The horrific October 7 terrorist attack in Israel offered a moment of lucidity in what is often seen as a sea of moral ambiguity. The conflict between Israel and its enemies is as complex as it has proven intractable. But the moral clarity provided by last Saturday’s massacre was as black and white as anything since Adolf Hitler.
It was September 11 on steroids (or rather Captagon), not just in its ghoulish efficiency but in its crisp delineation between good and evil. And it presented an opportunity, if one so chose, to show on which side of that divide one stood. Many people who identify with the Palestinian cause chose to stay silent, some strategically, others because they could recognize pure evil when they saw it and, while they did not have the fortitude to publicly condemn it, were as revolted as any decent human being had to be.
But then there were those who chose to take to the streets and the airwaves to defend the indefensible. They might have waited a few days until Israel’s obvious and necessary response would have changed the visuals and at least arguably muddied the waters. But no, the “I-will-not-condemn” chorus began before the corpses of the innocents were cold, let alone counted. That very day, Amnesty International put out its usual statement of moral equivalence laying the blame as it always does on Israel. The Orwellian UN Human Rights Council, which was meeting at that time, also could not bring itself to condemn the massacre of innocent civilians but as always excoriated Israel. Coalitions of anti-Israel student groups at some of America’s most prestigious universities, including sadly my own alma mater, were conspicuous early (although cravenly anonymous) cheerleaders for Hamas. For some, it seems, there are no red lines, at least not when the victims are Jews.
Thousands gathered in Times, Trafalgar and other squares around the world to show solidarity with Hamas even as the extent of its barbarity was unfolding, brazenly and giddily live streamed by the terrorists themselves as an invitation for all true antisemites to step forward. And so many did. On the steps of the Sydney Opera House, a crowd of hundreds chanted “Gas the Jews” as the police looked on. Such scenes felt surreal in living memory of the Holocaust and underscored for anyone who may have harbored doubts why Israel’s survival is an imperative.
Joseph Massad, whose hatred has poisoned generations of Columbia students, published a diatribe in The Electronic Intifada in which he gleefully exalted the massacres perpetrated by the “Palestinian resistance” while scoffing at “the weakness of Israeli military preparedness”.
In the latter respect, he was of course correct. Hamas pulled off a spectacular feat of subterfuge. But it was not just the Israel Defense Forces they fooled. It was everyone. They fooled the Arab and European governments who gave them billions hoping they might use those funds to improve the lives of the residents of Gaza rather than to plot and carry out vile atrocities. And they fooled the world who hoped they had become more pragmatic and might have an objective other than to slaughter Jews.
With the element of surprise, Hamas could have focused on military targets and still struck a devastating blow to their sworn enemy. But being what they are, they chose to direct the brunt of their hatred, their bullets and their blades on soft targets, murdering and kidnapping innocent women and children, babies, elderly and youth by the hundreds asleep in their beds or dancing at a party.
Now Israel embarks on the necessary but treacherous task of dislodging Hamas. As it does so, it must abide to the fullest extent possible by international law, as it always strives to do. It also must and will ignore the shameful cries of those who have shown themselves – at this moment of pure moral clarity – utterly incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, or worse, have chosen to side with evil. Tragically many civilians will suffer but their blood, like the blood of the Israeli victims, will be on the hands of the terrorists of Hamas and its supporters and enablers.