Six months of valor and suffering

by Fiamma Nirenstein

The world’s democracies think they cannot defend themselves; Israel is proving them wrong.

(JNS) Six months after Oct. 7, no one is the same. The Israel-Hamas war has made everyone participating in it, both soldiers and witnesses, more aware of the preciousness of life. They are determined not to allow it to be taken. They are saddened by the vicious hatred of Israel’s enemies and those enemies’ willingness to commit horrendous atrocities. They are determined to fight those enemies more intensely than ever.

Here on my table is a plastic heart I found in a literal lake of blood in the devastated Kibbutz Be’eri. The smell of the room was horrible. I remember it often, along with the stories that still emerge every day of the rape, torture, and enslavement of the 133 hostages still held by Hamas.

But each day, there are new stories of unprecedented courage and faith. Israel has been fighting a long and difficult war provoked by the worst attack suffered by Jews since the Holocaust. This war has forced us to accept that hatred is often stronger than history, stronger than any attempt at coexistence and tolerance, stronger than concessions like the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

The forces of evil are powerful. Russia against Ukraine, Iran against the entire civilized world, Hamas against Israel. Iran and Hamas not only besiege Israel physically. They have woven their religious dementia into a web of global antisemitism, delegitimization, racist violence and moral bankruptcy.

This has resulted in the ultimate moral absurdity and atrocity: People who deny the Holocaust and call for the genocide of the Jews accuse Israelis of being Nazis. These terrorists are relentless, attempting to criminalize Israel’s fight to defend itself. They are not just terrorists like Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis. The terrorists include those like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose incitement is constant.

Along with him are the Western, “respectable,” politically correct, third-worldist, cowardly antisemites who have infested campuses and streets to hail Hamas and endorse genocide.

The West should take a long, hard look at itself. But it should also look to Israel, which is demonstrating what the West will have to do to defend its civilization. Israel’s war is dramatic and tragic, but also inspiring. Fearless soldiers have lost some of their closest friends—some 500 comrades—and thousands have been wounded. These soldiers have fought with humanity against a monstrous enemy at a moment when the very word “war” is blasphemy to the democratic West. They have demonstrated that when massacre strikes a democratic nation, that nation can fight back while still protecting its values.

And it can do so with all its citizens on board. From the moment the Oct. 7 attack began, bus drivers, teachers, waiters, farmers, cooks, doctors, scientists, tech entrepreneurs, everyone rushed to put their lives on the line. They entered the labyrinth of death that is Gaza—the alleys mined with IEDs, the tunnels full of terrorists. They slept with their shoes on while volunteers rushed in with food, drink and words of comfort and thanks. They are fighting a war of survival. They know millions of people, hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, and their own families are depending on them.

Yet at the same time, these soldiers have tried to protect the civilians of Gaza. Even as they see Hamas looting the humanitarian convoys and using civilians as human shields—including children carrying hand grenades.

At the same time, others sift through the ruins of Be’eri and Kfar Aza. They collect the body parts and attempt to identify the burnt remains of the murdered—children, women and men. One soldier told me, “My grandfather was in Auschwitz, my father fought in the Yom Kippur War in ‘73, now ‘never again’ is me.”

They are religious, secular, right-wing, left-wing. On Oct. 6, they were barely on speaking terms. The only silver lining to the horror is the social harmony it has created between Israelis.

But now, the spineless democracies of the world are demanding their pound of flesh. They are stepping up the pressure on Israel, concerned with short-term domestic interests like their own pro-terrorist voters. They ignore the six months of valor and suffering. They choose not to see the threat presented by those determined to destroy democracy itself. They prefer to pretend that there is no need to defend themselves. They fear they cannot do so. For six months, Israel has been proving them wrong.  

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