IN THE MEDIA

Hamas a harrowing threat to Jews and wider world

Oct 23, 2023 | Mark Leibler

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The Australian – 21 October 2023

 

The war between Israel and Hamas is taking place many thousands of kilometres away, but for Jewish Australians – and for Jewish people wherever they are – it is our worst nightmare come true.

Scores of babies butchered, families burnt alive, hundreds of vulnerable women, children and elderly Israelis taken hostage – we can no longer afford ourselves any illusions about the harrowing threat to Israel and the Jewish world if Hamas and its allies were to have their way with us.

The Nazis sought to hide their brutality. Not so with Hamas, which flooded social media last week with graphic images of the violence it had inflicted on its victims. In tactics pulled straight from the playbooks of ­Islamic State and al-Qa’ida, Hamas chronicled the massacre of innocents online, using modern technology to intensify the psychological terror on Israel and, by extension, Jewish people worldwide.

The collective trauma visited upon us is almost as difficult to convey as it is to endure.

My parents escaped Belgium for Australia just before war broke out in August 1939. Two of my grandparents later were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Last week, three of my grandsons who live in Israel were called back to their units in the Israel Defence Forces, the eldest to a combat unit.

There is trauma also for Palestinians in Gaza, in Israel and those living in different parts of the world. The loss of any civilian lives as a result of Hamas’s attack on Israel is a source of great anguish to me, as it is to the vast ­majority of Jewish people, including Israelis.

The fact it is not a source of anguish to Hamas lays bare that this is no ordinary war. Hamas is not fighting for Palestinian rights – its sole, utterly transparent motivation is to see Israel wiped off the map.

Since well before Israel left Gaza 18 years ago, Hamas has embedded its military capabilities in Gazan civilian areas – under hospitals, next to schools and in thousands of houses and apartment buildings. It has constructed a network of hundreds of kilometres of tunnels that crisscross Gaza and its civilian streets – tunnels used to store ­explosives and for the movement of combatants.

Hamas is physically preventing Gazan civilians from responding to Israel’s warnings for them to evacuate the war zone. The terrorists view civilian deaths as a victory – the more the better – because Israel, and again by extension Jewish people worldwide, will most likely wear the blame.

The tendency towards knee-jerk demonisation of Israel was laid bare during the week when the international media accepted as fact the claim by Hamas that Israel was responsible for a deadly explosion at a Gaza hospital compound, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of innocent civilians.

Despite the comprehensive intelligence case provided by Israel, and confirmed by the US, that proves the tragedy was the result of a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, sections of the media are choosing to stick with the narrative provided by the terrorists. Which poses the question – would they so readily regurgitate propaganda supplied by Islamic State or al-Qa’ida?

This is tantamount to a modern manifestation of the blood libel that originated in the Middle Ages when Jews were falsely accused of ritualised murder, in particular the murder of children, to justify violence against Jews.

The Nazis made effective use of the blood libel to demonise Jews, with Julius Streicher’s newspaper Der Sturmer making frequent use of ritual murder imagery in its anti-Semitic propaganda.

It remains a highly effective tactic, with the J7 Global Task Force, representing the six largest national Jewish communities outside of Israel, including Australia, reporting a 500 per cent increase in documented anti-Semitic incidents in Britain since the October 7 attack by Hamas, 107 reported incidents in the US and 189 in France.

The J7 has called on governments to take a clear stance against anti-Semitism while also working to protect and secure their Jewish communities.

The Jewish community in Australia has been enormously reassured by the overwhelming support we have received from across the political divide and all jurisdictions in terms of the unequivocal condemnation of the Hamas terror attacks.

We also welcome Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s reiteration in federal parliament of US National Security Council advice that Israel was not responsible for the tragic Gaza hospital explosion.

This level of moral clarity is of immeasurable practical value to the nation as a whole and to Jewish Australians in particular.

One needs only to consider the spike in anti-Semitism impacting Jewish university students to understand the stakes here, let alone the difference in tone between the rallies taking place around Australia in support of Israel and those being staged by people purporting to support the Palestinian cause.

Any objective observer of the rallies in support of Israel would witness that they are consistently centred on Israel’s right to defend itself and its people, the return of hostages taken on October 7, and our yearning for peace. There is not a hint of malice or blame apportioned to the Palestinian people, apart from the terrorists.

I have not attended a pro-Palestian rally but from all that I have seen in the media and heard from others, I know they have involved all too frequent calls to “F..k the Jews”, “Gas the Jews”, calls for an intifada and the gut-wrenching refrain of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – code for erasing Israel and its people off the map.

Yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I am of a mind with those who believe the war in Gaza does not spell the end of our dream for peaceful co­existence between Israel and the Palestinian people. Quite the contrary.

Following the butchery of ­October 7, no right-minded person could expect Israel to chart a way forward that involved Hamas. But the removal of Hamas could create space for the emergence of a leadership in Gaza with whom, in time, a two-state solution might be negotiated. Ever since Israel vacated Gaza 18 years ago, Gazans have endured shocking conditions and inhuman exploitation by their rulers. Sixty-two per cent responded to a poll conducted in July by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy indicating that they wanted to maintain a ceasefire with Israel, with 50 per cent declaring they wanted Hamas to stop calling for Israel’s destruction.

Blood-thirsty ideologues must be recognised for what they are and rooted out wherever they rear their ugly heads.

Just like Islamic State and the Nazis, Hamas represents a threat to Western civilisation, and just as the US-led coalition all but ­destroyed Islamic State and the ­Allied powers defeated Nazism, Israel will be doing the world a favour when it brings Hamas’s reign of terror to an end.

Mark Leibler is senior partner at Arnold Bloch Leibler and national chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

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