There isn’t much to say in the face of evil.
Eventually historians, political scientists, psychologists, and other academics will explore and explain the conditions that unleashed such grotesque savagery. Maybe theologians will have something to say.
But all we know here, now, is what we see, the instinct to brutalize other human beings as Hamas has done, to wrap it in aggrieved language about the harm done to it, as if that justified Dark Age-level murder, rape, and blood-blinded savagery.
As the writer Ben Wittes put it, “There are no problems to which the solution is the murder of civilians.”
There genuinely are politics here, but right now they’re irrelevant.
It also is terrifying to see the reflexive Jew-hatred, wrapped in anti-Zionist rhetoric but reeking of something much older and deeper.
As the social media account at the U.S. Holocaust Museum said, “We just witnessed the deadliest single day for Jews since the Holocaust.”
As the stories come out of Israel, some clear-eyed writers and thinkers have been telling them in thoughtful ways.
In “We’re Going to Die Here,” in the Atlantic, staff writer Yair Rosenberg tells the story of his friend, the highly respected young journalist Amir Tibon. (In fact, the Atlantic is so packed with stories about Israel by Jewish writers that a reader might forget that it actually is not a Jewish publication.)
In a telephone interview, Amir tells Yair about the day he, his wife, and their two young daughters spent in their safe room, with no food, water, light, power, bathroom access, or anything to keep the baby or the toddler amused, and therefore quiet. They had no idea when they’d be rescued, or if they’d be rescued.
In the end, they were rescued by Amir’s dashing retired-general father, Noam, his mother, Gali, and another retired general, Israel Ziv. Their cell phones had retained enough charge for Amir to call home.
Yair describes Amir’s position as both parent/protector and child/protectee sensitively, the rescue itself is exciting, but the story is harrowing. This is real life, and the bodies in the street similarly are real.
Amir also talks about the security failures that allowed the attacks to happen. He and his family did their part in strengthening Israel by moving close to Gaza, he thinks; where was the government’s good-faith effort to keep them safe there?
We are likely to start seeing all sorts of attacks on Israel for having started the war, all sorts of false equivalencies, some from people who genuinely believe that there can be a moral good in murdering babies, some from people who just plain hate Jews. The sheer irrationality of Hamas’s attack — it’s hard to imagine how its victory could be anything other than pyrrhic, and then only if you squint — makes the impossibility of its defenders coming up with anything other than spittle and hate clear.
When this is over, we all will have to figure out what happened. Until then, all we can do is hang onto the last tattered shards of hope, send love, hope, practical supplies, and particularly money, and pray for peace.