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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
6 Jan 2024
Zoe Strimpel

Israel has woken up to Islamist terror, while the West remains asleep

A month or so ago I visited Tel Aviv to show solidarity as the most dreadful moment in modern Jewish history surged on, and to demonstrate to my friends in Israel that I, at least, had not forsaken them. They were still traumatised, but had begun to think clearly, and their words cut right through meaningless noise of Western politicians and dignitaries I’d been suffocating on. Sitting with chocolate milks and halva-stuffed buns in Dizengoff Circle, my old friend Daniela – with whom, over the years, I have eaten my way round Tel Aviv – put it clearly. “Once they’re finished with us, what then? They’ll come for you.”

Although this idea has been shouted from the rooftops by Israelis, it has largely been ignored in Britain and the US. From the Israeli perspective, our continued arrogant and immoral torpor has become excruciating to watch. And, having spent the past week back in Israel, it is easy to see why.

We visited Kibbutz Kfar Aza, a few miles from Gaza, and one of the dozens of locations where Hamas went door to door executing families and young people. It is an eerie scene, frozen at 6.40AM on Saturday 7 October.

There are bikes unlocked on terraces; wind chimes, barbecues, sun loungers, flowers – gathering a skein of dust and dirt as time passes and the residents don’t return, in many cases because they’re dead. Those dwellings that aren’t just scorched remains have spray painted markings on them, denoting Israeli bodies found inside; that they have been swept of explosives and so on.

In some houses, mounds of washing of the dead – from g-strings to swimsuits – lie on the floor of rooms whose walls and ceilings were frenziedly sprayed by thousands of bullets, the holes still fresh. We saw a “car cemetery” – a vast dump of cars that Hamas’s ghouls blew up as those inside tried to escape from the Nova music festival and the kibbutzim. The Israeli rabbinate has had to give permission, for the first time, for burials of parts of cars because in some cases the remains could not be extricated.

We trod in the footsteps of pure evil and saw the trauma of those who had been directly attacked by it. But even those who have suffered the most perceive the bigger picture and are begging for us in the West to heed it. “We are just the centre of the bang but it’s World War Three,” said the soft-spoken husband of a woman whose two younger brothers are still held hostage, dead or alive, in Gaza. “We are dealing with the sons of the devil himself. We were asleep. Now we are awake. We see the Iron Dome [Israel’s missile defence system] as a toy. We have all kinds of technology and missiles and the fact is that we were blind.

“But you in the West,” he added. “You are still blind, still asleep. When will you wake up? Your October 7 could be any day – it will be any day. You need to act now.”

Indeed. From our protests celebrating the grotesquely false charge of Israeli “genocide” in Gaza to our absurd indulgence of hate speech and incitement in mosques, to the apparent capture of the Met by the pro-Palestine cause, we are not only asleep but appear insistent on strengthening the lethal la-la land we’re living in.

Instead of protecting Londoners from theft and violence – including the Jews who have been harassed and subjected to unspeakable intimidation with each pro-Palestine rally – it was revealed last week that the Met was looking for accounts of war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the House of Commons sent an email which suggested it would be flying the Palestinian flag “in honour of the Palestine ambassador” – although Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has since denied this would happen.

Such a move, had it gone ahead, would have been astonishing to those in Israel staring out from grief-soaked eyes, condemned forever to replay in their minds the images of their loved ones caught up in the butchery of October 7.

We must get real, and fast – and Israelis are clear about how. We must stop indulging Iran and begin frightening it. We must cut all aid money to Gaza. We need to get real about aid organisations which seem to have been too soft on Hamas.

And above all; we must allow Israel to continue its military operations. The vast majority of Israelis regret all harm to civilians. They also see that to get their loved ones back and, after that, to remake an Israel that its citizens feel safe in, there is only one proper outcome.

“Hamas must be on its knees and beg us to stop. I don’t see any other way to get them back,” said the red-eyed cousin of Shiri Bibas, who Hamas claims is dead, and whose two red-headed sons, including her baby who should turn one this month, are still somewhere in Gaza. 

Israelis do not like or want war; thousands of their children and siblings and parents have to put their lives on the line every time Israel goes into combat. But having finally grasped the enemy in its true form, after an unforgivable lapse, they know there is a large amount of dangerous, courageous and uncompromising work to be done before platitudes about living in peace can mean anything ever again.

To us, the lesson of Israel should be clear. If we in the West want to continue to live in a world that lets us forget evil, violence and death, we need to acknowledge those forces evil and fight hard against them. Now.