicolegal assessment of available photos and videos,” undertaken by the UN team, “no tangible indications of rape could be identified.”

It also concedes that the UN team saw “no digital evidence specifically depicting acts of sexual violence” in their own “open source” investigation, despite reviewing “extensive digital material.”

Not a single specific victim of sexual assault has been positively identified, living or dead.

In other words, although the common refrain when it comes to allegations of rape is to “believe women,” in this case, there are still no women to believe.

The report decries that Patten’s team had a “lack of access to first-hand testimonies of survivors/victims of sexual violence.” It says that “despite concerted efforts to encourage them to come forward, the mission team was not able to interview any of these survivors/victims.”

It asserts – without evidence or details – that “a small number of those [victims] who are undergoing treatment are reportedly experiencing severe mental distress and trauma” but does not explain how UN officials know that such victims really exist.

These vague claims that a handful of victims exist, hidden away, are reminiscent of those contained in the debunked New York Times article, based on Israeli government sources.

The Patten report concedes that the number of such alleged survivors “remains unknown.”

Rather than “evidence,” which Patten’s team did not have the mandate to collect, the report makes the distinction that they “received information.” It does refer to “circumstantial evidence,” including the claim that Patten’s team found that there were “naked or partially naked bodies.”

But the report does concede that “at least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media, were unfounded.”

It disturbingly ignores how atrocity propaganda has been weaponized by Israel officials, instead treating their claims with unwarranted credulity.

For example, the report recounts that “claims were made in the public domain” that Hamas had issued pamphlets to its fighters “with instructions on pronouncing phrases in Hebrew such as ‘Open your legs’ or ‘Take off your pants.’”

The report concludes that “the mission team was not able to substantiate” these claims, but ignores the role of the Israeli army in disseminating this atrocity propaganda.

Patten’s visit to the Gaza-area settlements came after an unprecedented Israeli government assault on the UN, accusing the body of not taking the claims of sexual violence seriously.

But if sending Patten to Israel was Secretary-General António Guterres’ effort to appease Tel Aviv, it predictably has not worked.

Unsatiated by Patten’s report, this week Israeli ambassador Erdan escalated his country’s threats against the UN.

Speaking on Israel’s Channel 12 he threatened “severe action” against the UN, including closing its Jerusalem headquarters and deporting UN officials, if the secretary-general does not now invoke Article 99 of the UN Charter.

Guterres invoked the article in December – a rare move aimed at formally warning the Security Council of the global threat from Israel’s war on Gaza.

Israel clearly now wants Guterres to invoke the same measure against the Palestinians.

Pramila Patten’s report has done nothing to uncover any evidence to back up Israel’s claims. It has only handed Israel more deceitful propaganda to further its genocide against Palestinians and its attack on the UN.

Ali Abunimah is executive director, and Asa Winstanley is associate editor of The Electronic Intifada.


You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: Premium WordPress Themes | Thanks to Themes Gallery, Bromoney and Wordpress Themes