Murdering the moderates

Murdering the moderates

There can be no doubt that the Hamas terrorists had been instructed to inflict as much horror on anyone they found before them on October 7, irrespective of who they were. As long as they were “on the other side,” it did not matter whether they were young peaceniks at a rave party, members of the military, children, aging socialist idealists, or migrant and Palestinian workers, they were subject to unimaginable horror. The fact that many of those who were tortured, murdered or taken hostage were among the Israelis who seek reconciliation and oppose their government’s hardline policies was not a mistake, victims of the raiders’ momentum. This strategy can only be explained as an urge for an apocalyptic confrontation in which all people are forced to pick a side and seek the other’s destruction, even if this is through self-destruction. A horrendous but ancient practice. Among historical examples, some 2,000 years ago, the Zealots burned the stores of Jerusalem and murdered the moderates of the besieged city, to ensure desperate – and ultimately futile – resistance to the Romans.

When, as now, the tide of blood, fear and anger swells, acts of kindness, voices of moderation become even more necessary, even more annoying to the fanatics, and even scarcer. For both sides, those who oppose visions of the other’s destruction, who undermine the conviction of the enemy’s inherent monstrosity, are a weakness. This is, most obviously, what Hamas believes. It is in its manifesto, in how it controls Gaza, in its acts on October 7. Shocking and inhumane, it is a raw projection of power, without the veneer of civilization that we would like to imagine for our collective selves. But it is no coincidence that the ancient kratos, which today means “state,” stood for strength, violence, power, victory. States and other hierarchies (such as religions, colonists and demagogues) define themselves and consolidate power by defining enemies, stoking fears and promising triumphs. But it is the creators, the builders, those who care for others, who put mercy above sacrifice, who ensure that a society survives, who make each life worth living. Wherever they might be, all they can hope for is “an affirming flame,” as Auden wrote at a similarly dark time.

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