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Israel: A never again moment — again

Israel: A never again moment — again

Israel: A never again moment — again

Michal Cotler-Wunsh is Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism. She is a former Israeli lawmaker.

On Oct. 7, 2023,thousands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists invaded Israel, and committed barbaric, unspeakable horrors.

In the worst pogrom perpetrated against Jews since the Holocaust, over 1,200 people were brutally mutilated, burned alive, raped and murdered. Entire families — men and women, young and elderly, babies and, yes, Holocaust survivors — were subjected to atrocities too terrible to imagine, but not too terrible to have occurred. Ambulances and medics were targeted; people were burned, leaving nothing but ashes or teeth to identify them; and many of the corpses were desecrated.

Then, with the clear intent of sowing continued fear, distrust and despair, approximately 240 Israelis, including some foreign nationals, were abducted — a standing violation of international law, not to mention morality. And as I write, over 130 of these hostages remain in captivity, subject to physical and psychological torture, including further sexual violence.

The perpetrators of the Oct. 7 atrocities didn’t try to hide their crimes. Quite the reverse, they glorified them, showcasing and live streaming their barbaric acts on social media, as if in anticipation of the support they would — and alas did — receive. Emblematic of the depravity was a phone call by one of the terrorists who gleefully bragged to his mother, “Mom, I killed 10 Jews!”

And yet, even as the footage of these crimes was being broadcast around the world, millions across the globe — including many in the Muslim world and so-called “progressives” in the West — responded with silence, denial, justification and attacks on Jews in their countries. We saw and heard double standards at play from international institutions, human rights organizations, universities and on the streets well before Israel began responding militarily. We witnessed the collapse of morality across places and spaces.

Hauntingly, this broadly mirrors responses to the Holocaust, which also ranged from silence to denial, contextualization to justification — all excuses for the systematic murder of Jews. Even when there was condemnation of the Oct. 7 attacks, it was often accompanied by a qualifying “but.”

Perhaps the most troubling response to the atrocities, though, was silence. It was this failure to unequivocally condemn the barbarity of the attacks that paved the way for active forms of denial and justification. We witnessed months-long silence from international rights organizations. The Palestinian National Authority leadership failed to say, “not in my name.” And Ivy League universities failed to condemn rape, mutilations, murder and abductions, talking about context instead.

But silence is complicity, an act of collusion enabling genocidal terror entities and their supporting regimes, which openly declare intent for a final solution and the end of Israel — the Jew among the nations.

And since the attacks, we’ve heard outright denial that Oct. 7 even happened, with claims that the atrocities were staged, that they were part of an Israeli “false flag” operation committed as a pretext for an attack on Gaza, or that most Israelis were killed by the Israel Defense Forces. In other words, an inversion of reality to present Jews as the perpetrators and not the victims.

We’ve also heard partial denial. The acceptance of the attacks, but a denial of their scope and the extent of the atrocities, such as systematic sexual violence.

All of this is reminiscent of the “denial spectrum” witnessed in response to the Holocaust — including distortion, minimization and trivialization. It is echoed in the contextualization of the Oct. 7 attacks, which seeks to offer understanding of the perpetrators, paving the way for justification, dressing up mass murder as “resistance.”

Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

All these arguments have now become common. But it’s the response from institutions and organizations that were created and entrusted to uphold and protect the international rules-based order and human rights that have been most shocking: U.N. Secretary General António Guterres contextualized the massacre by saying it “did not occur in a vacuum.” A former director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division disputed the veracity of the Oct. 7 attacks and the atrocities committed.

Meanwhile, American university presidents were unable to determine if calling for the genocide of Jews in the “context” of Oct. 7 violated their codes of conduct, whereas calling for the genocide of any other group would have almost certainly been considered such a violation. Instead, a Cornell University professor was “exhilarated” by the massacre; the director of the campus sexual assault center at a Canadian university disputed whether any sexual violence had been committed on Oct. 7; and a column in the Yale University student paper was edited to remove the line “unsubstantiated claims that Hamas raped women and beheaded men.”

No wonder a recent Harvard-Harris poll in the U.S. found that 66 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 believed Oct. 7 was genocide, while an astounding 60 percent believed the assault could be “justified.”

In the streets, protestors around the world, including in countries that designated Hamas a terror entity, have justified the “resistance,” echoing the genocidal Hamas charter with their chants of “from the river to the sea” — and it takes just one look at a map of Israel to understand this is a call for its annihilation. Unfathomably, the spectrum of responses has now “legitimized” a tsunami of antisemitic attacks — of Jews and all those who support Israel’s right to defend herself.

Unequivocal condemnation — without a “but” at the end of the sentence — remains the only ethical response to the barbaric war crimes and crimes against humanity that were perpetrated on Oct. 7. Silence, denial, contextualization, justification and anything in between points to a shocking collapse of morality, of the rules-based international order, of the mechanisms, institutions and principles established in the aftermath of the Holocaust, so that “never again” would become a reality.

Alarmingly, we are at a never again moment — again.

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Anti-Semitism,António Guterres,Higher education,Holocaust,Human rights,Israel,Israel-Hamas war,Media,Palestine,Terrorism,United States,War

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