The Hamas pogrom is the result of the West's refusal to accept the idea of evil
October 27, 2023
Israel’s heart has been broken. At war once again against genocidal enemies, its people are shattered by shock, grief and horror.
At time of writing, the number of those murdered has risen to 1300, with at least 2,315 wounded and more than 100 being held hostage in Gaza.
The images of what happened will stay with us forever. Dozens of Israelis were gunned down in their homes and their cars.
Elderly people and small children were slaughtered; women were raped; bodies taken into Gaza were paraded and desecrated; mothers with children in their arms were abducted and are now being held as hostages in Gaza’s terror tunnels.
This was barbarism and depravity, not seen on such an infernal scale since the Holocaust.
Every one of these attacks on Israeli civilians was a war crime. It is a moral imperative to destroy the forces who committed them and who — as they tell us — are intent upon eradicating Israel and the Jewish people.
And yet the U.S. State Department said after the pogrom: ‘We urged all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks. Terror and violence solve nothing.”
All sides? That means the U.S. is telling Israel to “refrain” from defending its people. Should the Americans have refrained from waging war against Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban after 9/11 as a “retaliatory attack”?
Of course not. Such moral equivalence, it seems, applies only to Israel. It is also the default position of the western left.
This has been on display once again in the media coverage of these events. Newspapers have been reporting “horrific” casualty figures “on both sides”; the BBC and other outlets announced [at the time of this writing] that the death toll was 1,100, similarly equating the Israeli victims of mass murder with those killed in the attempt to prevent any more such attacks.
Such bankrupt moral equivalence is “progressive” orthodoxy. Ostensibly aimed at equality for all values, it enables certain “approved” criminals to evade responsibility for their crimes by representing them as victims alongside those they have attacked. The inevitable consequence is that their victims are represented as attackers.
Thus a BBC headline read “Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza Strip… after Palestinian gunmen infiltrate its territory”, repeating the BBC’s habitual inversion of aggression and response. The extreme nature of the atrocity was instantly downgraded and its horror was blunted.
This is no accident. The instinct of the left is to deny Israeli victimhood. That’s because such victimhood gets in the way of the default “progressive” narrative that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians are their victims.
It also gives rise to the claim that Israel’s response is “disproportionate” if its forces kill “too many” Palestinians. But a proportionate response never involves a comparison of the numbers killed. It is rather a response that’s proportionate to the threat of further killing.
At the moment, the “disproportionate” voices are muted by the horror of what has happened. But if Israel hits Gaza very hard, we’ll soon be hearing once again the claims and blood libels of Israeli “war crimes.”
While the Labour party leadership is currently supporting Israel’s right to take the measures in Gaza necessary to defend itself, an event organised by the Corbynite Momentum faction just down the road from Labour’s party conference applauded the Hamas pogrom.
Although the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has purged Momentum from the party, he is currently refusing to suspend Labour MP Apsana Begum. According to a complaint by the Tory MP Greg Hands, she tweeted her “solidarity” with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which was planning a protest outside the Israeli embassy to demand Israel end its “violent imposition of occupation, apartheid and colonisation over the Palestinian people”.
Despite Starmer’s efforts, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish attitudes remain entrenched on the left, centred upon the Palestinian cause. Its apologists have responded to the Hamas atrocities by saying that Israel “had this coming” as a result of its “colonial” oppression of the Palestinians.
The ignorant and malicious lie of Israeli “oppression” and injustice is embedded in western “progressive” circles. Totally ignoring the Palestinians’ genocidal antisemitism, this narrative has sanitised, emboldened and incentivised Palestinian incitement against Israel and the Jewish people for decades.
Jews on the left, including those now wringing their hands over the massacre in Israel, are complicit in this malignant echo chamber.
They are part of a western culture that is no longer prepared to recognise evil. It seeks instead to ascribe it to motives like oppression.
It tells itself that every aggressive cause is amenable to compromise. It refuses to accept that sometimes there’s no alternative but to fight until the forces of evil are crushed by a military victory.
By refusing to accept this, such “progressives” sentence countless innocents to die. That is what has happened in Israel. That’s why yet more innocents there will be slaughtered, and yet more young Israeli conscripts are now being sent into the line of fire.
Israel will fight to destroy this evil because it has no choice. Many western progressives have chosen to support evil instead.
Melanie Phillips is a Times columnist