Gemma Ricketts

The Hamas-Israel War: A view from a London suburb

The images of the pale, weak and overwhelmed hostages as they are freed from captivity should serve as a reminder that without pressure from Israel, in the form of a ground invasion into Gaza, their fate would have been as additional entries on Hamas’s tally of terror and barbarism. As a mother, I cannot get the image of Aviv Katz Asher out of my mind – with her dummy, rescued and reunited with her father but clinging to her mother and staring into a far away place of deep trauma. When I look at the picture of Emily Hand, I think of a 9-year-old child that will probably grow-up never able to feel safe anywhere ever again; or of orphaned 4-year-old Abigail Edan who will likely have no memories of her parents, if she does, memories likely intertwined with the attacks of 7th October and their murder.  

These images are contrasted with those of my local primary school advertising a cake sale for Gaza – the combination of fruit cake and children the latest weapon in sowing community division in the UK, dismissing the 7th October attacks and their victims, and silencing anyone that supports Israel. It follows on from an NCT friend forwarding me a message on 27th October regarding a ‘teddy bear protest’ for parents and babies in support of Palestine, even as Israel had failed to identify all its dead or kidnapped children. On the 7th October a house a few streets away had immediately put up a Palestinian flag, before Israel had responded in any form, giving me to conclude their unwavering support for terrorism. One of the main psychological wins for Hamas has been the schisms that have permeated the fabric of everyday life for people around the world, and in places like London especially – places very far from Gaza but places that they are pleased to export division and hatred too, should it dismantle diplomatic support for Israel’s right to defend itself.  

It seems at times there is almost overwhelming and unwavering support for the pro-Palestinian cause, and a dismissal of Hamas’s actions – as we find ourselves bombarded in every aspect of our lives by people spouting terrorists’s top lines, including the calls for a ceasefire, giving credence to the idea there is moral equivalence between the Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners or the casual use of the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’. This bombardment includes but is not limited to – via my social media feed, my little east London street’s WhatsApp group, local businesses and now a local primary school with a diverse community of both Muslim and Jewish children attending. One might be surprised to learn their neighbors or favorite coffee shop, having not previously expressed an opinion on the current 110 armed conflicts around the world, have become historians, military experts and moral philosophers since 7th October in regards to the Hamas-Israel conflict and therefore may be forgiven for suspecting antisemitism.  

Given this it will shock many that according to the latest polling by YouGov “19% of Britons say they ‘most sympathize’ with the Israeli side, while an identical 19% say they most sympathize with the Palestinian side. A further 31% sympathize with both sides equally, while the remaining 31% are unsure.” It shows that there is certainly a silent majority that either supports Israel, is equally sympathetic to Israel or in fact is indifferent enough to not have an opinion at all. It is therefore all the more important to recognize that given the overall silent majority that there is a very vocal 19% that have been busy producing anti-Israel propaganda and antisemitism since 7th October, and have given Hamas the satisfaction that their actions, having not only scarred Israel but made every Jew around the world feel less sure of their neighbors, less sure of the values of the country they live in, and ultimately less safe.  

That is why the London march against antisemitism on the 26th November was so important. Since 7th October there has been an incredible rise in antisemitism (1,350% in the first two weeks of the war according to the Met police) – Jewish schools daubed in red paint, posters of hostages vandalized and vile online hate directed towards Jews and anyone else should they support Israel. The march brought together in defiance and unity Jews and non-Jews. It united those of no political persuasion at all, Conservative voters, Labour voters and even the Communist League Against Hamas. Notably the only arrests were of Tommy Robinson and someone shouting antisemitic abuse at the march. It gave standing up to fear and hatred a real-life presence, a safe place to be a voice for bringing the hostages home and for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism. It showed that pro-Israel voices cannot be edited, silenced, or erased from public life.   

As the war with Hamas rages on in Khan Yunis; more and more members of the United Nations General Assembly support a ceasefire; and cakes are baked in order for London primary schools to raise money for Gaza –  it is important to remember the 130 hostages still being held in Gaza and that for there to be any future for Israel and the Palestinian people Israel must finish the job it set out to do and not just for itself but for all democracies, including the UK.  

About the Author
Gemma Ricketts is a UK based former political advisor to the UK Labour Party. She has a background in politics and banking; she is currently the Policy Manager for ELNET UK.
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