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The Jewish Report Editorial

Lest we forget

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While the war between Israel and Hamas continues unabated and there are more deaths of soldiers and civilians, the world hasn’t stopped debating, arguing, and discussing it, but what of the 136 Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza?

They have been in the hands of barbaric terrorists for more than 118 days. That’s 16 long weeks – almost four excruciating months – in captivity.

It’s beyond my comprehension to understand the horror of what they are experiencing at the hands of those detestable people who could commit heinous war crimes in Israel on 7 October 2023. It’s not hard to imagine the depth of depravity of the people who could cut people’s heads off to show as a trophy, to do the most unspeakable things to women and children, not least of which was burning them alive. All I hope is that whatever the men, women, and children who are being held are experiencing, they survive it at all levels and come home to their loved ones.

As for their loved ones, I was privileged this week to hear of a number of parents or close family members of those who are still being held, and some who have already been released. It gave me an inkling of the pain they have experienced.

One man, Malachi Shem-Tov, whose son, Omer, is still in Gaza, spoke of his anguish, and touched my heart. Before he told us of his boy, aged 21, he asked, “Do you know where your son is now? Do you know where your daughter is now? Do you know if they are eating? Do you know if they are cold?”

As he asked in an agonised voice, I got it. I always know where my children are, but the thought of not knowing where they are for almost four months beggars belief. I cannot imagine what that’s like. Worse, knowing that wherever they are, they’re at the mercy of monsters. And all Omer did was “go to the most wrong festival”, he said.

Shem-Tov described the sense of not knowing whether his son was eating, sleeping, being harmed, or in pain, as “being in darkness”, and the moment when he realised his son was in Gaza as feeling like “someone threw a huge black curtain” over his face.

To add to his anguish, his son, Omer, is asthmatic and was taken hostage without his inhaler. So, for more than 118 days, he imagines that his son has battled to breathe. Omer also suffers from Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that, if he eats gluten, his body mounts an immune response attacking his intestines. Shem-Tov rhetorically asks what they’re likely to be giving him to eat? Pita, labane, and bread, all with gluten.

The Shem-Tovs have left Omer’s room as it was, not tidying it, and keep saying that when he gets home, he’ll fix it up.

This soft-spoken man and his family are living in hell while his son is being held by Hamas. The anguish they are forced to live with is just one hundred and thirty sixth of the pain that the hostage families are living with. No news, in this case, isn’t good news!

Each hour that the hostages remain in Gaza adds to their danger. Each minute …

We dare not forget them. Like their parents and loved ones, we need to keep their flame alight. We need to not lose hope, and we need to pressure the world to ensure they are sent home soon.

In last week’s finding of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the immediate release of the hostages was ordered. The problem with that order was that Hamas – a terrorist organisation – wasn’t in court, nor was it involved in any way in the hearing. The South African government was doing it all for Hamas at The Hague.

Hamas is unlikely to give two figs for what was said in this international court. It has broken just about every humanitarian law already, so why would it bother to heed anything said in an international court of law?

Israel is bound by what was demanded of it – which really wasn’t anything it wasn’t already doing – but nobody else is bound to do anything. Amazing, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, there’s growing proof of many UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) workers having been involved in the 7 October massacre. How despicable!

And now, as per our front page article, there are allegations that South African banks are being used to fund Hamas’s activities. Again, nobody is being censured for that either. And so it goes on …

Somehow, though, the narrative of Israel being genocidal and Hamas being the defender of innocents still somehow permeates certain sectors of this country and the world.

I am astonished when I realise how former colleagues cannot see what’s so obvious to me.

But more than that, I’m astonished at how the South African government refuses to see the facts of the ICJ findings.

In a piece in News24 this week, Zane Dangor, the director-general of the department of international relations and cooperation, and Minister Dr Naledi Pandor’s main henchman, is quoted as insisting that the ICJ ordered Israel to suspend the war in Gaza. What script is he reading from? That’s not true. It was specifically not said.

But what was very clearly said was that the hostages need to be released immediately, and Dangor failed to bring this up and was also not asked to say anything about this part of the findings.

The South African government has a real knack – clearly conscious – of not acknowledging the pain caused to Israel or Israelis. It has also never made a big deal about how Hamas broke all the laws of war by taking civilians hostage, among other atrocities.

I agree that there has been too much bloodshed and death and too many innocent lives have been taken. But if South Africa is going to talk about genocide and war crimes, it needs to acknowledge that Hamas – whose side it has taken – has committed horrific atrocities. But, I guess that may be too much to ask.

I mean, now President Cyril Ramaphosa is claiming that third forces following the ICJ hearing might try and stop the African National Congress from winning the elections. Mr President, if you lose these elections – and I really hope you do – it will be because you have neglected your own country and people, and for no other reason.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost


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