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Controversy surrounds New York Times' handling of alleged Hamas sexual violence story

March 1, 2024 at 6:56 pm

The New York Times headquarters in New York, US, on 4 February, 2024 [Shelby Knowles/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

The New York Times is facing criticism following doubts raised over the accuracy of a story published in December regarding allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas, Anadolu Agency reports.

Controversy has erupted over one of the reporters involved in contributing to the story.

The debate surrounding the article, co-authored by Jeffrey Gettleman, Anat Schwartz, and Adam Sella, was sparked when The Intercept reported that an episode of The Daily, the prominent podcast of The New York Times based on the article, was postponed to allow for revisions to the script to allow for more uncertainty.

A lengthy investigative report by The New York Times, titled “’Screams Without Words’: How Hamas Weaponised Sexual Violence on Oct. 7” was published on 28 December, delving into the alleged rape and sexual violence by Hamas against women during  7 October attacks.

READ: Hamas: Rape claims aim to tarnish group’s ‘humane treatment of hostages’

Anat Schwartz, an Israeli filmmaker and former air force intelligence official with no prior reporting experience, was assigned by The New York Times to collaborate with her partner’s nephew, Adam Sella, and veteran Times reporter, Jeffrey Gettleman, to investigate the sexual assault investigation.

In a podcast interview with Israel’s Channel 12 on 3 January, Schwartz mentioned Gettleman’s insistence on ensuring they had “at least two sources for every detail we put into the article” and cross-checked information, The Intercept reported.

In the interview, Schwartz said that initially, there was little attention given to sexual assaults accusation following the 7 October attacks. However, when Schwartz joined Gettleman, rumours started circulating about such acts having taken place, largely based on the commentary of Zaka workers and IDF officials and soldiers, it reported.

Schwartz contacted people at Kibbutz Be’eri and other targeted kibbutzim on 7 October, but reported finding “nothing” to substantiate the investigation.

Despite the lack of evidence, Schwartz reported on the unverified accusation.

Schwartz’ social media posts have also come under criticism and the New York Times has launched an investigation.

“We are aware that a freelance journalist in Israel who has worked with The Times has ‘liked’ several social media posts,” Times spokesperson, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said in a statement.

Schwartz, for instance, liked a post on X, saying that Israel needed to “turn the Strip into a slaughterhouse.”

The Times story also referenced an Israeli woman, Gal Abdush, described as “the woman in the black dress,” saying that Israeli police officials stating “they believed that Ms. Abdush was raped.”

However, Abdush’s sister, Miral Alter, said in an Instagram post following the Times report that “there is no evidence that there was rape”.

READ: 7 October narrative debunked by new report