Andrew Kenny tackles emerging antisemitic rhetoric amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict

The recent chanting of the phrase “Gas the Jews!” by a cheering crowd outside the Sydney Opera House highlights the antisemitism in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Despite the recent attack on Israel by Hamas and this ongoing conflict – some have resorted to antisemitism and hatred instead of outright condemning Hamas. Andrew Kenny unpacks the incident and the ongoing tensions around the world.

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All you need is hate 

By Andrew Kenny*

“Gas the Jews!” I think this chant will remain clearly in my mind for the rest of my life when other details of the horrible events in the Gaza Strip and Israel this month have become hazy. 

Please notice, it was not “Gas the Zionists!” or “Gas the Israelis!” but “Gas the Jews!” It was chanted by a cheering crowd of demonstrators outside the Sydney Opera House on Monday 9 October. The words had obvious references to a Jewish fate eight decades ago, and these references were highly enthusiastic. 

You need to go back to that time for understanding. On the web you will find photos of Hitler meeting the fanatically anti-Jewish Mufti of Jerusalem in 1941. Another picture shows the Mufti smiling at Himmler. This was in 1943, when the gas chambers of the Final Solution were in full production. 

Those chanting outside the opera house seemed to be demanding another round of Jewish extermination, another Holocaust. They seemed to be driven by one force only: hatred. Pure hatred. That was at the centre of this tragedy.

On Saturday 7 October a large force of Hamas terrorists, armed to the teeth, broke through the border defences and invaded southern Israel from Gaza. The invasion had obviously been well planned and efficiently prepared a long time before. It was highly successful for their purposes. The Israeli Defence Force was caught by surprise. 

Hamas chose to attack unarmed civilians; it chose unarmed men, women and children, to murder, rape, mutilate and to capture. About 1,300 people were killed, mainly civilians, mainly Israelis but also Russians, French, Brazilians, Australians, South Africans, Argentinians, Nepalese and others. 

A music festival in Israel was targeted, and over 250 unarmed revelers were murdered by men with AK47 assault rifles and other firearms. Over 200 people were taken as hostages to Gaza. Hamas celebrated its heroism and famous victory. Others around the world had different reactions.

Decent moral human beings could give only one immediate reaction: outright condemnation of Hamas and complete sympathy with the victims. Later we could put the attack into historical context and advise Israel how to respond, and judge how Israel did respond. And indeed, from around the world this immediate correct response did come. There are indeed many decent human beings still left here. 

But unfortunately, there were other responses. Some people immediately cited historical rights and wrongs rather than first just condemning this atrocity. Some in official positions refused to condemn this crime but instead condemned all abuses of human rights. Question: do you condemn Hamas’s murder of 250 unarmed civilians at a music festival? Answer: I condemn all loss of life. Translation: I don’t condemn Hamas’s murder of 250 unarmed civilians at a music festival. Worst were those who celebrated Hamas’s killing of Jews.

The chanting for a new holocaust of Jews at the Sydney Opera House was only one example. In England, Jewish schools had to close for fear of attacks on their children. There were similar threats to Jews around the West – the West that Islamic extremists hate so much and love to live in. 

Indeed, a deep hatred of the West is a profound feature of Muslim extremists around the world, and they usually choose to express this hatred within the comfort and freedom of a Western home. Nothing seems to raise their hatred and contempt as much as the tolerance and liberty of the West, and the success of the West. 

In Europe, two Swedes and a French teacher were murdered by Islamic terrorists. The murderers of the Jews near the Gaza Strip were applauded, and there were demands for more Jews to be slaughtered. There was also another extraordinary reaction: outrage at the dead Jews for being victims. A grim cartoon by Rob Hooper expressed exactly Hamas’s fury at this: how dare you pose as a victim after I have murdered you and mutilated you!

