In his 1956 play, “The Visit”, Austrian playwright Friedrich Durenmatt depicts the slow corruption of the residents of a small town offered a billion dollars to kill one of their leading citizens. I was part of a theatre company that mounted the play at Loyola College in Montreal in 1973. The play shows how the man’s close friends slowly rationalize the necessity of committing the crime. Even the school teacher who represents the ethical and intellectual elite of the town describes how he “can feel himself slowly becoming a murderer.”
The nine and a half weeks since Hamas unleashed an act of pure evil against the civilian population of Israel have looked a lot like the events depicted in Durenmatt’s play. The role of the bribe offered to the townspeople is played by the growing political pressure around the world to stop Israel from achieving the necessary consequences for the crime of October 7. From the day that Israel was attacked a world wide movement was primed and ready to go, blaming Israel for the crime that was committed against it. Initially, Israel’s friends said that Israel had a right to defend itself and endorsed Israel’s war aims, but we have slowly seen them bending under pressure from the global mob which sees Israel as the embodiment of evil.
Hamas knew that the attack of October 7 would draw Israel into Gaza on the ground. They were convinced that they were ready to inflict a lot of harm on Israeli forces once that happened. They had also perfected their defenses built around turning every civilian in Gaza into a human shield. Every school, hospital and mosque was being used for military purposes. UNRWA employees acted as hostage takes and Red Crescent ambulances were used to move fighters.
The global propaganda machine kicked into high gear. A completely false story that the revelers at the music festival had been killed by the IDF spread through social media right after the initial attack and is still being propagated in left wing media. Palestinian Islamic Jihad hit a hospital with a missile on the third day of the war. Within hours the story that Israel had destroyed a hospital flashed around the world. When Israel struck an ambulance being used to move fighters, Egypt denounced Israel for attacking humanitarian aid workers. At Al Shefa, during the third and fourth week doctors from Doctors Without Borders reported right up until the moment Israel entered the hospital that there were no weapons and no Hamas located there.
As Israel pressed its offensive, the common message from the UN, humanitarian groups and the political left in Canada and elsewhere was that the harm being suffered by Gaza civilians was too great and that an immediate ceasefire had to be established. That this was incompatible with the goal of eliminating Hamas did not concern those issuing the call. Hamas was Israel’s problem, not theirs. That they were serving Hamas’ interests did not give them pause.
Until yesterday, the Canadian government understood that they couldn’t support Israel’s right to self-defense and call for a ceasefire at the same time. They had to choose one. It doesn’t make any more sense now that Canada has succumbed to pressure and voted for a resolution that calls for a ceasefire but does not mention Hamas
I remember clearly the feeling of dread that I felt as the events in “The Visit” unfolded on that stage 50 years ago in Montreal. This morning that same feeling of dread sits in the pit of my stomach as I watch the world slowly accommodating the idea that Israel should allow Hamas to survive “for the sake of the people of Gaza”. Rather than countenance the terrible consequences of war, Hamas should be allowed to survive and plot its next act of genocide.
I trust that Israel will press on regardless, and that the United States, which voted against yesterday’s resolution at the General Assembly will continue to support them for a while longer. Whether it will be long enough to neutralize Hamas and rescue the hostages remains to be seen.
This article was originally published at Canadian Zionist Forum.