A family of four. Two young children, a boy and a girl, six and eight years old. They sat at their breakfast table and were made to watch as their father had his eyes gouged out in front of them. Then someone cut off their mother’s breast. The same savages turned then to the little girl, the eight-year-old, and cut off her foot before turning to her little brother. Just six years old. They sliced the fingers from his hand. Only then was this family killed. After their execution, the Hamas terrorists sat down and helped themselves to a meal.
I’m willing to bet some of you couldn’t finish reading those words. Maybe you skimmed over them; reading them was too much.
It’s understandable. Who wants to believe something so barbaric, so inhuman, could be real? Who wants to chance these words taking shape and lodging themselves in the imagination?
To you I’d say, go back. Read it again. Let the words break your heart as they did mine. Face the truth of what happened, feel the devastating weight of it. This isn’t the time for sanitising facts or avoiding them to preserve some falsely constructed idea of comfort.
I feel as if we are caught in a moment. Suspended, like a bracing breath held in fear of what’s next. The movement of a hand on a clock, in painful, drawn-out slow motion.
This thought, this imagery, has been fluttering around my head and my heart all week, like a butterfly hovering to and fro looking for a place to land.
I felt this way days before I watched the testimony of barbarism, recounted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the US congress and to the world, the words of which I transcribed above. All week I’ve been wrestling with the sense that we are living in a significant moment in history.
Does it feel like that to you? Because it does to me.
Seventy-five years after we promised the Jewish world never again, on Monday the Israeli ambassador to the UN wore a Star of David on his jacket while addressing the Security Council with fire in his belly and truth on his tongue. The same weak-kneed, complicit and hypocritical UN that last May appointed Iran to chair this week’s Human Rights Council Social Forum.
Israeli United Nations Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks during a Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war at UN headquarters. Picture: AFP
We are witnessing the most sickening outbreak of anti-Semitism around the globe in generations. A flight from Israel lands in the Russian republic of Dagestan and is overrun by savages “looking for the Jews”, and not to offer them post-flight refreshments either. Looking to murder them simply for being Jewish.
Throughout Europe, the homes of Jews are being marked with a Star of David. Australia has become known for chants of “Gas the Jews” and burning Israeli flags, a violent scene set against a stunning night-time view of the Sydney Opera House.
When one of the more than 230 hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza was rescued by the Israel Security Agency, known as Shin Bet, large sections of the hard-left media instead reported that she had been surrendered by the terrorists. A blatant lie, just one of many.
It has been an instructive, terrible, fraught, critical month since October 7. Illuminating, in the sense that so many have declared their hand via sins of omission and commission.
I’d never have believed the level of anti-Semitism I’ve witnessed in Australia this past month. I’d never have believed there’d come a day when we had to remind people of how the Holocaust happened. I always wondered how. Now we know.
Spending the past week working from London has brought me closer in a geographical sense to the conflict. This has naturally framed certain things through a different lens. But the temporary distance from home has likewise brought a different perspective that has led me to conclude one thing: We are facing a crisis of courage.
Something about this past month, the terrible events of October 7 and the response of large parts of the Western world have shaken me. In fact, it’s not just about what happened on October 7 that has brought me to this conclusion; rather, the response to it from many in Australia’s political, academic and cultural elite.
And perhaps, in a perverse way, the response to it is a reflection of our own culpability. All of a sudden, a phrase such as “Free Palestine” is being used to justify the most horrific things.
A crisis of courage. Courage to stand. Courage to adjust course. Courage to count the cost of truth and, in one of the great Australian colloquialisms, the courage to call bullshit on a wide range of things we know not to be true but, for whatever reasons, have been tolerated. Things like the bitter, deceptive lies that underpin identity politics in all its forms. That all we have is identity, that the colour of our skin or our sexuality matters more than a person’s character. That we have no agency. That resilience doesn’t matter. A culture that celebrates, honours and even venerates victimhood in all its forms.
Has our tolerance of such self-indulgent folly, over time, at least in part created a culture of moral weakness? Has it led us down a path towards this moment we seem horribly unprepared to face?
The West hasn’t faced a serious threat since 9/11. I don’t recall anyone calling for restraint then. Have we already forgotten? It could be argued that we have forgotten our history, our story, become lazy.
Focused on consensus at all costs. Favoured the road most travelled. Avoiding conflict. Avoiding those things that might require courage.
That savages who would deliberately mutilate parents in front of their children, before dismembering the kids while they’re still alive, deserve to be hunted down and wiped out should be the ultimate unity ticket. It shouldn’t be open to question.
Yet here we are. There’s truth to the saying that a crisis doesn’t create character, it reveals it. This crisis continues to be a mirror to many and the moment we’re facing must be met with courage lest it pass unchallenged.