Far too many mainstream media outlets would make it seem like the unfathomable atrocities carried out by Hamas terrorists on October 7 against Holocaust survivors, women, children and toddlers have been largely forgotten. Not in Israel. Still shell shocked, the Israeli people have sprung into action, coming together in a way that was recently inconceivable.
This reawakened sense of unity was reflected in speeches given by Israeli leaders during the Knesset’s winter legislative session on Monday. President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid all spoke of the importance of standing together in face of an existential threat. The time for inquiries will come, they implied, but clearly stated: Our shared fate transcends everything else.
Such a unified front would seem impossible two weeks ago, when political instability and societal and religious rifts dominated the Israeli discourse. In what now seems like a distant past, some feared that the Zionist dream itself was coming apart at the seams. On October 7, we were tragically reminded that the threat we face is bigger than our petty disagreements. In this parallel universe that was forced upon us all tensions dissipated overnight. In its place we have rediscovered our true selves – a nation that truly cares for one another; a family.
Despite what some would like to believe, this war was not waged solely against Israel. It is a war between fundamentalist forces and the civilised world as we know it.
Since that dreadful Saturday, Diaspora Jews have suffered a sharp spike in antisemitic attacks. Incidents reminiscent of the 1930s in Europe have been reported worldwide. In London, Jewish businesses were ransacked; in New York, Hamas supporters proudly displayed Nazi symbols; and right here in Australia, so-called pro-Palestinian protesters chanted: “Gas the Jews” in Sydney, while neo-Nazis freely roamed Melbourne’s subway and actively sought to hurt Jews.
If the inherent relationship between the State of Israel and world Jewry was ever questioned, this war proves that we are in this together. One cannot separate between the security of the State of Israel and the personal security of Jews, wherever they may be. The two are intertwined and dependent on one another.
And indeed, the Jewish world has come together in a spectacular show of solidarity, raising hundreds of millions in aid for the war effort and for so many survivors displaced from their homes. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.
So many, including seemingly respectable journalists, have desperately sought to justify the unjustifiable and still continue to defend a terrorist organisation, ignoring the simple truth that Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza are the main source of suffering for the Palestinian people. The latest example of this was the tragic explosion at the al Ahli hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday and the subsequent loss of innocent lives, which we now know was the result of a failed rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group. Israel is always guilty until proven innocent, we’re used to that. But how so many news outlets could adopt the unfounded lies proposed by terrorists even after being presented with indisputable proof to the contrary, is truly baffling.
Israel is facing a well-oiled disinformation campaign orchestrated by Hamas and likely backed by Iran, and it seems to have engulfed so many in a web of lies to the point of no return.
The monstrous propaganda machine has had far-reaching and unexpected implications, often impacting friendships of people not directly involved. Jewish students I’ve spoken with in recent days have expressed a deep sense of disappointment with many of their non-Jewish friends who have remained eerily silent in face of the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust. Others have received threats for simply standing with the Jewish state and mourning the loss of innocent lives.
Israel should not be forced to deal with public diplomacy while facing the darkest moment in its history, and while fighting for its very existence. Yet, in this up-side down world we have found ourselves in, it is constantly bombarded with disinformation and lies meant to delegitimise and jeopardise its war effort. And while the country has put effort into combating the growing tsunami of fake news online, it does not have the capacity to do it alone.
We are facing a multi-front war, both figuratively and literally. If left unchallenged, the threat posed by disinformation will continue to grow and threaten Israelis and Jews alike for years to come.
Supporting Israel from afar can and should take many forms beyond material support. It can include reporting inciting and misleading posts on social media. It must include sharing the horrors inflicted by Hamas, as disturbing as they may be. The world may try to forget. We mustn’t let it. Nearly 80 years after the Holocaust, we must all say again: Never again. It is a burden and a responsibility shared by all of us, for our shared future.
Israel will win this war because it has to, but what comes next depends on the actions we take now.
Tobias Siegal is the Jewish Agency shaliach to the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS).