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Dec 1, 2023 | In The News

Orange County Register

About 90 House lawmakers are pressing the United Nations Women, which works for gender equity, to publicly condemn Hamas for its Oct. 7 attack on Israel and brutality against women.

In a bipartisan letter, led by Rep. Young Kim and Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick – a Democrat from southern Florida – lawmakers said, “UN Women cannot expect to be viewed as an honest advocate for women’s rights if it continues to ignore Israeli women and women of other nationalities brutalized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 in an attack that claimed the lives of 1,200+ Israelis and injured thousands more.”

Kim said UN Women’s “refusal to condemn Hamas’ barbaric attacks on Israel and sexual violence against women” damages its credibility as a leader of women’s rights. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

“It emboldens Hamas to commit more heinous abuses targeting innocent civilians in Israel and Gaza,” Kim said. “UN Women’s silence is troubling and sends a clear and dangerous message that the stories, traumas and voices of the victims are not valued on the world stage.”

House members accused UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, of having a “longstanding bias against Israel,” alluding in part to the omission of “documented cases of sexual violence against Israeli women committed by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists” from UN Women’s Oct. 13 statement condemning attacks on Israeli civilians.

That statement reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s call for all military operations to “be conducted in strict accordance with international humanitarian law” and for civilians to be “respected and protected at all times.”

Since the October attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,200 people, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and more than three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million have been uprooted. Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire this week as hostages are exchanged.

The bipartisan letter spearheaded by Cherfilus-McCormick and Kim, an Anaheim Hills Republican, was signed by several members of California’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Seal Beach; Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano; Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Long Beach; and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.

“The failure by UN Women to publicly stand up for Israeli women and condemn Hamas’ systematic atrocities undermines UN Women and highlights its one-sided approach,” lawmakers said in the letter.

In an interview with CNN this week, UN Women’s deputy executive director, Sarah Hendriks, said the organization is “deeply, deeply alarmed at the disturbing reports of gender-based and sexual violence on Oct. 7.”

“And as we’ve said … we absolutely, unequivocally condemn all forms of violence against women and girls, especially in the context of conflict,” Hendriks said. “Gender-based violence is a weapon of war.”

When asked why she “can’t specifically call out Hamas,” Hendriks said: “UN Women always supports impartial independent investigations into any serious allegations of gender-based or sexual violence.”

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