Opinion

'Why do terrorists target the most beautiful among us?': Reality of life in Israel after Hamas attacks

Israeli journalist Amit Slonim gives us context on the Hamas attacks on Israel

Israel eyewitness

The conflict with no end Image: The Big Issue

No, your friends in Israel are not OK. Far from it. They are enduring profound pain during one of the most challenging times in their young nation’s history. Regardless of their political leanings, the Israeli people are united in their anguish. This distress resonates not only with Jews worldwide but also with all who oppose hatred and violence. This conflict transcends world politics. It’s a battle between pure, stark, unmistakable evil and the innocent.

The innocent will ultimately prevail, but in this past couple of weeks, they have been senselessly butchered. To date, more than 1,400 Israeli civilians, including women, children, babies, and the elderly, have been ruthlessly murdered. Nearly 200 have been abducted and taken to Gaza. Their immediate future is uncertain, and their current situation is heart-wrenching. For a moment, set aside what you believe or think you know about the Middle East and consider the plight of the families of those kidnapped. Imagine the overwhelming pain of knowing your loved ones are in the hands of a terror group capable of heinous acts such as rape, murder, and torture. And worse. Yes, even worse. Regrettably, these actions don’t even capture the full depth of depravity to which Hamas terrorists have descended.

People love to harp on about context when it comes to Israel. So, let’s delve into some context, shall we? The initial assault was directed at attendees of a music festival celebrating peace, where thousands from across the globe had gathered to dance, embrace, and rejoice. These beautiful souls – why do terrorists always target the most beautiful among us? – were singled out by forces of malevolence, reminiscent of those witnessed during the Nazi regime in the 1930s and ’40s. There’s your context. Once again, evil has manifested, and Jews find themselves squarely in its sights.

To shed some light on the daily vulnerability faced by those in southern Israel, picture this: Imagine residents of South Kensington in London deciding they wish to harm every individual in the posh area of Chelsea. Envision them barraging Chelsea with rockets and missiles incessantly over the years. And through it all, the inhabitants of Chelsea, despite the onslaught, cling to the hope of peaceful coexistence with their South Kensington neighbors.

But then, one Saturday at 6.30am, when everyone is still asleep, they discover that hundreds of militant terrorists have infiltrated their homes, taking innocent lives, including babies, and inflicting unimaginable suffering on their loved ones. Just take a moment to reflect on that situation. How would you react? Will you still believe in coexistence after witnessing death? Can you maintain faith in peace when faced with individuals who have raped your daughter? Can you continue to advocate for a peace process with those who swear they will not stop until your country and nation cease to exist?

Last Saturday in Israel, these beliefs were brutally shattered. Take, for instance, the kibbutz of Be’eri. This close-knit community was home to 1,108 people who once lived in harmony. In one harrowing instance, more than 10% of its population – more than 112 innocent lives – were mercilessly slaughtered within their own homes. Others were abducted and are now held hostage in Gaza by Hamas. Their houses set ablaze, turning memories and dreams into ash and rubble. How can they now cling to the hope for peace? How can they trust that their neighbours won’t seize yet another opportunity to inflict pain and death?

This is the aim of Hamas – to eliminate Israel from the map and establish their own state on the graves of our children. It’s not a secret. It’s their openly declared objective. The events of last Saturday made even the most ardent pacifists in Israel realize that some humans are beyond reason.

Yes, many in Israel point a scathing finger at Benjamin Netanyahu for the current catastrophic situation, and rightly so. Having styled himself as ‘Mr Defense’ and the self-proclaimed Protector of Israel and Guardian of the Jewish people, his carefully constructed persona dramatically crumbled on 7 October. Instead of a guardian, he’s now widely seen by many as ‘Mr Shameful’. While it’s easy for some to point fingers at what will go down in history as Israel’s worst government, the undeniable responsibility for the current horror lies solely with Hamas.

Many Israelis, especially those who typically do not endorse extreme military actions, have undergone a significant shift in their perspective this week. What deepened the shock and trauma for Israelis were the images of celebrations in the streets of Gaza following the attacks. Scenes of Gazan residents, not affiliated with Hamas but regular Gazan people, breaching fences to loot, kidnap, and even murder individuals, have left an indelible mark on the Israeli perspective. It shattered the old view of Gaza as a place inhabited solely by two groups: Hamas terrorists and innocent civilians.

In reality, it became painfully clear that many of the so-called innocent civilians in Gaza not only supported the terror attack but actively participated in it. This revelation is one of the most distressing and heart-wrenching aspects of this tragedy, as it forces us to confront the fact that even our seemingly reasonable neighbors became complicit in this massacre.

Israelis bear no ill will towards the innocent in Gaza. The anguish, especially among the children and widows, is a source of tremendous sorrow. But the idea of coexisting with Hamas now feels increasingly untenable. A consensus is forming within Israel that for any semblance of peace to take root in the future, Hamas must be dismantled. Everyone recognizes this will come at a cost. Yet, the price of inaction might be even steeper.

Amit Slonim is a senior columnist for the Israeli based news site, Walla.

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