Gefen Bar-On Santor

Is October 7 an empirical fact?

Source for image: the Facebook page of the artist Maayan Guri . Guri has also been creating other October 7 illustrations and portraits of the hostages, for example:

What did you do on October 7?  For many people in Israel, the plan was likely to get together for a holiday lunch (it was the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah).  But on October 7, time stopped in its tracks.

Maayan Guri’s illustration of the calendar that ceases to move forward on October 7, reproducing October 7 every single day thereafter, is a picture of the trauma and the gaping hole in the hearts of those who love Israel.

Most acutely, the calendar is an image of the inner hell of those whose loved ones are hostage in Gaza. Ayelet, the mother of Naama Levy, who on October 7 was dragged with bloody pants into a Hamas vehicle and is still held in Gaza, said, “Three months have passed but I live the same day. I wake up every morning to the same October 7th. You all saw the video of my daughter, Naama, but I don’t hear the world reacting loudly enough.”

But when it comes to Israel haters, Guri’s calendar is, tragically, an ironic opposite.  Israel haters have been living in a parallel universe: October 7 has been erased—with a memory hole burnt through the calendar on that day.  And every day since October 7 has been filled with the pleasures of Israel hate, masking as concern for the people of Gaza—who are indeed suffering, and who have not benefited from Israel hate.  Without Israel hate, they could have been living in peace, stability and growing prosperity—as I hope they one day will.

In the aftermath of October 7, many people in the West who love Israel felt the thundering silence of those around them.  In most cases, that silence was not malevolent.  It often resulted from lack of knowledge about the catastrophe or from feelings of awkwardness or confusion about what to say.

But I believe that in some instances, the silence possibly took the form of delayed gratification: stay quiet for a while but wait patiently until the IDF reacts so that the pleasures of Israel hate may be enjoyed without the annoying and humiliating “inconvenience” of having to acknowledge October 7 (October 7 is soooo yesterday).

In Canada, as if by mystical coincidence, October 7 arrived about two weeks after, on September 22, the Canadian House of Commons gave a standing ovation to the 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian Yaroslav Hunka, who was soon after revealed to be a former SS soldier.  As they responded to this disgraceful display of ignorance, critics of the current liberal government (whose leadership indeed deserves criticism) waxed poetic about the importance of Holocaust memory.

But some (though by no means all) of the same guardians of Holocaust truth also started to criticize Israel’s military response almost immediately after October 7.  In other words, while invoking Holocaust memory as a cherished cultural object, they seemed to have implicitly forgotten what it was that brought the Holocaust to an end—the allies’ strategy of unconditional surrender against Germany, which was pursued at brutal costs to German civilians.  The Holocaust thus stands as an idealized object in a museum, while the Dionysian pleasures of Israel hate are enjoyed and today’s violent Jew haters are being conceptualized as the products of oppression or as resistance fighters—somewhat as many Ukrainian Nazis regarded themselves during the Holocaust.  And like the Hamas, Hitler was also skilled in depicting himself as a victim.

No matter how much one is attracted to the pleasures of Israel hate, one cannot change the empirical facts of the calendar: October 7 came before October 8.  The October 7 pogrom, which the Hamas likely hoped would develop into a multi-front catastrophic war against Israel, is an empirical fact.  The sadistic sexual abuse of the victims is also an empirical fact:

That Hamas is committed to destroying Israel is an empirical fact.

Jew hate masking as “criticism of Israel” is also an empirical fact—with “echoes” of medieval blood libels against the Jews:

One of the reasons that the West evolved out of the Medieval period was an increasing emphasis on empiricism rather than on dogmatic book knowledge.  For Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), knowledge about the solar system was to be grounded not in the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy but in observations gathered through the telescope. In a letter to the Duchess Christina, Galileo sarcastically wrote that rejecting the correct model of the solar system is easy if one is only willing to stop the little annoying habit of looking at nature:

“To carry out such a decision it would be necessary not only to prohibit the book of Copernicus and the writings of other authors who follow the same opinion, but to ban the whole science of astronomy. Furthermore, it would be necessary to forbid men to look at the heavens, in order that they might not see Mars and Venus sometimes quite near the earth and sometimes very distant, the variation being so great that Venus is forty times and Mars sixty times as large at one time as at another. And it would be necessary to prevent Venus being seen round at one time and forked at another, with very thin horns; as well as many other sensory observations which can never be reconciled with the Ptolemaic system in any way, but are very strong arguments for the Copernican.”

In The Fabric of the human body, Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) taught anatomy through dissections and precise illustrations rather than simply by blindly reproducing the sometimes inaccurate book knowledge passed down from the ancient physician Galen.  The barber surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-1590) used empirical, hands-on observations on the battlefield to come to the conclusion that the cruel practice of pouring boiling oil on soldiers’ wounds must be abandoned in favor of a soothing ointment that actually worked to heal:

Today, many Israel haters are pouring oil on our wounds with insufficient attention to the empirical reality of what happened on October 7 and what this means about the threats that Israel is facing.  Their hate is often emboldened by cursory book and social-media knowledge that oversimplifies theories about oppressor vs. oppressed.  Their activism seems to be driven by what Brendan O’Neill has characterized as the narcissism of the elites rather than by a genuine constructive contribution toward peace:


In the West, the growing empiricism that followed the Medieval period has generally (though by no means perfectly) been associated with rising levels of liberty.  This is why the tendency to evade or forget the empirical facts of October 7 should be a concern not just to those who love Israel.   Are we at risk of entering a period increasingly ruled by misleading book and social-media knowledge rather than by empirical reality?

No amount of quasi-medieval mythological Israel hate can change the calendar: On October 6, there was cease fire.  On October 7, the worst and most sadistic massacre and mass rape, torture and kidnapping of Jews since the Holocaust took place due to the deliberate choices of the elected leadership of Gaza, who likely hoped that Hezbollah and Iran would join them for a total war of destruction against Israel.  That same leadership has also deliberately kept some parts of Gaza more prosperous and others poorer and misdirected huge amounts of funding that could have been used for the welfare of Gazans toward building up military capacity to destroy Israel.  They constructed a pandemonium-like network of tunnels and dungeons—but no shelters for their own civilians.

The image of pre-October-7 Gaza as a place of innocent victimhood has been challenged.  But Israel haters in the West may be reluctant to let go of a narrative that makes them feel morally superior.  Ultimately, there will likely be growing empirical evidence showing that the pleasures of Israel hate are primarily a distraction from what we do not want to see—that those who want to destroy Israel feel superior to the rest of us (possibly especially to those who go out of their way to understand them) and that Israel hate is a problem not only for Israel and for the Jewish people but for every person who loves liberty and who wishes to live and work peacefully.

About the Author
Gefen Bar-On Santor teaches English at the University of Ottawa, as well as adult-education literature courses at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa, Canada. She is an enthusiastic believer in life-long learning and in the relevance of fiction to our lives. She also writes at
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