“I got a head full of ideas, that are drivin’ me insane,” sang Bob Dylan. I know the feeling. It’s been more than a week now, and with an extended family and close friends living in Israel, I can think of little else.
This week’s column will therefore not be an orderly, three point analysis ending on an optimistic note. It will be impressions and thoughts and maybe will help others understand how many — probably most — Jews and Israelis are thinking and feeling right now.
- A friend, someone I respect, posted a tweet on behalf of an organisation that I like and support on the day that Hamas massacred over a thousand innocent Israeli civilians including children and babies. The tweet read: “Solidarity with the Palestinians AND Israeli internationalists.” First of all, while the massacre was happening, long before there was any significant Israeli response, who thinks first and foremost about “solidarity with Palestinians”? And second, as the tweet says, solidarity with (presumably) all Palestinians, but only with some Israelis, those who might be considered “internationalists”. What an obscene message — and despite explanations and apologies that I’ve received, it still appears on the organisation’s Twitter feed, followed by several similar posts.
- Some people — who I don’t necessarily agree with on most things — had a different gut reaction on the day of the massacre. One of those was Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, who gave full-throated support to Israel from the beginning. He instantly identified with the Israelis as the victims of a fascist death-cult, something he is intimately familiar with thanks to Vladimir Putin. Zelensky showed his solidarity with the Jewish state in spite of Netanyahu’s stupid pro-Russian attitude and his refusal to provide any meaningful support to Ukraine. No, I don’t agree with everything Zelensky says and does, but compared to people who are busy tweeting about “solidarity with Palestine” while the blood was still fresh on the ground in Sderot and Be’eri — compared to those people, Zelensky is indeed a comrade.
- Another organisation, not in the UK, that I respect and support is sharing on social media an appeal to support protests against “genocide” in Gaza. The “genocide card” is played every time Israel carries out any military operation in Gaza, no matter how small or large. Israel is obviously not carrying out genocide because if it was, you’d know about it from the casualty figures. The Israeli Air Force dropped many tons of bombs on Gaza this week and the result was several hundred deaths. Either the bombs don’t really work, or the aiming was very poor — or maybe Israel really was trying to destroy Hamas and not just randomly kill thousands of Gazans. It’s a possibility, right?
- Many people, even those who support Israel, are very concerned about the Israeli order to Palestinians to evacuate the northern part of Gaza, where ground operations are likely to take place. Some are calling this a war crime. I find this absolutely baffling. A war crime would be to target those civilians. To warn them of an imminent attack, to tell where to go for relative safety, is the opposite of a war crime. Many of those who consider the evacuation order to be a war crime believe that the Hamas attack on 7 October was not a war crime, but instead was a legitimate act of “resistance” which should be applauded. Think about that.
- One tiny bright light in the darkness has been the reaction of leaders of the world’s main social democratic and labour parties. Keir Starmer, Bernie Sanders, Jagmeet Singh, Olaf Scholz and Anthony Albanese have all spoken out clearly against Hamas terrorism and for Israel’s right to self defence. Most on the “hard Left” including Corbyn and Melenchon have covered themselves in shame.
- And finally, from a man who is completely shameless — Vladimir Putin — we get Israel compared once again to the Nazis. According to the Russian President, Israeli actions in Gaza are no different from the German siege of Leningrad, which lasted almost 900 days and led to the deaths of 1.5 million people. Putin sees Nazis everywhere — in Ukraine, with its Jewish president and prime minister, and now in the Jewish state itself. The only place he doesn’t see Nazis is in Russia, which has launched the biggest land war in Europe since 1945 with an illegal attack against its sovereign neighbour.
Thinking back to how I opened this article, let me re-phrase that. I do have a headful of ideas. But maybe it’s not me that’s gone insane.
This column appears in this week’s issue of Solidarity.