Thursday, March 7, 2024

Reflections on October 7th

I have been intending to write down my thoughts on the massacre of Israelis by Hamas terrorists and Gaza civilians on October 7th, 2023, ever since it happened, but I’ve found myself unable to do so until now. The reason it has taken me so long is that I was so profoundly disturbed by the events of that day that I couldn’t put my feelings into words. I felt like my own family had been attacked, which may seem strange for someone living in New Zealand with no close relatives in Israel, but perhaps it was the fact that I have Jewish ancestry (at least one of my great-grandparents was Jewish) that meant it had more of an impact on me than I would have expected.

I felt I had to do something practical in the days immediately after the attacks and, after some investigation, I chose to donate to two organisations, Magen David Adom and the Friends of the IDF. The former is the Israeli affiliate of the Red Cross and was active in treating victims of the Hamas attacks, often while its personnel were still under attack themselves. The latter provides welfare services for the soldiers and veterans of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and their families. I selected these two organisations because I wanted to support those at the frontline of Israel’s response to the attack, and I wanted to be sure no part of my donations would end up in the hands of any organisation providing aid to Hamas or its supporters.

It wasn’t just the attacks of October 7th that appalled me, it was the reaction of so many in the West. Within 24 hours, protestors began to appear on the streets of Western cities, not to condemn the actions of Hamas but to celebrate them. These jubilant supporters were not deterred by the horrific reports that came out of Southern Israel, often substantiated by video and photographic evidence that in many cases was uploaded to the internet by the attackers themselves. As some people pointed out, this was the worst attack in terms of casualties on Jews since the Holocaust, but with the difference that the Nazis tried to hide the evidence of their crimes at the end of the war, whereas these genocidal anti-Semites were so proud of what they had done they were happy to broadcast it to the world.

I am a keen student of history and have had a particular interest in the Holocaust since I studied it at high school, and one of the most troubling questions for me is, how could ordinary Germans have participated in such a monumental crime? I have read many books that address this question, such as Victor Klemperer’s I Shall Bear Witness and To the Bitter End, which are his first person accounts of the inexorable progress of the Nazi persecution of the Jews from the time of Hitler’s rise to power to the collapse of the Third Reich at the end of World War II. These diaries expose the banality of the evil (to use Hannah Arendt’s phrase) perpetrated by the Nazis and the complicity of most of the German people. Another book that I recommend to anyone interested in the subject is Ordinary Men by Christopher R Browning, which describes the journey of regular German policemen who were recruited from towns and village throughout Germany to serve as civilian officers in Poland after the German occupation of that country in 1939. These men were not Nazis (at least not initially) and could elect to return home, but the vast majority of them stayed and ended up committing acts we tend to associate only with the fanatics of the SS - rounding up innocent Jewish men, women and children from the villages, marching them out into the surrounding countryside, and forcing them to dig their own graves before gunning them down.

I’ve been thinking about the connection between those protesting on the streets of Western cities in favour of Hamas’s actions and the ordinary Germans who supported and participated in the Holocaust. The mainstream media has been quick to suggest that these pro-Hamas protestors are only concerned about the welfare of Gaza civilians, but their slogans call for the complete destruction of Israel and the elimination of the 8 million Jews who live there (Hamas leader Khaled Mashal has clarified since October 7th that the slogan “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”, means “we will not give up on our right to Palestine in its entirety, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, and from Rosh HaNikra to Eilat or the Gulf of Aqaba[and we will never recognise] the legitimacy of the Zionist entity”). No one screaming this slogan today, as NZ Green MP Chloe Swarbrick did in Auckland in the weeks following the attacks, could be under any illusions about its message - they are calling for a second Holocaust. 

But it isn’t just the prominent cheerleaders for Hamas who concern me. I have found myself a lone voice amongst my friends and colleagues when it comes to my unalloyed support for Israel in its current struggle. Most New Zealanders seem to have accepted the propaganda (and what else could you call the uncritical reporting of statements from the murderous Hamas) that the IDF is committing war crimes against the people of Gaza in its mission to hunt down and destroy Hamas’s leadership and military capability. What Hamas did to civilians on October 7th is the very definition of a war crime (i.e.“intentionally killing civilians”), but what Israel is doing in response doesn’t begin to fit the definition. In fact, Israel is taking every measure it possibly can to minimise civilian casualties short of abandoning its mission entirely. 

I am prepared to accept that my friends and colleagues are ill-informed but while that is an explanation, it is not an adequate excuse. No decent human being who heard about what happened on October 7th can deny that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself against such attacks, and no rational person would think that that involves anything other than the IDF going into Gaza, where Hamas is hidden, to find and destroy its attackers before they have the opportunity to repeat that atrocity (which they are committed to doing). The calls for a ceasefire are completely disingenuous. There was a ceasefire in place on October 7th, which Hamas broke in the most irredeemable way. To trust the Hamas leadership to stick to a ceasefire again would be foolhardy in the extreme, and those who are calling for this are complicit in Hamas’s duplicity. Israel must continue its defensive action in Gaza until it is assured that Hamas lacks the capability to repeat its October 7th massacre.

Douglas Murray said recently that “if these people [chanting "from the River to the Sea"] ever got their way, I would pity them, because they would one day wake up and realise they were the Nazis.” I don’t share his pity for the future guilt of the Hamas fans - it would be cold comfort to the surviving Jews around the world to know that those who supported a second Holocaust regretted it. I hope these people realise that they are guilty now, and that anyone who takes the side of those who carried out the mass rape, murder, infanticide, torture, dismemberment and other utterly evil acts that were committed in Southern Israel on October 7th has no claim to any moral discernment in this matter at all.

Fortunately for the Jewish people, Israel exists as their sanctuary and it has the military capability to fight back against modern day pogroms. I console myself by knowing the Israeli people are overwhelmingly united in the current struggle and that no Israeli leader will be allowed to accept a ceasefire until the threat from Hamas is substantially eliminated. It doesn’t matter what my friends and colleagues think. What matters is that Israel exists and continues to do so.

Am Yisrael Chai. Forever!

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