From the ANC, we expect nothing but moral squalor. It has an appalling record on international human rights. It backs tyrants who persecute their subjects, especially in Africa. It applauded Mugabe and then Mnangagwa as they murdered, tortured and impoverished the people of Zimbabwe. 

Ramaphosa was one of the few African heads of state to attend Mnangagwa’s inauguration after a blatantly rigged election. The ANC reacted to the Hamas atrocity by blaming Israel for past sins. The ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula (who had previously cheered “Viva President Mnangagwa”) said that the explosion at a Gaza hospital was a “genocidal” crime of Israel. (See below for the exposure of this lie.)

What about the aftermath? Why was Israeli intelligence taken by surprise? How should Israel have reacted? How do we feel about Israel’s reactions so far? How much of Israel’s past actions were responsible for the tragedy? Like most people, I’m confused. (I should state my own religious background here. I am an atheist but was born into Western Christian culture, which I admire.) 

I think Netanyahu is an awful Israeli Prime Minister. He is almost certainly corrupt, has allowed Israelis to settle in the West Bank, seems to be in the pocket of the Jewish religious extremists who present a real threat to the State of Israel, and has caused a constitutional crisis in Israel over the relationship between parliament (the Knesset) and the supreme court. He reacted to Hamas’s murder of 1,300 people in Israel by promising to deal “harsh blows” at Hamas. The Israeli Defence Force has bombed buildings in Gaza believed to shelter Hamas terrorists. Ground forces will follow. I think Netanyahu is doing exactly what Hamas wants him to do.

On Tuesday evening, 10 October, there was a big explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, run by the Anglican Church. Hamas immediately told the world that the Israelis had deliberately bombed the hospital and killed 471 people. You got the feeling that hospital buildings had been reduced to rubble. Much of the world, including of course the ANC (see above), instantly believed them and instantly condemned Israel. 

But then you saw photographs of the aftermath. All the hospital building walls and roofs were intact. The explosion had happened in the car park. The Israelis gave rather convincing evidence that the explosion had not come from an Israeli bomb but from a Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad missile, which had misfired and exploded in Gaza: apparently a common occurrence. The death toll was nowhere near the large number Hamas had claimed. To my surprise the most honest, detailed and I think accurate account of the explosion came from the UK’s Guardian, usually at the forefront of woke thought.

There is an argument that Hamas will only respect force and, if Israel does not immediately mount force against it, it will regard that as a sign of weakness and be encouraged to increase its attacks on Israel. I think the opposite is true. I think it would have been better for Israel not to have struck back, but to have waited, allowed the whole world to see more and more of the Hamas atrocity, tightened its defences on the Gaza border, investigated the reasons for its intelligence failure, and launched a massive international diplomacy campaign to win sympathy and understanding for its cause. 

The Abraham Accords had already shown the benefits of such a course. The key fact is this: Israel, driven by a strong sense of community, cares terribly about Israeli lives; Hamas, driven by hatred, cares nothing about Palestinian lives. It likes nothing more than showing the world pictures of dead Palestinians that it claims are from Israel’s military operations. The more corpses the better. 

Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has made little attempt to develop its rich economic potential for the benefit of its people but has instead invested its resources in war, building a network of military tunnels and an arsenal of rockets, bombs and guns. Hamas is at odds not only with Israel but also with the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. I can think of no better way of stirring up Palestinian hatred for Israel in Gaza and support for Hamas than for Israel to move in with soldiers and tanks and go from house to house rooting out Hamas.

I’ve only been to Israel and Egypt once, a long time ago, in 1984/5. We crossed from Israel to Egypt via the Gaza Strip. I was most struck by the fact that all the Egyptian Arabs we spoke to, official and civilian alike, held nothing against the Israelis but disliked the Palestinians. In the recent troubles, Egypt has refused to take in any Palestinian refugees. So has Jordan. In fact, I can think of few if any Arab countries who ever took in Palestinian refugees. By contrast, when the State of Israel was developing and many Arab countries were expelling their Jews, Israel took in all Jewish refugees. 

I also notice that the same people who protest and demonstrate against any suspected Israeli injustice against Muslims are quiet when there are far worse injustices against them elsewhere. South Africa shut down her embassy in Israel in 2019 in protest against Israeli actions against Muslims. But the Chinese have perpetrated worse persecution of their Muslim people, and the ANC is quite happy to keep its embassy in China open and to trade with her. 

The Uyghurs in China, an ancient people, now Muslim, are brutally persecuted by the Chinese Government. They are imprisoned without trial, beaten, murdered, tortured, raped, forcibly sterilised and enslaved by forced labour. All of this is well-documented. And all of this is just fine with the ANC. 

The Jews emerged as a nation about 4,000 years ago. Western civilisation was founded in two cities, Athens and Jerusalem. The Greeks of Athens eventually spawned a great empire. The Jews of Jerusalem produced a great new world religion, with one God only. 

In the 6th Century BC, Jews returning from exile in Babylon wrote the foundations of the Bible, by far the most important book ever written: the book that led to Christianity over five centuries later and Islam over a thousand years later. The Jews were invaded and dispersed by various conquerors, including the Romans, and scattered over vast regions. The name Palestine comes from the ancient Greeks. 

After thousands of years of history, the area fell under the Ottoman Empire (Turkish, Muslim) in the 16th Century AD. In 1918, at the end of WW1, the Ottomans were defeated by the western allies. The treacherous Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France carved up the Middle East into their own spheres of influence, paying no regard to the Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Jews or other peoples living there. 

Palestine fell under British administration. The Balfour Declaration issued by Britain in 1917 vaguely supported the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Jews began returning to Palestine to augment the small number who had never left in 4,000 years. Hitler’s persecution of the Jews in Germany in the 1930s increased their flow. This was furiously resented by some Palestinians, probably a minority. 

One of them, the fanatically anti-Jewish Haj Amin al-Husseini was made the Mufti of Jerusalem by the British in 1921 (see above). He waged terror not only against the Jews but against liberally-minded Arabs in Palestine. Terror begets terror. The Jews produced their own terrorists. The Stern Gang, led by Avraham Stern, and the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, were openly terrorist, striking at Arabs and British alike. 

In 1946, the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing nearly a hundred Arabs, British, Jews and others. It inspired Arab terrorists to imitate it, which they did. The State of Israel came into being in 1948. Almost immediately it fought and won a war for its existence against overwhelming odds. In April 1948, in the town of Deir Yassin, the Irgun murdered 250 Arab men, women and children. This atrocity helped to prompt a Palestinian flight from Israel. Those who fled included Christians. 

From then until now, Israel prospered economically, produced bounty out of arid lands, developed science and arts, fought wars of defence and won them all, and established a tolerant and liberal democracy in a region of intolerant dictatorships. But she is not without sin, she is guilty of forceful exclusions, and she too has had her hatreds.

The central philosophy of Christianity is the Sermon on the Mount, preached by Jesus, calling for peace, tolerance, forgiveness and love for the meek and helpless. In the name of Christianity, Catholics and Protestants, each burning with hatred for each other, reduced northern Europe to ruin in the ferocious Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648. 

In the 17th Century, powerful Christian judges and priests tortured and burnt to death helpless, innocent old ladies accused of witchcraft. 

In the Middle Ages, Muslim scholars, wise, tolerant and learned, retrieved and translated the great, forgotten works of science and philosophy of Ancient Greece and so helped propel the world into the Renaissance. 

Today bigoted Muslim rulers in backward dictatorships preach primitive hatred. Judaism is the father of all the great religions of the Book and Jews are the oldest of all surviving nations, and in many ways the most admirable, even though they too have had their moments of war and hatred.

What a pity the modern world cannot draw on the love and wisdom of the three religions, and banish the hatred that now rules so many human hearts.

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*Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission