Writer Michele Guinness is of Jewish ancestry and suggests that choosing sides is the wrong approach to the heartbreaking situation in the Middle East.
Every time there is trouble in Gaza there seems to be a surge of antisemitism in the UK. But this time it’s more than ‘trouble’, awful as it always is. This is a terror attack; on a grand scale. Simchat Torah - the “Rejoicing in the Law of God” - is one of the most exuberant festivals in the Jewish calendar. The yearly cycle of the reading of the first five books of Moses is complete and the scrolls are paraded around the synagogue accompanied by singing and dancing. They are kissed as an expression of the joy it is to have such wise and wonderful rules to live by.
This year it fell on a Sabbath, an even holier day (Saturday 7 October). In Israel thousands of young people gathered for the Supernova music and arts festival and the revelry was at its peak when a volley of rockets fired into their midst heralded the arrival of gunmen who simply and methodically shot at everyone in sight, leaving hundreds dead. Throughout the rest of the country entire families have been murdered in their beds or with their hands tied behind their backs forced to watch the massacre of their children. Forty children have been reportedly killed in one kibbutz* alone; babies have been beheaded, a large number of civilians from toddlers to the elderly and infirm have been taken hostage and women have been paraded through the streets of Gaza as if part of a celebration. [Please note that the footage captured on this video may cause distress]
a large number of civilians from toddlers to the elderly and infirm have been taken hostage and women have been paraded through the streets of Gaza as if part of a celebration
Donald Trump may well have declared Islamic State defeated when it lost most of its territories in 2019, but its members simply melted into many countries, a sizable proportion into Gaza where they joined Hamas in plotting one of the major tenets of their cause - to drive Israel into the sea. It would be naive to think they wouldn’t resort to the same brutal and abhorrent practices that were the norm when their power was at its height.
A Jewish woman wrote on X (formerly Twitter) ‘I guess those not in the Jewish bubble are not seeing the extent of the brutality……because otherwise you’d be shouting too.’ Are Christians in the UK shouting, or at least visiting Jewish neighbours and shops, taking small gifts or sending cards that express their horror and demonstrate their love? Almost every member of the world’s Jewish population has been affected by the tragedy in some way or another. I mentioned it for prayer at our home group last night and the leader declared, ‘Oh, my Jewish daughter-in-law who lives in Australia has family and friends in Israel. I never really thought about it. I must call her.’
I am no fan of Israel’s current right-wing government, its Prime Minister facing criminal charges over his financial dealings or his dependency on the ultra-religious party
The famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon claimed that because Jesus and the Apostles were Jewish, ‘A Christian is the last person who ought to speak disrespectfully or unkindly of the Jews’. Following its recent re-quoting on Facebook, one reply suggested, ‘That doesn’t mean we have to support the Israeli Government and its criminal activities since 1947….’
This suggests that despite United Nation’s full support of a Jewish homeland for a long persecuted people, Israel’s independence in 1948 was unlawful. Spurgeon would have fundamentally disagreed. So, in my opinion, would Lord Shaftesbury, John Newton, William Booth, and the raft of leading nineteenth century evangelicals who were convinced that the Jewish people would return to the land promised them in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Of course the Palestinian people have cause to feel aggrieved. I am no fan of Israel’s current right-wing government, its Prime Minister facing criminal charges over his financial dealings or his dependency on the ultra-religious party. Nor do I approve of the building of settlements on the West Bank. I also find it hard that I have to say so and justify myself to everyone who discovers I am Jewish. Even my grandchildren, who are only 25% Jewish for goodness sake, experience almost daily bad-mouthing for those genes at their Church of England comprehensive school. Where do children learn to hate?
Read more on persecution and conflict
In the UK the Hamas attack is greeted, as ever, with an immediate raft of flag-waving, pro-Palestinian demonstrations and celebrations, and added police protection of Jewish communities. Even so, a Kosher bakery and café in London is vandalized, yards away from bridges covered in graffiti with, “Free Palestine.” But this attack has nothing to do with better conditions for Palestinians. It is overt support for Hamas; a terrorist organisation which for years has sequestered charitable monies sent by the West to build an educational, medical and irrigational infrastructure in Palestine and instead, spent it on weapons.
Its poor record on human rights shows little concern for its people. It knew only too well the implications for its own civilian population of militarist action against Israel. And the result is a massacre of the innocents on both sides.
* A kibbutz is an intentional community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture.