Since 1945, an unusual degree of security has been granted to Brits and Europeans more generally. As a result, grappling with what it means to be under permanent threat from absolutist, apocalyptic, and totalitarian enemies has become an exercise in intellectual futility.
Not for Israelis. World War Two was a key catalyst in the creation of the State of Israel, founded in large part as an insurance policy against the intermittent genocidal intentions of European societies. Although it was also a positive tale of graft, ingenuity, and national self-determination, safety was its lynchpin.
Implacable and murderous antisemitism has, unfortunately, simply migrated across the Mediterranean and into the Islamic world. Specifically, it has taken root at the core of the terrorist group Hamas, whose charter explicitly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.
To the citizens of New York, London, Melbourne and Paris, Tel Aviv may seem like another Western, cosmopolitan city. But on the 16th November the Hamas leader in Gaza placed Tel Aviv firmly in his sights. Mocking the recent Israeli display of magnanimity, after Israel allowed fuel and funds into the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar sneeringly declared “What did the Israeli leadership think when it allowed in fuel and Qatari funds? … That we would sell out our blood for diesel and dollars? They’ve been disappointed, and their goals have failed”. Sinwar went on to declare that Tel Aviv was Hamas’s next target.
Emphasis on next. With only minimal coverage in the Western media, Hamas last week launched 500 rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, destroying buildings, injuring dozens, and tragically killing a Palestinian labourer. 150 airstrikes were launched by Israel as a response. In one remarkable incident, Israeli forces were on the phone with an individual in Gaza instructing and advising him on the evacuation of civilians in a targeted area for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, Hamas timed their initial barrage to coincide with the end of day-care and kindergarten for Israeli children.
This is no military conflict. This is the indiscriminate, or rather intentional, targeting of innocent civilians by Hamas and in response the precise, careful, and often excessively cautious targeting by Israeli forces of legitimate military sites in the Gaza Strip.
It is right that there are voices calling on the Israeli government to do more on Gaza – it can, and it probably should.
But be under no illusion about who Israel’s enemy is. Be under no illusion about what this enemy will do with such magnanimity. And be under no illusion that if it was London, New York or Paris in the enemy’s sights, we would expect our governments to defend us.