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‘We must redraw the lines of moral clarity’ – The Chief Rabbi writing in The Times

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On October 8, news was continuing to filter through to the Jewish community about the unspeakable terrorist atrocities still being perpetrated by Hamas. Many were in synagogue and had not been able to access news in the usual way because it was a religious holiday, but the depth of the depravity was already painfully clear to us. On that very same day, a large demonstration was held in Manchester. It marched behind a banner which read: “Manchester Supports Palestinian Resistance”.

I have searched for some glimmer of ambiguity in those words — but there is none. They illustrate a world view in which the deliberate slaughter of babies where they sleep, the rape of women and the beheading of civilians in their homes, can be framed as “resistance”. The organisers had described the perpetrators online as “heroic” and as “brave fighters” to whom they offered their “unconditional support”.

Did every person who attended that march truly wish to associate themselves with acts of such barbarity? I sincerely hope that they did not.

Nevertheless, it could not be clearer that, at the very least, the lines between those who wish only to advocate for the welfare of innocent Palestinians and those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas have become badly blurred.

Those lines have remained blurred in the subsequent demonstrations, in which a minority have proudly displayed their extremism on their banners and in their chants, while the majority stand alongside them. Similar lines have become blurred in the sermons being given in a minority of mosques, inciting hatred and even violence against Jews, while the majority of prominent Muslim clerics are silent. They are blurred on university campuses where a minority of students and lecturers are declaring their support for “intifada” while the majority appear indifferent.

It is imperative that we redraw these lines of moral clarity without delay.

Whatever your view of the conflict in the Middle East, we must open our eyes to what should be obvious: there is an inescapable moral chasm between those who publicly rejoice in the purposeful massacre of innocent civilians and those who seek to avoid harming them — even to the detriment of a military campaign to protect its own citizens.

There is a moral chasm between those who use non-combatants as human shields and those who are deterred by their use. There is a moral chasm between those who proudly broadcast their desecration of life for all the world to see, and those who unequivocally lament the inadvertent loss of any innocent life as a tragedy. There is a moral chasm between those who positively celebrate the inhuman war crimes of rape, torture, mutilation, burning alive and child-killing, and those who would immediately prosecute any person found to have committed such heinous crimes.

The contrasting world views are presented nowhere more starkly than in the rallying call of Hamas leaders themselves: “We love death as our enemies love life”. This is no euphemism. This is a terrorist organisation which has pledged to repeat the savagery of October 7 “again and again”, declaring that it is “proud” to sacrifice the lives of innocent Palestinians in the service of doing so.

It is a stain on our common humanity that so many seem to have lost sight of the moral distance between Hamas and Israel.

Of course, none of this is to understate the severity of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but advocating for the welfare of innocent Palestinians must go hand in hand with a clear-eyed condemnation of the barbarity of Hamas. Indeed, it is an essential component of it, because there is no worse enemy of the Palestinian people than Hamas.

This matters because the world feels a different place today than it was on October 6. I’m not referring to the bomb threats against Jewish schools in Paris, the attempted arson at a synagogue in Berlin or even the violent mob, baying for Jewish blood, storming an airport in Russia, as terrifying as these incidents were. The world feels different because at the very moment when it should be clearer than ever what is meant by Hamas’s “resistance”, “jihad”, “uprising”, or “intifada”, more and more people are now openly calling for these things in cities across Britain and the world.

This is hateful extremism. We must have the moral courage to call it by its name and to face it down.

Make no mistake, at its heart, this is a war of values. Its consequences will shape the world that our children inherit.


This article first appeared in The Times on November 04 2023.