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24 July 2014

Propaganda oblivious to Jewish tears as it stokes the fires of anti-Semitism

The violence in Gaza is understandably causing anger, but why is outrage not shown for victims of Hamas rocket attacks in Israel? By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City (AP)
Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City (AP)

Cloaked as concern for the Gaza injured and dead, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Belfast, in London, in Paris, Berlin and many other European cities. In Belfast the violence has been restricted to smashing windows in a north Belfast synagogue, but hatred of Israel and of anyone who defends it fill the airwaves and the social media.

Sinn Fein, is, of course, the natural home for anti-Semites. After all, in Dublin they still honour Sean Russell, the IRA chief and Nazi collaborator who died on his way to Ireland in a U-boat in 1940.

My grandmother, a devout republican, had a photograph of Hitler at the bottom of her bed until her death in the late 1950s. Her excuse, when I was old enough to point out what he'd done to the Jews, was to insist that was British propaganda.

When I participated in the West Belfast Festival a couple of years ago I was on a panel with George Galloway, who played skilfully to the gallery with eloquent stuff about Palestinian suffering. He showed his true colours when he bullied a young pregnant woman who had the courage to say she was a Jew and a supporter of Israel.

When I suggested that the organisers might think of having an Israeli spokesman among the line-up on their Palestine Day, I was hissed by some in the audience. And, of course, my most virulent republican critics on Twitter are knee-jerk anti-Zionists who are among those flooding social media with photographs of dead and maimed children who may or may not be Palestinian.

Now I understand that many decent people are very upset by the terrible suffering in Gaza. I hate it too, as I hate it anywhere.

But I can't understand how people can be so selective about their outrage. It's not whataboutery to point out that we need some sense of perspective and a cool head.

Last week ISIS (the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham al-Qaida splinter group of terrifying jihadists) gave Christians an ultimatum in Mosul, Iraq's second city, where their community has lived for 2,000 years: convert to Islam, pay an enormous tax or be killed. As hundreds of families ran, ISIS attacked churches and wrecked tombstones, and continued as well with the killing, terrifying and driving out of Shias and the destruction of their mosques.

I live in central London and have so far seen no demonstrations in support of these Christians and Shias.

Nor have I seen protests about the millions of refugees driven out of Syria, but on Saturday there were thousands out waving banners with slogans like 'Well done Israel Hitler Would Be Proud', and 'End Israeli Apartheid'.

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On social media, in addition to hideous anti-Semitic sentiments, there's a skilful campaign to represent the inhabitants of Gaza as victims of a cruel 'super-power' by plucking the heartstrings of kind people with terrible images.

Now, I can see that it's important that we understand the horror of war rather than glorify violence. Being all too aware of the romanticising of Irish terrorism, when I wrote a book about the 1998 Omagh bombing I drew on the inquest reports to describe in sickening detail what had happened to several of the victims. But one has to use one's head as well as one's heart, and many people have been so swayed by the circulation of photographs of dead children that they have disengaged their brains from unpalatable facts.

Israel's hopes for peace when it unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 were dashed when the authoritarian brutes and bigots of Hamas took over, drove out the moderates of Fatah and put the little piece of land on a war footing. With enthusiastic support from anti-Semitic propagandists, the myth of huge, horrible Israel tyrannising the weak and vulnerable and starving Gaza of essential supplies has been disseminated.

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Unlike Israel, which has expended an enormous amount of effort, money and ingenuity in trying to keep its people – Jews, Arabs and Christian – safe from the rocket attacks that rain down on it, Hamas has done nothing to protect the inhabitants of Gaza, and instead fires its weapons from crowded centres of population. Driven by hatred, and like our own home-grown terrorists, happy to sacrifice its own people in its tunnel-visioned pursuit of vengeance, Hamas has succeeded in persuading the unthinking that Israelis are reacting 'disproportionately' to attacks that do them no harm by deliberately targeting women, children and the sick.

Yet Israel is enduring a blitz day after day, week after week and month after month that has its terrified population on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Normal life is no longer possible. There are aspects of Israeli behaviour that I'm unhappy with – particularly the spread of settlements – but I don't see what choice its Government has other than to try to stop the holocaust that Hamas yearns for.

What can they do but aim for the launching pads and for the tunnels from which terrorists try to invade their country?

What would be proportionate? To remove the bomb shelters and the defence system, the Iron Dome that intercepts rockets?

To let the rockets land and have hundreds of corpses to balance out those of Gaza?

I hope that the decent people who have been carried away by the words and images disseminated by propagandists will stop and think and consider whether they are not unwittingly contributing to the anti-Semitism that has disfigured large parts of the world for centuries.

Once more the Jews are being made scapegoats for the failings of all. The worst and most dangerous people in this wicked world are brutal Islamists who are trying to bomb and terrorise us back into the eighth century.

Hamas are part of them, and no sad photographs of the little children they casually sacrifice for their dreadful ideology changes that simple fact.

Don't help Hamas to keep up this futile war.

And if you're intent on demonstrating, demonstrate against those who want first to kill all Jews and then to terrify the rest of us into abject submission.

Live video - see links on Belfast telegraph website.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards