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The New York Times Admits to the Unreliability of Key Sources in Its Sexual Violence Investigation on October 7

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
28th March 2024
The New York Times Admits to the Unreliability of Key Sources in Its Sexual Violence Investigation on October 7
The video reveals the paramedic's false testimony (Getty)

The New York Times has cast doubt on its reporting regarding alleged sexual assault incidents that occurred during the attacks led by Hamas and other Palestinian factions on October 7, 2023. This doubt stems from the recognition that new video footage appears to contradict the testimony of an Israeli medic, whose account had previously been cited by the newspaper.

According to the American newspaper, footage captured from an Israeli soldier's camera on October 7 in Kibbutz Be’eri, where the alleged assault was reported to have taken place, depicts the bodies of three women, fully clothed, with no evident signs of sexual violence. The bodies were reportedly displayed in a house believed by many Be'eri residents to be the site of the assaults.

Israeli Soldier’s Video Undercuts Medic’s Account of Sexual Assault

Media Outlets Reported the Medic’s Account Without Verification

On December 28 of last year, The New York Times published its most famous and controversial investigative piece recently titled "‘Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7," stating that an unnamed paramedic in an Israeli commando unit said that he had found the bodies of two teenage girls in a room in Be’eri who had been sexually assaulted.

The Associated Press, CNN, and The Washington Post were among several media outlets that published similar accounts attributed to the same anonymous Israeli military medic.

Earlier this month, Michal Paikin, a spokesperson for Kibbutz Be'eri, denied that two girls, who were sisters, had been sexually assaulted. In a statement to The Intercept, she said, “You’re talking about the Sharabi girls? No, they just — they were shot. I’m saying ‘just,’ but they were shot and were not subjected to sexual abuse.”

 Michal Paikin, a spokesperson for Kibbutz Be'eri

Gillian Brisley, the girls' grandmother, also denied these claims, telling the Israeli Channel 12, "They were just shot — nothing else had been done to them."

In response to the new footage, residents of the kibbutz told The New York Times that in no other home in Be’eri were two teenage girls killed, and they concluded from the video that the girls had not been sexually assaulted. Nili Bar Sinai, a member of a group from the kibbutz that looked into claims of sexual assault at the house, said, “This story is false.”

The unnamed medic, whose testimony was a key part of the New York Times investigation published at the end of last year, declined to confirm whether he still stood by the account, saying he would prefer to move on from the attacks. Later, an Israeli military spokesman said that the medic maintained his testimony but might have misremembered the place where he saw the teenage girls. 

The Implications of the New York Times Investigation Into Sexual Violence

The New York Times' investigation of "systematic" sexual violence on October 7 has faced widespread criticism since its publication, and its repercussions have not yet subsided. The latest development emerged through an article by Vanity Fair, revealing that the newspaper is conducting an internal investigation into the leak of a report on The Intercept's website. The report pertains to a yet-to-be-aired episode of The Daily podcast produced by the newspaper, which was supposed to critically examine the controversial allegations of sexual violence attributed to Hamas on October 7. However, the episode was withheld from airing following pressure from the Israeli media monitoring organization known as "CAMERA."

According to sources interviewed by Vanity Fair, The New York Times management has recently called upon at least two dozen staffers, including Daily producers, for meetings. These gatherings aim to unravel the mystery of how internal information regarding the podcast's editorial process was leaked. The investigation is being overseen by Charlotte Behrendt, who serves as the paper's director of policy and internal investigations.

The New York Times Probes Its Staffers Over Leaks About Sexual Violence Investigation on October 7

Furthermore, senior officials at The New York Times recently announced that they were conducting an investigation into Anat Schwartz, who contributed to the aforementioned investigation regarding alleged sexual violence, as well as several other reports for the newspaper. This decision came after revelations that the independent Israeli journalist and filmmaker had liked a social media post calling for Israel to turn Gaza into a "slaughterhouse,” along with other content supporting genocide and mocking Palestinians.

The New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhodes Ha said in a statement to The Daily Beast, "We are aware that the independent journalist in Israel who worked with The Times liked multiple social media posts. These ‘likes’ are unacceptable violations of our company policy. We are currently reviewing the matter.”

According to reports, Schwartz, who collaborated on the story with her 24-year-old nephew Adam Sella, and Pulitzer Prize-winning international editor at The New York Times Jeffrey Gettleman, also liked social media posts calling for Israel to execute Palestinians if hostages in Gaza were not released, stating that Westerners should be "afraid" for believing that Hamas resembled the Islamic State.

A U.N. report released earlier this March, criticized for heavily relying on Israeli government sources, stated that there are "reasonable grounds" and "circumstantial evidence" indicating some forms of sexual violence. However, the report concluded that "at least two claims of sexual violence widely circulated in the media" were said to have occurred in Kibbutz Be'eri, "have no basis."

Ali Abunimah, Executive Director of Electronic Intifada, wrote in an article, "By now, almost every element of “Screams without words” has fallen apart, alongside the rest of Israel’s mass rapes propaganda. However, The New York Times continues to support an article that, by any minimal standard of ethical journalism, should be completely retracted.”

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