Juliet Moses 18 October 2023
Jews are an ancient people with a long collective memory. Embedded in that memory, alongside happier times, are massacres we have suffered – during the destruction of our two temples in Jerusalem by the Babylonians and Romans, the 1190 massacre at York Castle, the pogroms of the Russian Empire (which my family fled), the 1929 Hebron riots, the Nazis’ Kristallnacht of 1938, Baghdad’s Farhud of 1941, the 1972 Munich Olympics, to name a few.
Now, there is another massacre that we will carry with us. October 7, 2023.
On our joyous festival of Simchat Torah, Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist regime that rules Gaza, staged a mass co-ordinated terror attack on Israelis with thousands of rockets and infiltrations by more than 1500 members. Over 1400 Israelis were murdered (proportionately in New Zealand, that would be about 770 people) and thousands hospitalised. Over 190 hostages remain in Gaza. It was the deadliest day for us since the Holocaust.
As President Biden said: “This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.”
The barbarity, gleefully broadcast to the world, is unspeakable. Literally. Hardened war correspondents and soldiers at the scene have been rendered speechless, crying and retching.
There were raped women paraded through Gaza like trophies, Holocaust survivors and children taken hostage and taunted, babies burned in their cots, families riddled with bullets while in hiding, a woman’s execution uploaded onto Facebook for her granddaughter to discover, 260 revellers at a music festival – for peace – slaughtered, shot in the back as they fled and dismembered by grenades as they hid in a bomb shelter.
Israeli soldiers walk past houses destroyed by Hamas militants in Kibbutz Be’eri, Israel, after the kibbutz was over-ran by the militants attacking from the nearby Gaza Strip.
ARIEL SCHALIT / AP
The victims included Arabs (who comprise 20% of Israel’s citizens) and many other nationalities. Elderly peace activist Vivian Silver, who drove cancer-stricken Gazans to Jerusalem for treatment, is presumed abducted.
It leaves an indelible, bloodied stain on the fraying fabric of humanity.
Our pain and dread are soothed by the many Kiwis who have expressed their horror and supported us, and compounded by those who not even allowed us the dignity and time to mourn.
While the death squads still stalked their prey through Israel and we were desperately messaging our family and friends there to check on them, the celebrations, justifications, equivocations, sanitisations and contextualisations began.
In New Zealand it came from politicians, academics, columnists, a former All Black, and (I will omit the word “civil”) society groups.
In declaiming about decolonisation, liberation, power imbalances, resistance, and justice, they add to history’s long list of codewords like Christ-killers, poisoning of wells, usury, and racial purity, that legitimise the dehumanisation and massacre of Jews. Yet, it is they who have lost their humanity.
A woman taking part in a community vigil in London holds a photo of an Israeli woman kidnapped by Hamas fighters during their attack on Israel on October 7.
KIN CHEUNG / AP
Thousands marched in Auckland on Saturday, shouting the Hamas rallying cry “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, demanding the annihilation of Israel, where almost half the world’s Jewish population of some 15 million lives. We do not feel safe.
There was also the silence, including from those we believed to be friends, recalling the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
It is the moral duty of anyone who cares about the Palestinian people and wants peace, to unequivocally condemn these atrocities, demand the release of hostages and reject the insidious inversion of morality and reality being propagated.
That inversion will talk about occupation and blockades, but omit to mention that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, dismantling every settlement and removing every Jew (including those buried there). It created the conditions for Palestinians to self-govern for the first time in history, to be free and flourish, and co-exist peaceably with their neighbours.
People take part in a demonstration demanding freedom for Palestinians, in the US city of Boston this week.
STEVEN SENNE / AP
Instead, they elected Hamas, an internationally designated terrorist regime, after which both Israel and Egypt imposed military blockades to defend their borders. Hamas did not build a state, but a terrorist infrastructure to destroy one.
Hamas does not want, and violently derails, peace – except that which the founder of Palestinian nationalism Yasser Arafat envisaged when he said, “peace for us means the destruction of Israel“.
Actually, there can be no peace without the destruction of the genocidal ideology of Hamas. Enshrined in Hamas’ founding document is the unambiguous injunction to both obliterate Israel and Jews.
Hamas knows that, unlike itself, Israel sees its first duty as protecting its people. Hamas launched this attack – for terrorism, not territory – understanding its people, who it too holds hostage, would pay a terrible price. What would you demand of our government if there was an army of over 30,000 ISIS-like terrorists at our border, willing and able to continue their genocidal mission?
In the meantime, Jewish people will do what we have always done. We will outlast Hamas, as with all our enemies who have sought our destruction throughout civilisation.
We will never forget, but will not be captive to the past. We will despair for all innocent lives lost. And to all those who honour our right to self-determination, freedom and dignity, we will honour the same in return and continue to outstretch our arms in peace.