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Israel Hamas WarOpinionIsrael

Israel will recover and rebuild: it has no choice

Israel always believed it could keep the enemy at bay. October 7 destroyed that assumption. But it will recover and rebuild, with resilience and dignity.
Vic Alhadeff
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A new shoot emerges from behind a row of memorial candles

Illustration: TJI

Published: 14 May 2024

Last updated: 13 May 2024

“For a nanosecond, democratic nations will understand what Israel has always had to deal with,” I wrote. “Having witnessed the barbarity of terrorism and the depravity of terrorists, this awakening will, at least for a moment, inform the world’s outlook and generate empathy for Israel’s reality - that it’s on the frontline fighting for democracies everywhere. And this has been the situation since David Ben-Gurion presided over the declaration of the state in the Tel Aviv Museum on May 14, 1948.”

It’s not what you’re thinking. I did not write that in response to October 7. I wrote it 22 years ago as editor of the Australian Jewish News after an aircraft crashed into the World Trade Centre’s South Tower on September 11, 2001.

So unprecedented was the scale of 9/11 that I was convinced nations would relate to the hostile universe that Israel inhabited, one which does not allow for democratic values or women’s rights or alternative voices - but only for a moment. After which, realpolitik would kick in, expressions of support would be mostly cast aside and partisan interests would reclaim the agenda. And so it was.

Inevitably, my thoughts defaulted to a similar position in the immediate aftermath of October 7 – thoughts which were reinforced as first-hand information became available regarding the savagery inflicted on Israeli women and on young adults at the Nova music festival, as well as from harrowing footage gleaned from Hamas body-cameras and Israeli CCTV, some of which had viewers gasping in horror.

Aware of the unprecedented assault – the most devastating on Jews anywhere since the Holocaust and in Israel’s history – democratic nations and civil society couldn’t help but evince some understanding of the nature of the beast with which Israel habitually contends, and conveyed empathy in the wake of the attack and the abduction of the hostages.

The extent to which Israel does or does not stand alone in a geopolitical sense is a matter for another time.

Yet again, however, the backing and the solace rapidly dissipated as self-serving political agendas and woke intersectionality came to the fore, weakening the resolve of many of the politicians who had conveyed outrage at what had happened and expressed understanding of its geopolitical ramifications and importantly, support.

The Economist recently depicted an Israeli flag on its cover - soiled, precariously tilted and located in a seemingly isolated country. The stark headline read "Israel Alone".

The extent to which Israel does or does not stand alone in a geopolitical sense is a matter for another time. What is beyond dispute is that it is the only one of the 193 members of the United Nations compelled to continually assert and defend its right to exist, politically, diplomatically, militarily. And has done so since that historic moment in the Tel Aviv Museum.

Until October 6, it was widely understood that Israel inhabited an unforgiving neighbourhood, fighting existential wars, enduring intifadas, suffering horrendous terror attacks. Yet there was always an assumption – an iron-clad assumption - that it could and would keep the enemy at bay.

Even the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which claimed the lives of 2656 Israeli soldiers - the highest toll of any of its wars and an alarming percentage of its population – only temporarily disturbed the nation’s inherent self-confidence, the overriding subsequent focus being critical examination of the grievous intelligence failure which did not foresee the attack.

Until now. According to a news item in the early weeks of the latest Israel-Hamas war, a producer of the Israeli television series Fauda was asked prior to October 7 to consider a scenario in which a dozen Hamas terrorists penetrated into Israel; the producer reportedly rejected the proposal as unrealistic.

That self-belief had been predicated on everything from the all-powerful IDF to the country’s vaunted intelligence organisations to the Iron Dome to early-warning systems, all underpinned by the unshakeable knowledge that Israel has no choice but to survive and flourish. Iran might well be the 800-pound gorilla in the Middle East, but ultimately the people of Israel were always confident they would prevail.

But for the first time, on October 7, Israelis were rendered vulnerable in their own homes. Attacked en masse in their safe rooms and bomb shelters. For the first time, thousands of terrorists managed to pour over the border and thousands of Israelis are refugees in their own country, unable to return home. And last month, for the first time in Israel’s 76-year history, Iran unleashed a sample of its frightening arsenal.

This is the new landscape. It is a situation from which Israel will recover and rebuild, and it will do so steadily, with resilience and strength, with courage and dignity - whether or not it stands alone, irrespective of whether empathy and support from other nations endures or is subsumed by self-interest or realpolitik. As world Jewish leaders put it in the aftermath of the Holocaust: Ein Breira - there is no choice.


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