You don’t need to have studied the history of antisemitism to know there are certain recurrent themes (“tropes”).
It is well known from where they originate.
One that remains particularly prominent in the UK – and more broadly the wider English-speaking world – is the false caricature that Jews have a thirst for vengeance.
It stems from English ‘high literature’, in particular Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Merchant of Venice’. In this play, Shakespeare has the Jewish moneylender character, Shylock, demand a literal ‘pound of flesh’ from the Venetian hero, Antonio, as the contractual consequence of defaulting on a loan.
Shakespeare in turn draws on long-standing Christian caricatures of Jews as vengeful and legalistic, in contrast to the supposed mercy and kindness inherent in Christianity – somewhat ironic, as anyone even remotely familiar with how medieval Christianity treated the Jews would appreciate.
This trope is well known.
Therefore, one would think that people would reflect a little on how they discuss matters relating to Israel knowing that ‘Jews are vengeful’ is an antisemitic trope.
- Private Eye front page – Israel is ‘taking revenge for Hamas atrocities’ by ‘killing everyone in Gaza’
- The Guardian’s cartoonist – sacked for his ‘pound of flesh’ depiction of Netanyahu but insists the cartoon is ‘a good one.. i think it works’
- Leo Varadkar, Irish Taoiseach (prime minister), not the UK, but close by, says that Israel’s actions in Gaza ‘resemble something approaching revenge’
So lets be clear.
Terrorists from Hamas, along with other Palestinian terror groups, didn’t just murder, but committed the most extreme forms of torture, on 1400 people, the majority civilians, including the most defenseless and vulnerable among them.
They recorded and published their atrocities to maximise the pain caused to the loved ones the victims left behind, and to maximise terror for the whole country (after all, that’s what terrorism is…)
They took 240 hostages, again most of them civilians, which they continue to refuse even to let the Red Cross visit, let alone release.
They are using these civilian hostages to conduct psychological warfare, violating all known norms of acceptable conduct.
These civilian-directed atrocities are not a one-off.
For many years, Hamas and its fellow terror groups have been firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities.
Before that, starting in the period when the Oslo negotiations for Israeli-Palestinian peace commenced, Hamas and its fellow terror groups led a 20-year campaign of suicide bombing directed against hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israeli civilian targets – buses, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants.
And Hamas openly states its intentions to repeat its atrocities, ‘again and again’ until Israel is destroyed.
And their military facilities are situated in underground tunnels beneath the civilian population, which international media have themselves directly documented, some after having been given guided tours by Hamas itself.
The media have reported as fact that there is anywhere between 300-500 kilometers of tunnels, linked into an extensive network, in a territory that is only 365 square kilometers – basically covering the whole of Gaza.
There is no doubt this is how Hamas operates.
Israel is a democracy. It means the people – all adults, Jewish and Arab alike – vote for the government. The government has to listen to its people or it will be voted out.
The people of Israel are saying, categorically, as any people would, we do not want to be murdered, we do not want to be tortured, we do not want to be taken hostage.
As a democratic government, therefore, Israel has no choice but to take on Hamas.
Israel openly documents the measures it takes to minimise harm to Gaza’s civilian population. No one disputes that Israel carries out these measures.
However, Hamas has openly tried to keep the civilians in harm’s way.
Hamas has openly proclaimed that Palestinians are ready to ‘pay the price’ as a ‘nation of martyrs’.
Hamas has openly said that its tunnels cannot be used by Gaza’s civilian population, and that protecting civilians is not its responsibility, but rather the responsibility of the UN and Israel.
These facts, this narrative, is not in doubt – it is readily understood and intuitive, even if most of the media scandalously do not give it much attention.
‘What would anyone else have done?’ is not a rhetorical question.
We know what countries have done for less, sometimes much less – there is a long list: US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Russia, Myanmar, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and more.
We know war is tragic and that in all of these conflicts, many innocent civilians have died. We know that this does not make the death of civilians any less tragic, any less regrettable, any less heartrending.
Why can so few say, Hamas, not Israel, is to blame for the loss of civilian lives, Palestinian as well as Israeli? Why can so few not recognise that Hamas has a choice whether to commit atrocities, to take hostages, to fire rockets at civilians, and if so, whether to do all this from behind the cover of Gaza’s civilians? Why can so few not recognise that, if left alone, Hamas will continue to mass murder civilians in the future?
And why is it that the world’s only Jewish state happens to be the one that is accused of ‘seeking revenge’?