The Korea Herald


[Nadav Ziv] Hamas’ barbarity broke my heart

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 19, 2023 - 05:30

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Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, I’ve stumbled between nausea, anger, grief and numbness. The barbarity inches closer. My sister’s classmate from high school lost a family member. My cousin’s best friend lost her brother. A student who graduated from my high school last year is missing.

My Facebook feed alternates between pleas for information and funeral announcements.

Picture after picture. Grandchildren and grandparents. Youthful smiles and serene wisdom.

Have you seen this person?

Please help me find …

It is with a heavy heart that we share …

I see one woman, probably younger than me, shatter during a television interview. Hamas terrorists posted a video of her slain grandmother, blood pooling on the floor, from her grandma’s own Facebook account.

I worry I have not yet learned the worst of what has already happened. I worry that worse is yet to come. Amid my cascading heartbreak, I see my Jewish and Israeli friends and family share their grief.

But I also see people I once considered friends frame Hamas’ attack on civilians as anti-colonial resistance. And I break all over again.

At first, this disgusting defense of violence felt far away. Protesters in Sydney, Australia, chanting, “Gas the Jews.” A rally in New York City where one attendee taunts Israelis with a picture of a hostage and another holds up an image of a swastika. Campus organizations that defend the Hamas attacks as “a counter-offensive against their settler-colonial oppressor.”

But as Hamas’ violence encroaches closer, so do the justifications. I saw a friend posting on social media regurgitated quotes from the political theorist Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth,” pointing to excerpts justifying violence as if the words were a biblical edict.

Positing an unlimited right to violence based on victimhood is exactly what groups like the Nazis and al-Qaida did. Adolf Hitler argued for genocide as a defensive measure, for if the Jews were not stopped, they would “exterminate the Aryan people of Europe.” Osama bin Laden, in a 2004 video sent to Al Jazeera, explained that 9/11 was simply self-defense and “punishing the aggressor in kind.” Never mind that the people working at the World Trade Center had nothing to do with the policies Bin Laden was talking about, much like the Israeli civilians massacred by Hamas had no direct responsibility for Palestinian suffering.

No one, ever, anywhere in the world, has an unlimited right to violence. Not false victims like the Nazis who pinned their imagined oppression on the Jews. Nor actual victims of injustice, which includes Palestinians who have many legitimate grievances against Israeli abuses. Nor does Israel, as it embarks on a campaign to dismantle Hamas’ governmental and military infrastructure, have a right to inflict unlimited violence against the many Palestinians who want nothing to do with Hamas.

When Israeli settlers targeted civilians in a pogrom of a Palestinian village in March, I denounced that action without hesitation as perverting “past Jewish victimhood into a right to harm innocent people.”

As a writer, I’ve helped everyone from progressive politicians to labor leaders to healthcare activists communicate their visions for a more just world. But the callous rationalization of Hamas’ killing of Jews by some groups in the US are a poison pill from which many Jews like me will never recover. I will not forget how groups including the Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles looked at reports of Israelis being kidnapped and killed and then deflected blame onto the victims.

In September 2019, I visited Netiv Haasara, an Israeli community very close to the border with Gaza. I met Barak, a resident in his 40s. Walking around the town, he showed our group the painted bomb shelter by the school bus station. Outside, machine gun turrets sat on a smooth, concrete wall that separates Israel from Gaza. Around the wall’s base, tractors buzzed. Someone asked what they’re building.

“They’re extending the wall down to prevent terrorist infiltration via tunnels,” Barak responded. That effort -- involving 140,000 tons of iron and steel -- wrapped up two years later. The wall wasn’t enough. Netiv Haasara was one of the places Hamas attacked on Oct. 7, killing more than a dozen of its people.

I will always remember my visit to that town, and most particularly, the huge mosaic on the border wall called “Path to Peace.” Visitors are invited to write a message on a colored stone and glue it to the wall. I inscribed a wish that Barak’s children in Netiv Haasara and the Palestinian youth I met in Bethlehem would all grow up feeling safe. Barak smeared our groups’ stones with cement, and we pasted them onto the mosaic in the hope that peace would come one day.

Two minutes after our bus dropped off Barak at the center of town, my phone blared: Red Alert, Seek Shelter. Netiv Haasara was under attack.

By Nadav Ziv

Nadav Ziv is a writer whose work includes essays about Judaism, antisemitism and Israel. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times. -- Ed.

(Tribune Content Agency)