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A community forged in pain
This wasn’t just terrorism. This was a pogrom
This is an expanded version of my column (£) in The Times of London today.
I am in Israel, where the sense of collective grief, horror and anxiety is off the scale. The situation that unfolded last Saturday is beyond the worst Israeli nightmare.
As thousands of missiles were fired into Israel from Gaza, around one thousand Hamas terrorists stormed across the border fence and attacked communities in towns, villages and kibbutzim across the south of the country.
Their aim was the mass murder of Israeli civilians. They went from house to house slaughtering the occupants and burning down their homes.
They gunned people down in their cars; they killed elderly men and women and small children; they hacked one Israeli to death with an axe. At an open-air music festival, armed paragliders mowed down at least 260 young people who were raked with gunfire as they ran for their lives.
Women were raped and burned alive; the bodies of murdered Israelis paraded around Gaza were stripped naked, spat upon and desecrated; babies were slaughtered in front of their parents; mothers with children in their arms were abducted and swallowed up with others in Gaza’s subterranean infrastructure of terror tunnels to be used as hostages. Their likely fate is unthinkable.
Heartbreaking images are now seared forever into the mind: an elderly, terrified Holocaust survivor being abducted into Gaza without the medication needed to keep her alive; a small Jewish child, alone and bewildered, being tormented on a Gaza street by Palestinian children who are all taught to hate and murder Jews.
Israel has been at war many times. It has experienced many terrorist atrocities and many thousands of rocket attacks.
This was something different. Barbarism and depravity against Jews on this scale hasn’t been experienced since the Holocaust.
In a country that arose from the ashes of that genocide, the spectacle of Jews being dragged from their homes to be slaughtered, raped or captured, with desperate parents throwing themselves on their children to protect them as the parents were murdered, was unspeakable.
This wasn’t just terrorism. This was a pogrom.
At time of writing, the number of those murdered has risen to more than 900, with 2400 wounded and between 100 and 150 being held captive in Gaza. Israel is a tiny country of some nine million people. The equivalent of this toll in Britain would be 6,300 murdered, 16,800 injured and 700-1050 taken hostage.
Because Israel is so small, there’s hardly any family that hasn’t been caught up in this. Most Israelis have children, grandchildren or other relatives who have been called up from this conscript army’s reserves to serve on the front lines.
Hardly anyone doesn’t know of someone who has either been murdered or dragged into the Gaza hellhole. Untold numbers of Israelis are grieving, traumatised or frantic with anxiety about their relatives who have either been killed or are in harm’s way.
And the emergency for the domestic population is still very much on. Twice while writing this piece, I had to leave it and and seek shelter as the air-raid sirens started once again to wail, followed by the boom of the anti-missile Iron Dome intercepting (I hoped) more bunches of rockets aimed at Jerusalem.
More alarmingly, an unknown number of Hamas infiltrators are still at large. We’ve been told to keep off the streets wherever possible. Schools and many cafes and restaurants are shut. People are too frightened to travel to work.
We have other terrors. There’s the fear that a second, even more devastating front may open up in southern Lebanon, where Iran’s proxy army Hezbollah has installed some 150,000 missiles which can reach the whole of Israel.
These missiles — some of which have already been fired — have been sited (as in Gaza) among homes, schools and hospitals, with the Hezbollah using Lebanese civilians as human shields against any attempt by Israel to destroy the terror infrastructure.
And there are fears that a third front may also open up among the Iran-radicalised Palestinian Arabs of the “West Bank”, cheek by jowl alongside central Israel’s communities.
Yesterday, the IDF’s Home Front command released instructions telling Israelis to make sure they are stocked up on food and water for at least 72 hours. It advised that safe rooms be stocked with water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, phones and battery-powered radios along with mobile charger banks, first aid and other essentials. This is the clearest signal that the war may soon become far more devastating still for the civilian population.
Despite or because of this, there’s a tremendous and uplifting feeling of camaraderie here, a real sense of “we’re all in this together and we'll get through it, whatever lies ahead”.
People are queueing to donate blood, volunteering in hospitals and on army bases, or cooking batches of food to send to the young conscript army now facing untold peril on the front lines.
The horrors that we’ve all seen have brought people together. Everyone is looking after each other. And with so much to cause grief or dread, so many at present need that support. This is a community forged in pain, as well as hope.
Our anxieties are compounded by what we all know. We all know that the real enemy we are facing in this onslaught is Hamas’s paymaster, Iran.
We all know that the Biden administration’s unconscionable appeasement and funding of both Iran and the Palestinians helped facilitate this pogrom.
We all know that the nine-month internal Israeli battle over the composition and policies of the Netanyahu government weakened Israel and advertised this vulnerability to its foes.
We all know that the Palestinian Arabs’ century-old war of extermination against the Jewish homeland has been sanitised, encouraged and further incentivised by western liberals, who spread the Palestinians’ lies about Israel and for whom Jewish victimhood gets in the way of the “progressive” narrative of Israeli “oppression” and Palestinian “resistance”.
I divide my time between Jerusalem and London. But at present I wouldn’t want to be anywhere other than in Israel, sharing this latest seismic development in the destiny of the eternal people.
Jews are well integrated, deeply committed citizens of western countries, to the credit of all concerned. Most British Jews wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
But our history as Jews teaches us that not only is our Jewish identity formed by living as one people alone; we fight as one people alone, and we die as one people alone. We have no other choice. The world has made it so.
My most recent exclusive post for my premium subscribers argues that UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said the unsayable: that a multicultural society is a contradiction in terms. This is how the piece begins:
For the past ten days, a culture war has been raging in Britain over immigration and multiculturalism. The person who fired the initial broadside, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, has been engulfed by repeated denunciations as at best a blithering idiot and at worst a spittle-flecked racist and bigot.
And you can read my most recent post that’s available to everyone, on how the Hamas pogrom flowed from the west’s refusal to accept the idea of evil, by clicking here.
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