UK Charity Honours IDF Soldier Who Rummaged Through Gazan Women’s Underwear

A hero’s welcome.

by Rivkah Brown

17 January 2024

A poster of an event that says 'Special Guest Star: A lunch with Levi Simon who has just returned from 3 months fighting in Gaza'
An advert for the lunch with IDF soldier and “special guest star” Levi Simon. tour_israelwithlevi/Instagram

On 4 January, Levi Simon posted a video on his Instagram story. Like many IDF soldiers, the dual Israeli-British national had been keeping people updated on his tour of Gaza in real time. This one, however, ended up going a lot further than his 1,144 followers.

In the video, first uncovered by Middle East Eye, Simon tours viewers around “these terrorists’ houses”, where instead of finding “guns and explosives” he’s discovered “two or three drawers stuffed with the most exotic lingerie that you can imagine”.

“These naughty, naughty Gazans,” says Simon, pulling out handfuls of women’s underwear. In a poll, Simon invited followers to respond to the underwear as “halal”, “haram” or “kinky terrorism”.

@middleeasteyeBritish-born Israeli soldier Levi Simon recorded a video of him searching Gaza homes for supposed explosives and guns, claiming to find money instead. Disturbingly, he then proceeds to rummage through personal belongings making derogatory comments about drawers filled with lingerie and nightwear. Simon says he was born and raised in London and the UK government is under pressure due to British nationals reportedly participating in the conflict in Gaza. Amid war crime claims, concerns are raised about potential legal repercussions for these individuals, who have joined Israel in its deadly onslaught on Gaza. An advocacy group for Palestinian rights sought clarification from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) in early November, 2023, regarding reports of British nationals joining the Israeli army post-Hamas attacks in southern Israel. The International Centre for Justice in Palestine (ICJP) revealed over a month later that it is still awaiting a response. In a subsequent letter, the ICJP warned of a “serious risk of genocide” in Gaza and emphasised that British nationals, including dual Israeli-British citizens, are deemed “at risk of participating in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide.”♬ original sound – Middle East Eye

The video fits a pattern of sexual violations to which Israel has subjected Gazans since 7 October, with footage of Palestinian men being rounded up and stripped to their underwear circulating widely on social media. Meanwhile, freed Palestinian prisoners have claimed they were tortured, humiliated and threatened with rape in Israeli prisons.

Israel has similarly accused Hamas of sexual crimes during the war, including raping women and babies. These accusations have been based on several eyewitness accounts as well as on reports from volunteers with Zaka, a Charedi first responder organisation with a history of fabricating evidence, and whose founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a former far-right terrorist, killed himself while under investigation for sexually assaulting people as young as 12.

Two days after posting the underwear video, Simon – who before the war led tours around Israel – filmed himself waving an Israeli flag in a depopulated school in Gaza.

“We’re going to start teaching Hebrew in this school soon,” Simon says in the Instagram story, an apparent reference to Israel’s plans to annex at least part of Gaza after the war (an Israeli estate agent recently posted satirical ads advertising property in the strip). 

Now back in Britain, Simon was due to receive a hero’s welcome from a UK charity.

The Boys Clubhouse supports Jewish teenagers and young men in crisis by providing temporary shelter, therapy, sports and career guidance in clubhouses around the UK (it also has an Israeli outpost for service users who’ve emigrated to the country). Ari Leaman, who founded the charity in 2009, was recently awarded an MBE for services to young people.

The charity has since received funding from a wide range of Jewish and secular organisations, among them BBC Children in Need, the Mayor of London, the Pears Foundation, the National Lottery Community Fund and Jewish Child’s Day.

On Wednesday the organisation hosted Simon, a former service user, as its “special guest star” at a lunch in its Hendon clubhouse. The organisation subsequently cancelled the event at the last minute, with police suggesting to locals that “they [The Boys Clubhouse] were unaware of the background of this gentleman”.

One of the charity’s trustees, David Russel Lerner, sat until recently on the board of Hope Not Hate, another UK charity that campaigns against racism and describes itself as “the UK’s leading anti-fascist organisation”. Lerman left the board on 8 January. The organisation declined to comment on this story.

Speaking to Novara Media, Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s crisis response manager, said:

“Levi Simon’s videos are disturbing and appear to be further evidence that IDF soldiers in Gaza are perpetrating a wide range of outrages against the Palestinian people.

“We’ve already seen tremendously disturbing images of captive Palestinian men being publicly paraded in their underwear, and this mockery of civilians via the contents of their underwear drawers is another instance of a broader Israeli pattern of humiliating and degrading Palestinians.

“Raising an Israeli flag on Palestinian territory fits within a wider context where senior Israeli politicians have recently talked of permanently driving Palestinians out of Gaza.

“Mr Simon is a UK national, and the UK authorities should be reviewing these social media posts to assess whether he may have committed criminal offences.”

Israel is currently being tried at the International Court of Justice for breaching the UN’s genocide convention after the country wiped out 1% of the strip’s population in 100 days. The International Criminal Court is also sizing up an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

Neither Levi Simon nor The Boys Clubhouse responded to Novara Media’s request for comment.

Update, 17 January 2024: The article was updated to reflect the fact that the event was cancelled at the last minute.

Rivkah Brown is a commissioning editor and reporter at Novara Media.

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