Never again is now

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
10 November, 2023

Over a month has passed since the conflict between Hamas and Israel escalated dramatically. The death toll of the 7 October massacre exceeds 1,400, marking this as the most severe episode of violence affecting Jewish people since the Holocaust. And Hamas still holds more than 240 hostages. 

Understanding the full extent of such atrocities often takes time. We saw this following the attacks of September 11, the bombings in Madrid and London, and the massacre in Christchurch. People usually need weeks, if not months, to process the enormity of such events. 

However, in the aftermath of the massacre in Israel, political reactions were swift and, notably, lacked depth of compassion.  

Only hours after the violence, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta called for “restraint from all parties in the region,” yet she did not acknowledge the victims directly. Compare this, for example, with her immediate expression of sadness following the earthquake in Nepal last weekend. 

Why is there such an apparent lack of empathy when the victims are Jews?  

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres delivered a clue. Only a few days after the attack, Guterres said that the events “did not happen in a vacuum.”  

Though technically true, this statement can be interpreted to suggest a broader context may partially explain, perhaps even justify, the violence.  

In this way, part of the blame is implicitly assigned to the victims. And as such, this rhetorical figure resembles classic antisemitic narratives which hold the Jews accountable for their own persecution. 

Responses to the events of October 7 have varied, with some focusing on Hamas’ aggressive stance and refusal to cease hostilities, while others have criticised Israel for its military response.  

Considering Hamas’ ongoing threats and actions, the criticism levelled at Israel’s response comes close to a denial of Israel’s right to self-defence – or indeed, its right to exist. 

Disturbingly, the aftermath has also seen a rise in attacks on Jewish people and symbols worldwide, independent of their connection to the state of Israel.  

Jewish-owned businesses, homes, and places of worship have been targeted solely based on religious identity.  

None of these institutions have anything to do with the state of Israel. They were attacked purely because they were Jewish. That is what we usually call antisemitism. 

The resurgence of this ancient scourge, as evidenced by these attacks, is alarming. It compels us to remember the catastrophic consequences of unchecked hatred. 

The world has seen what evil antisemitism caused in the Holocaust. Never again is now. 

In our podcast, Oliver Hartwich interviewed Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Ran Yaakoby, on Hamas’ attacks and the global rise of antisemitism. 

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