[FRANKFURT AM MAIN]
When I think about the massacre perpetrated by Hamas on October 7, 2023 in the cities and kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip, it is difficult for me to find the right words. I was born in Israel, grew up there and studied in Tel Aviv. The problem of Israel and Palestine has existed for many decades now and has naturally also been part of my life.
I have lived in Frankfurt am Main since 1979 and have always stayed very well informed about the situation in my country, both through Haaretz, the only independent newspaper in Israel, and through what I am told by relatives and friends. It’s important for me that the information I am given is reliable. In addition to personal friends on Facebook, such as freelance writers and journalists, there is the “Tikva” (Hope) group, which has been prominent for organizing Saturday demonstrations throughout the country against the judicial reform being pushed by Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox ministers, Ben Gvir, Smotrich and Levin. Now Tikva is looking for accommodations for the 130,000 Israelis who have been evacuated from the border areas with Gaza. Meanwhile, Israelis have also been evacuated from the north of Israel because Hezbollah is launching rockets from Lebanon against the cities and kibbutzim along the northern border. There is discussion about whether and when to launch a ground offensive. By the time these lines are published, the Israeli army may already have entered Gaza.
There is also a WhatsApp group called “Defend Israeli Democracy”. This allowed me to follow the silent demonstration that took place in Florence on October 23rd, when 15,000 people marched through the city in silence, holding lit candles in their hands. Among them there were the rabbi of the Jewish community and the imam of the Muslim community. The event was promoted by the priest of the parish of San Miniato Bernardo Gianni. These groups are also present on social media platforms.
Israeli writer David Grossman is a great intellectual voice who takes aim at both sides of the conflict. After the October 7 massacre in Be’eri, Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza, he wrote:
My country is in shock. I am angry with our government. But there is a hierarchy of evil, and no Israeli act compares with the Hamas massacres.
When the publicist, writer and politician Michel Friedman (Frankfurt am Main) was asked on Friday at the Frankfurt Book Fair how he felt about the situation, he said:
I am being asked as a Jew/Israeli – I am not Israeli, and I will respond as a human being: ‘I’m sad, and I’m shocked’; this affects all of us. As human beings, we are all horrified by the extent of the evil, by the inhumanity of Hamas. And we all grieve as human beings for the civilian victims – Israelis and Palestinians.
Many Jews and Israelis ignore the fact that there are casualties on the Palestinian side, as well as the fact that only 1.5% of Palestinians are followers of Hamas.
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank since 1967 is an intolerable situation. The lives of the Palestinians who live there are increasingly limited by the construction of Israeli settlements. They get no building permits, while the settlements get bigger and bigger. Settlers chase Palestinians from their fields, burn their olive trees, shoot people on the pretext that they look suspicious, and cement their wells. It wouldn’t surprise me if sooner or later the situation exploded.
Another voice that is very present in Germany at the moment is that of Israeli writer Lizzie Doron. The daughter of an Auschwitz survivor, she has many Palestinian friends and her efforts for agreement and peace are notable. Like all other Israelis, she had always thought that the army could protect them. That the Holocaust could not happen again. “Never again” was taken for granted. Lizzie Doron, who now lives between Tel Aviv and Berlin, now says she can no longer rely on her homeland. If another right-wing government is elected in the next elections, she will probably move to Berlin.
For many Israelis, the traumas of the Holocaust have been reawakened. The desire for revenge is strong. 70% of Israelis favor a ground offensive. However, this way cannot achieve anything but more deaths.
Due to the current government’s misguided initiatives, it has reached the point that the army was almost no longer present in the towns bordering Gaza. The right-wing government deemed it unnecessary to protect the “left-wing” kibbutzim. Of course, the government was confident that the expensive border wall would be sufficient protection, and so the soldiers were transferred to the West Bank, to protect the settlements. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, October 7, the army protected Orthodox Jews praying at Joseph’s Tomb. These prayers (also on the Temple Mount) are the purest provocation. Hamas had “easy game”.
On October 23, two hostages were released. One hostage, Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, told journalists that the population of the south of the country had been left alone. The state is no longer able to protect its citizens. The same goes for the population in the north of the country. Rumors are multiplying, even within the Likud party, that Netanyahu must resign, and with him the ministers who have been obtaining more and more budgetary allocations for Orthodox Jews, to the detriment of healthcare, public transportation, assistance to impoverished Holocaust survivors and above all security.
Khaled Mashaal, former head of the politburo of the Hamas organization, said in an interview with the British broadcaster Sky News that if Israel stops its attacks on Gaza, “the mediating countries such as Qatar, Egypt and others will be able to find a solution to release the hostages, and we will send them back to their homes.” During another interview Mashaal denied that his organization had planned a massacre of innocent civilians. The interviewer confronted him with this statement and showed him a photo of the victims of the massacre in one of the kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip. Mashaal claimed the interviewer was “adopting the Israeli narrative” and responded: “If there were killings, they were certainly not intentional.”
According to him, the strategy for exiting the conflict should include two phases: first, ending the bombing of Gaza and the “forced expulsion of the inhabitants of Gaza from the north of the Strip”, and second, “the opening of all border crossings and the introduction of humanitarian aid”. “If this happens and there is a ceasefire, then we will get to the big question of where the root of the problem is – and we would say that it is the occupation,” he added. “Israel must withdraw from all occupied territories, and then we will have a window of time and a real opportunity.” With so many settlements in the West Bank, however, withdrawal is not an option – retreat can no longer be considered.
Denial (self-denial) is the prevailing tactic in Israel. After this massacre, it is difficult to criticize and make comparisons with the Holocaust and the Nakba, but that will not last for long.
At the UN Security Council on October 24, UN Secretary General Guterres condemned the attack on Israel by the terrorist organization Hamas, but also accused Israel of violating international law. During the meeting in New York, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen harshly attacked Guterres for his critical remarks about Israel. Guterres had previously clearly condemned the October 7 attack, but also said that the attacks by the radical Palestinian Islamic organization “did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinians have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation”. Guterres criticized the attacks and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe. He warned against collective punishment. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, called on Guterres to resign immediately.
Today Israeli writer Moshe Sakal wrote on Facebook:
I find it difficult to sympathize with the general need these days to divide the world into outspoken and correct people on the one hand and vengeful prophets of doom on the other. In the middle there are many people who are simply silent and are very concerned about themselves, and they don’t feel the need to stigmatize others to express what is happening in their soul. These are terrible days, and everyone decides, in their own way and depending on their own character, how to deal with them. This shouldn’t be judged either.
Another thing: many people are taking to the streets to demonstrate loudly against Israel, and among them there are many young people. They are expressing themselves with words of hatred. Right-wing radicals are gaining the upper hand, there are bomb scares in Germany, Jewish parents are afraid to send their children to school, and members of Jewish sports organizations are being advised against wearing training jackets bearing the Star of David. I wonder, have people never heard about the extermination of six million Jews? Are young people not informed about this in our schools? Is this the beginning of a new Jewish conspiracy theory? Thank God, we live in a democracy and have the right to demonstrate. Yes, demonstrations are fine, but facts must be indisputable.
Anyone who wants to stay updated on the latest developments in this conflict must constantly follow the news reported by print media and television. It’s also worth looking at social media. A lot of information can be found there that does not arrive through official channels. Unfortunately, though, many news stories are fake news. This is something to be especially careful about.
I don’t see any hope in the near future. Israel will insist on reprisals. Hamas will not be wiped out, because it is not feasible. There will be no life without war in the region anytime soon, neither for the Israelis nor for the Palestinians.
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