My first war in Israel was the 2006 Lebanon war. Since then, I have had an allergic reaction to a number of attitudes that crop up every time Israel is involved in a conflict.
The first is the tendency of international observers, both friendly and unfriendly to Israel, to offer the country advice on how it should — or should not — conduct its military responses.
Opponents of Israel demand a cease-fire the moment any atrocity occurs against Israel. But that has been the response of Israel’s enemies ever since the creation of the state. Every time Israel’s opponents attempt to wipe it out, they swiftly demand a return to the status quo that existed precisely before the attack. It is the same this time around. None of Israel’s opponents were demanding a cease-fire on the morning of October 7. But, just as the Arab armies did in 1967 and 1973, when they lose — or sense that they’ll lose — they immediately balk at their territorial and human losses and cry “injustice” over them.
Friends of Israel are equally prone to offering the country military advice. Some will fall away as any war progresses, boosting their “mainstream” or “centrist” credentials by calling for a cease-fire some way into the conflict — always before the stage at which Israel can declare victory. For Israel seems to be the only country in the world never allowed to win a conflict. It is allowed to fight a conflict to a draw, but rarely to a win. Which is one reason why the wars keep occurring.
I mention this tendency only because of its utter futility. There is no reason why the IDF or Israel’s political or military class should listen to the opinions of people with little to no skin in the game. Whenever Israel is involved in a conflict, international observers of all varieties waste their energies shouting into the whirlwind.
A far better use of time, it has always seemed to me, is to work out what can be done in your own country.
The October 7 attack has created an exceptional sense of national unity inside Israel. As my friend Melanie Phillips has commented, almost everybody in Israel knows at least one family that has already lost a loved one. Every Israeli knows somebody who has been called up, if he has not been called up himself. The nation will need this unity and purpose in the period to come. Nobody who knows Israel well will be surprised by the fact of this unity.
It is outside the country that things are actually rotten. It is on the streets of New York City and London that local Muslims and young hoodlums have torn down posters of abducted Israeli children. It is in Berlin that a synagogue has been petrol-bombed and houses of Jews had Jewish labels scrawled on their doors. It is on the streets of Milan that Muslim immigrants have chanted that they want the borders open “so we can kill the Jews.” It is on the streets of Europe’s cities and in the halls of American campuses that the most rabid Jew-hatred has spilled out. And it is these factors I should like to dwell on.
Let me take just one day of Friday sermons in my own country of birth — Great Britain. On October 20, which was two Fridays after the massacre, there were, as usual, sermons given at hundreds of mosques across the U.K. Generally, the British public have no idea what goes on in these mosques. Many may be peaceful, while many are probably not. It is not a matter of opinion, but a simple matter of observation, to point out that Muslims are in the main subdued when their fellow Muslims are killed by other Muslims. There has been no significant unrest in the West over the hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed in Syria or Yemen. Jews must be involved for Islam’s oldest hatred to rear its head.
Here are highlights from just a few of the sermons that we have on record from October 20:
- At a mosque in Manchester, the imam prayed for the victory of the “mujahideen” fighting the “enemy of Allah and Islam.” “Protect them from the usurping Jews,” said the preacher. “Oh almighty, take them away.”
- On the same day in Redbridge, an imam delivered a sermon in which he taught the Koranic lessons about Mohammed’s slaughter of the Jews; he concluded with a prayer that the Muslims should have victory over the “cursed” Jews and infidels. “Scatter them and rip their groups apart,” he prayed. “Destroy their houses and homes, bring them down and punish them like you do criminals. Make Muslims get their victory.” Over whom? Once again, over “the usurping Jews.”
- At the local Islamic Center in Lewisham, which has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayer support, the imam said that Muslim countries must invade Israel for their “honor.” He then prayed for a Hamas victory.
This is the tiniest selection of mosques across the country. We know about what happened in these ones only because people recorded them.
The following day, the streets of London — among other British cities — were flooded with tens of thousands of Muslims. These are people who have been allowed into Britain and whom Britain took in believing that they would become part of the country. These crowds included members of the widely banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir, who called for “jihad” and for the “Muslim armies” to arise. Other protesters were filmed in Whitehall calling for the Islamic State to render its “curses” on the “infidels,” and they made the specific demand that Allah’s curses should “be upon the Jews.”
While such bloodthirsty cries went up, the local Metropolitan police looked on with considerable sanguinity. They later put out a statement from their crack squad of Koran interpreters insisting that the word “jihad” has many meanings. Former detective superintendent at the Metropolitan Police, Shabnam Chaudri, told broadcasters that “jihad means a lot of different things to many different people.” Thus was the behavior of violent and threatening thugs on the streets of Britain excused by the very people tasked with protecting the public. Jewish schools were closed the day before these protests and Jewish schoolchildren who did go to school were encouraged to dispense with their yarmulkes or any other symbols of their faith.
Although over the years there have been small local protests in relation to Bashar al-Assad’s butchery in Syria and other massacres of Muslims worldwide, these protests have been tiny and sectarian. To really fill the streets, you don’t even need Israel to have retaliated to a massacre — you just need the massacre. Within 48 hours of the October 7 massacre, pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protests erupted across the U.K., as in other countries. All before the Israelis had done anything but get slaughtered. Most of the bodies of the dead had not yet even been found.
But the crowds turned out anyway. In Scotland they included the parents of First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf. The first minister’s wife, Nadia El-Nakla, is Palestinian and has publicly described Israel as a terrorist regime. Her parents — the first minister´s in-laws — are in Gaza, despite the recommendations of the British government. Within days, Yousaf was calling for the resettlement of Gazan Palestinians, not to Egypt or Jordan, but into Scotland. Which would certainly mean an even starker alteration of the country of my childhood. I don’t think anyone in Scotland even a generation ago thought that the country would ever be a prime candidate for relocations from Gaza. Scotland is still recovering from hundreds of years of a bitter sectarian conflict of its own. What a time to import a new one.
Still, this is what politicians in the West increasingly do. In London, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, swiftly called for a cease-fire. Before the third week of protests on London’s streets, he released a video calling for a cease-fire: “It will stop the killing and would allow vital aid supplies to reach those who need it in Gaza.” He was among the first Labour figures to break the party line on backing Israel’s right to defend itself. The Scottish Labour Party leader, Anas Sarwar, swiftly followed suit.
Of course, this has nothing to do with international politics. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have any need to listen to these men. It is a purely domestic matter, part of an attempt by certain British politicians to keep their large and increasingly agitated Muslim electorates firmly on their side.
Why do I mention all this? For one reason only. It seems to me that Israel can look after itself. Even when it struggles in doing so, one thing can be said with absolute certainty: The Israeli government and authorities wish to prioritize the well-being of their own people. The same thing cannot be said of other governments and authorities across the West. Obviously the problem is more or less extreme from country to country. In some countries —such as America — the top level of politics maintains its support of the Jewish state. But on the ground, not least on the nation’s campuses, the foundations are rotten.
In other countries, there is a rot almost all the way through. To its shame, Britain seems to have become one such nation. But it is a reminder that when it comes to the question of security in the Western alliance, it is not Israel that is the weak link in the chain. It is almost everybody else.