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The wrong kind of victims

Why do the West's ‘pro-Palestine’ supporters refuse to recognise the suffering of the Israeli hostages?

Joanna Williams

Joanna Williams
Columnist

Topics Politics World

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Israeli citizens suffered a double blow on 7 October. First came the brutal Hamas terrorist attack in which 1,200 people were slaughtered and a further 240 taken hostage. Then, within hours, came the dreadful response of far too many in the West.

The streets of Western capitals soon filled not with marches in solidarity with the murdered and abducted, but with ‘pro-Palestine’ celebrations and protests. University campuses and social media were flooded not with support for Jewish people, but with a wave of anti-Semitism.

It seems that when Israel is attacked, when Jews are targeted, the normal rules no longer apply. Celebrities who were so keen to show their outrage at the killing of George Floyd have remained silent. Universities that issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter have produced mealy mouthed press releases criticising violence on both sides. And feminists, so quick to speak out against male violence and sexual assault, found no words to condemn the rape and murder of Israeli women. It seems that the mantra, ‘silence is violence’, does not apply when it’s Jews who are killed. They are clearly the wrong kind of victims.

Incredibly, these double standards are now informing the response to Hamas’s release of some of the Israeli women and children it has held hostage for seven weeks. For ‘pro-Palestine’ supporters, seeing young Israeli children reunited with their families is not a cause for joy, or relief, let alone fury that they were abducted in the first place. No, it’s an opportunity to doubt their suffering. That’s right, morally depraved ghouls have been poring over photos of stunned mothers and infants in a perverse attempt to prove that they were well looked after by their Hamas guards.

Take journalist Roshan M Salih, editor of British Muslim news site 5 Pillars. He watched footage of women and children being handed over by Hamas terrorists to Israeli soldiers and tweeted: ‘This doesn’t look like the body language of people who were treated badly in captivity.’ Meanwhile, journalist Maree Campbell observed a dazed young girl being released by her masked-up, gun-toting captor and declared: ‘I’m not a facial-expression expert, but judging by the look in her eyes and the expression on her face, I’d say that is a look of appreciation and thanks.’ Her mind reading continued: ‘Might it be that she is saying thanks for being treated unexpectedly well while in captivity?’ Underneath the tweet, a ‘community note’ points out that Hamas shot Mia Regev, the girl Maree is referring to, before they kidnapped her.

It seems that every anti-Israel activist with a social-media account is an expert in body language and possesses intimate knowledge of the conditions in which Israeli hostages have been kept for the past seven weeks. They are determined to convince themselves and each other that these women and young children have not suffered at all. That having been violently removed from their families, perhaps after witnessing the murder of loved ones, their time in captivity has been no more traumatic than a weekend away.

The double standards at work in the response are staggering. Feminists have spent decades reiterating the message that when it comes to domestic violence or rape there is no such thing as a ‘perfect victim’. They rightly point out that every woman will respond differently. When attacked or sexually assaulted, some women might freeze. Others might seek to appease their attacker. This behaviour, we’re told, can be understood as a terrified, instinctual response or a desperate bid for leniency. ‘Behaviour that might appear paradoxical’, notes one feminist, ‘is not only unexceptional – it’s typical for a vast majority of victims’.

Yet Israeli women and children kidnapped during an unimaginably brutal massacre are afforded no such understanding. Smartphone critics judge their facial expressions upon release and suggest they’re not really victims. A smile is no longer taken as an attempt to appease or an indication of relief at being released. Instead, it’s used to twist the knife. It’s presented as proof of the kindliness of their abductors. As evidence of the humanity of Hamas.

There is a rationale behind this attempt to dismiss or even erase the suffering of the hostages. Ever since 7 October, the hostages have posed a problem for Hamas’s supporters in the West. Their very existence threatens the reality-inverting narrative that seeks to present the Palestinians as the real victims. Being confronted by images of kidnapped toddlers makes it harder for placard-waving, keffiyeh-wearing Westerners to argue that Hamas is made up of noble freedom-fighters. Fly-posted photos of the abducted undermine the simplistic idea that to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli is to side with good over evil.

That is why Western activists and sympathisers have gone to such great lengths to avoid confronting the truth. It’s why protesters have repeatedly torn down posters showing kidnapped children. It’s why Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referred to little Emily Hand as simply ‘lost’. And it’s why the BBC discusses Israeli hostages and Palestinian ‘detainees’, innocent Israeli children and Palestinians convicted of acts of violence, as if the two groups are morally equivalent.

The willingness of ‘pro-Palestine’ sympathisers to downplay the victimhood of the Israeli hostages, and find in favour of their Hamas captors, betrays their inhumanity. They should be ashamed. But they won’t be.

Joanna Williams is a spiked columnist and author of How Woke Won, which you can order here.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics World

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