I try to avoid politics on my blog. My focus is travel, culture and books.
But I’m unable to tear myself away from the scenes of barbarity making their way out of Israel through Twitter, and sites like Bari Weiss’s Free Press substack.
There’s one video I can’t get out of my head.
A young girl is yanked by her hair from the back of a Jeep by a man with a pistol who shouts “God is great” over and over in Arabic. She has a streaming cut above one eye, and the seat of her pants is soaked with blood. It isn’t difficult to imagine what had been done to her, and what her fate must be.
It disgusts me to see people celebrating this medieval barbarity on the streets of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. What have we welcomed into our societies? And why did it take our sorry excuse for a prime minister so long to condemn it?
Here in Berlin, members of a group called Samidoun held a flag-waving street party and handed out sweets in the Neukölln district in celebration of mass slaughter.
Samidoun is registered as a not-for-profit in Canada, despite its direct affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which was placed on a list of terrorist entities in 2003 under our Criminal Code.
The fundamental goal of Hamas is the destruction of Israel by armed jihad and its replacement by an Islamic State. They wrote this in their Charter — The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement — issued on 18 August 1988. We can take an educated guess at what such a state would look like after witnessing the atrocities of ISIS.
What were supporters of this group celebrating on the streets of European, American and Canadian cities?
Terrorists — not ‘militants’ or ‘fighters’ — shooting unarmed kids at a music festival as they tried to run away.
Teenaged girls raped next to the bodies of their murdered friends.
A 23-year-old girl whose lifeless half-naked body — one leg bent at an impossible angle — is driven around in the back of a pickup truck and spat on by armed men shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).
A grandmother whose home was broken into by a terrorist that filmed her murder on the woman’s own mobile phone and uploaded it to this grandmother’s Facebook page so her family would see it.
Babies with their heads cut off, and entire families slaughtered in their homes.
More than a hundred hostages were dragged back to Gaza, and Hamas is threatening to broadcast their executions on live television. The Israeli government is telling parents to delete social media apps from their children’s phones so they don’t have to watch family members being murdered.
The videos I saw from the day of the attack were filmed and broadcast by gleeful Hamas terrorists who are proud of what they had done.
Even the Nazis tried to hide the evidence of the industrial slaughter they orchestrated. They built death camps in isolated locations, and burned documents and dynamited gas chambers at the end of the war.
These were not military attacks on military targets. This was not “necessary means” to achieve a goal. There’s no possible justification for such barbarity, and no moral equivalence.
What does it take to celebrate such acts — and to film and broadcast them?
I’ve never been able to understand antisemitism. I’ve read Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism and I see how far back it goes, but I just can’t understand why. None of the historical or religious excuses for it make any sense to me.
My mom’s best childhood friend is Jewish. Her parents were like a second set of grandparents to me during my first few years (my mom’s parents both died young). They moved from my hometown when I was very young, and the old people died long ago, but I visit this family friend every time I pass through town. We talk about the growing antisemitism she sees in Toronto, and that I’ve seen here in Berlin.
So-called social justice movements, and the utter shit being taught in our universities (especially by social science departments, of which I’m a graduate), have done much to normalize this scourge and make it worse. The apologists for Hamas in academia and among the “progressives” are really beyond belief.
I don’t think the average non-Jew has much understanding of how pervasive anti-semitism is. I think I’ve come to see it more after living in Europe, and Berlin in particular.
The first time I came to this city in 2013, it shocked me to see police posted outside every synagogue and Jewish school. I thought it was just because of Germany’s history, but it’s not confined to here.
I’ve also visited Auschwitz, and walked through the former ghetto in Krakow, and the quarry and factory where the Oskar Schindler story played out, and the sites of mass graves in the fields just beyond it.
In traveling Eastern Europe, I encountered more and more sites of pogroms, as well as traces of once-vibrant Jewish communities in cities like Vilnius, Lithuania. At its peak, Jewish Vilnius had more than a hundred synagogues and prayer houses, and countless small shops with Polish and Yiddish names. That 600-year-long cultural flowering saw it referred to as the Jerusalem of the north. Today, only ruins remain. Some 95% of Vilnius’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
I don’t understand antisemitism any better than I did before I visited these places and read about them, but I’ve come to see just how pervasive it was and is.
I’ve also traveled to a dozen Muslim-majority countries, most of them Arabic-speaking, and met wonderful, kind, hospitable people in each of those places. Many were living under oppressive governments. Two of those countries are now being decimated by brutal civil wars of their own.
This is not a conflict of Jew vs Muslim, or Arabic-speaker vs ‘the West’. It’s a terrorist attack against unarmed civilians, many of them women, children and elders.
I don’t pretend to understand the convoluted history of the Middle East or the beleaguered Middle East peace process.
But I do know that it’s possible to want a better life for Palestinians who live under the brutal, self-serving yoke of Hamas, to support a solution where normal people in that troubled region can live in peace AND to condemn the cold-blooded brutality perpetrated by the savages of Hamas against Israelis.
Like the appalling 9/11 slaughter in the United States, the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust is a crossroad of history.
Some will stand against this savagery, and some will justify it with tales of suppressed rage and academic-sounding jargon.
I don’t know what kind of person can look at those videos and attempt to excuse it.