NYT faces scrutiny as doubts mount over report on alleged Hamas 'rape'

A sign for The New York Times hangs above the entrance to its building in New York. (Photo/AP)


In a sensational turn of events, The New York Times [NYT] has found itself at the centre of a media storm over its report on alleged sexual violence during the blitz launched by Palestinian resistance fighters inside Israel on October 7, 2023.

According to an investigation conducted by The Intercept, a US nonprofit news website, NYT's "expose" lacks evidence to claim Hamas resistance group committed sexual violence during its surprise assault on Israel that Hamas says was orchestrated to break the status quo and put the Palestine question "back on the table."

The Intercept's probe sought to debunk the NYT report, which it suggested reveals a web of conflicting testimonies and questionable claims.

"The bigger scandal may be the reporting itself, the process that allowed it into print, and the life-altering impact the reporting had for thousands of Palestinians whose deaths were justified by the alleged systematic sexual violence orchestrated by Hamas the paper [NYT] claimed to have exposed."

Despite an obvious lack of journalistic background, NYT had assigned Israeli documentary filmmaker Anat Schwartz who previously worked with the Israeli army, and her nephew, Adam Sella, a food blogger, for the story.

Led by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman, the newspaper claimed to expose a disturbing pattern of gender-based violence during Hamas' sudden raid on Israeli villages and towns near the heavily protected Gaza fence.

The report 'Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on October 7 appeared on the front page of the NYT print edition on December 31, sending ripples through the media landscape and prompting widespread discussion about the use of rape as a tool during the October 7 operation.

Lingering doubts, however, continued to persist not only about the report's reliability but also about its adherence to rigorous journalistic standards, sparking a maelstrom of scrutiny from both within the media industry and the broader public.

In a statement to TRT World, Danielle Rhoades Ha, Senior Vice President of External Communications for the NYT, underscored confidence in the December 28 article's accuracy.

Emphasising the thoroughness of the reporting process, the NYT spokesperson highlighted the meticulousness with which the news report was prepared.

"Regarding the December 28 article, we remain confident in the accuracy of our reporting and stand by the team's investigation, which was rigorously reported, sourced and edited," Danielle told TRT World.

Lack of concrete evidence

But The Intercept said it has found glaring discrepancies in the piece that surfaced — in the weeks afterwards — thrusting the publication into a torrent of scrutiny.

Despite lacking solid evidence, Schwartz and her team pressed on, it said.

Notwithstanding extensive interviews by the NYT team, no solid evidence of rape or sexual assault at the attack sites was found, according to The Intercept.

Some witnesses, like an architect deployed with the Israeli army, made sensational claims without providing any credible evidence or forensic credentials.

"Independent research collective October 7 Fact Check said that Mendes' [the architect] story was false," The Intercept argued.

The Intercept, renowned for its investigative prowess, unearthed several other inconsistencies and contradictions in The Times story, adding witness testimonies often contradicted each other or lacked corroboration from independent sources.

At the heart of the NYT narrative were eyewitness testimonies, including that of an Israeli woman named Gal Abdush, who was purportedly a victim of rape.

However, Abdush's family vehemently refuted these claims in an interview cited by The Intercept, asserting a conspicuous absence of evidence corroborating the alleged assault.


"It doesn't make any sense," said Abdush's sister, that in a short timespan "they raped her, slaughtered her, and burned her?"

Speaking about the rape allegation, her brother-in-law told Israeli Channel 13, "The media invented it."

Internal perturbations at NYT

In the aftermath of the controversial report, according to multiple media outlets, a palpable disquietude permeated the NYT newsroom, with concerns swirling about the article's journalistic integrity.

Top brass at NYT appear to have launched an inquiry into Schwartz, one of the contributors to the purported sexual violence story.

Questions have been raised on Schwartz's integrity as she previously endorsed social media posts advocating for Israel to transform besieged Gaza "into a slaughterhouse" among other controversial content.

On Thursday, Vanity Fair reported that NYT is conducting a leak investigation following a report in The Intercept about a yet-to-be-aired episode of The Daily [podcast] addressing explosive claims of sexual violence on October 7.

Management in recent weeks has pulled at least two dozen staffers, including Daily producers, into meetings in an attempt to understand how internal details about the podcast’s editorial process got out, according to multiple news websites.


In the wake of the original NYT piece, numerous publications have undertaken fact-checking endeavours, claiming to have uncovered several glaring inaccuracies in the NYT article.


Source: TRT