Why I proudly stand with Israel and with British Jews - Bill Carmichael

A few years ago I was flattered to be invited to give a talk on journalism at a Jewish community centre in north Leeds. The thing that forcibly struck me when I arrived at the venue was the intense level of security in a seemingly peaceful suburb.

The front door was locked and only clicked open after I had been observed by a CCTV camera. I pushed it open but after a few paces was faced with another locked door, and the first door clicked shut and locked behind me.

I was in a kind of air lock - I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backwards. I was asked my name and what my business was, and only after the security guard was satisfied that I meant no harm, was the second door unlocked for me to enter.

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I asked the lady who had invited me, herself the daughter of holocaust survivors, if such security measures were really necessary. “Oh yes”, she said matter of factly, “If we didn’t have security they would come and kill us.”

People light candles a vigil at Parliament Square in London, for victims and hostages of the Hamas attacks. PIC: James Manning/PA WirePeople light candles a vigil at Parliament Square in London, for victims and hostages of the Hamas attacks. PIC: James Manning/PA Wire
People light candles a vigil at Parliament Square in London, for victims and hostages of the Hamas attacks. PIC: James Manning/PA Wire

I have since discovered that this is far from unusual. Most Jewish schools, synagogues and community centres in the UK, and many other countries, have high levels of security because of constant fears of attack. Imagine having to live each day like that.

That lady’s comment - “they will come and kill us” - proved heartbreakingly accurate this month when Hamas terrorists infiltrated southern Israel and carried out the largest massacre of Jewish civilians since the Nazi holocaust in World War Two.

They butchered babies in their cots, burned children alive, dragged whole families from their cars and homes and slaughtered them, elderly people were killed or abducted, and teenagers raped, tortured and shot before their mutilated corpses were paraded around Gaza for locals to abuse and spit on.

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I am not going to “both sides” this topic, and if your first reaction to these atrocities is to mutter “whatabout” then I have nothing but contempt for you.

There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the depraved barbarians of Hamas and Israelis trying to protect their people from these maniacs.

Hamas is a bloodsoaked racist terror group whose sole purpose is the murder of Jewish civilians. They don’t even try to hide it. It is right there in their founding charter.

In contrast, Israel, for all the faults of its various governments, goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, going so far as giving warnings to Palestinians living near Hamas military facilities before it strikes.

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Here’s a little thought experiment. Could you imagine Israeli soldiers abducting a Palestinian girl, raping and murdering her, and parading her corpse around the streets of Tel Aviv? No, of course not. It wouldn’t happen in a billion years. Yet Hamas would do this again tomorrow if it had the power.

Israel has a mighty military machine that could easily wipe the Palestinians off the map - but it doesn’t. It shows restraint in the face of barbarous provocation.

If Hamas had that kind of power, we know what would happen because they showed us earlier this month. They would murder every Jewish man, woman and child they could lay hands on.

It would be a massacre greater in scale than even the Nazi holocaust. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

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If the terror attacks weren’t bad enough we then had to witness many in the west supporting these vile killers in a number of demonstrations.

Of course we know with a sense of dread what will happen next. Israel will defend itself with fire and many Palestinian civilians, used as human shields by Hamas, will die. That is heartbreaking, but the blame lies firmly with the Hamas terrorists who started this bloodshed.

And when that happens the naked Jew hatred we have seen on the streets of western cities will intensify, putting many Jews in grave danger.

I often think of the reaction of my Jewish friends to these events. They will be sickened by the terror attacks, and absolutely terrified by the reaction of many of their countrymen.

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I know some Jewish families keep a packed suitcase ready to flee when the persecution gets too much, and many will wonder if they have a future in this country any longer.

When my parents’ generation realised the full horror of Nazi atrocities after World War Two they made a solemn pledge: “Never Again”.

It is time to make good on that promise. That’s why I proudly stand with Israel and with British Jews.