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'Netanyahu should resign!'

October 19, 2023 16:25 IST
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'He is ultimately responsible for this failure, having ignored warnings from Egypt and the US about the attacks.'

IMAGE: Israeli tanks in Kibbutz Beeri, October 14, 2023. Photograph: Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters

It has been 12 days since Hamas carried out its terrifying attacks inside Israel, killing women and children in their beds with impunity while also kidnapping several Israelis and foreigners to hold them hostage in the Gaza Strip.

In the intervening period, events -- and the news cycle -- have moved rapidly, with much of the more recent coverage moving from discussing the attack to talking of the impact on the Israeli families who have dead or missing loved ones to the humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by Israel's retaliatory attacks on the Gaza strip.

As is always the case with a conflagration between Israel and Palestine, there is worldwide interest in what is happening, and what you make of it is depends heavily on your political and religious views.

There have been large protests across the western world, primarily in support of Palestine.

With that, there has been a concomitant uptick in anti-Semitic incidents across cities targeting the Jewish diaspora.

So, what is it like to be Jewish in the West at this time, with families and friends in Israel?

"What I wish people in the rest of the world would realise is that organisations like Hamas, backed by big money from States like Iran, want to destroy our way of life, our democracy, and our freedoms," Lital Asher-Dotan -- a cybersecurity executive and podcast host, originally from Israel, who lives in New England on the eastern seaboard of the United States -- tells Contributor Siddhu Warrier.


On Saturday the 7th of October, I woke up at 5 am Eastern time, about noon in Israel. By then, we were already 5 hours into the Hamas attacks on Israel.

When I woke up, I checked WhatsApp messages from my family, as I always do.

That's when I saw a message from my mother saying, "We're at war. It's not like previous times. We are being bombarded with rockets! Hamas has invaded Israel and is holding captives!"

IMAGE: Israeli border police take cover by a vehicle following the Hamas attack near Sderot, Israel, October 8, 2023. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

I was taken aback. Us Israelis are very accustomed to what one might call a low-intensity war with Gaza every couple of years; rockets rain down on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, and there's a response.

But this was different. When we are targeted by rocket attacks, we typically have enough time to go somewhere safe -- every house built in recent times in Israel has a dedicated bomb shelter.

That is exactly what Hamas exploited this time: By sending through a barrage of rockets early in the morning on the shabbat (the Jewish day of rest from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday) when there were only limited numbers of soldiers on duty, they got people in the border villages to hide in their bomb shelters before going door to door, executing entire families.

What was most shocking to me was how videos of the brutality ended up on social media for all to see!

In addition, these kinds of attacks were supposed to be prevented by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces, the national military of the State of Israel).

I feel as though our belief that the IDF would defend our people is broken, and there is a feeling of betrayal that they didn't.

IMAGE: A rally in support of Palestinians in Mineola, New York, October 15, 2023. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

As these events unfolded in Israel, I felt that people in the West reacted to it as they always do, dismissing it as "Ah, yet another round of violence in the Middle East".

But this is different -- this was like 9/11, or the Holocaust.

However, the way people react to this is influenced by how they view the wider Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

But this goes beyond that: You can support Palestinians and their cause, but it is totally unacceptable to hyphenate what was a brutal terrorist attack.

If this kind of massacre had happened in the US or the UK, wouldn't they respond?

Ever since last weekend, I have observed an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, even in the US.

There were pro-Palestinian protestors holding up swastikas.

We live in a heavily Jewish town ourselves, but still we've had conversations at home as to whether we're safe or if that feeling of safety is just a false notion.

IMAGE: An Israeli soldier at the entrance to Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Israel, October 10, 2023. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

When Friday [the 13th of October 2023] was declared a 'Global Day of Jihad' (by former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal), my children and their friends started discussing online as to whether it was safe for them to go to school.

I texted the local police department, which is already protecting certain Jewish sites such as synagogues, to ask if they could increase their presence.

That said, though, I am unsure as to how effective they can be given the strongest military in the Middle East failed to protect Jews in their homeland.

This is why we have been considering buying weapons for ourselves, and the Jewish community here is paying for private security to protect its places of worship; a lot of us feel like we can rely on nobody but ourselves to keep our families safe.

IMAGE: A Palestinian man extinguishes a fire after a house was hit by Israeli strikes in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, October 14, 2023. Photograph: Yasser Qudih/Reuters

As for my high-schooler children who are Israeli Americans, they are being exposed to such horrific stuff on social media.

I've had to block their access to it. It is very hard for them.

They feel connected to Israel and know that their families and friends in Israel are affected.

But they're required to keep on going with their day-to-day activities here. They're having to deal with many around them not quite understanding what they're going through.

Children also see things in black and white; mine are struggling to comprehend how Israel, despite its strong army and cutting-edge surveillance technology, failed to prevent the attack.

It's shattered their world view and sense of security.

I feel so angry towards Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister).

I have no trust left in him, and believe he should resign!

He is ultimately responsible for this failure, having ignored warnings from Egypt and the US about the attacks.

IMAGE: Lital Asher-Dotan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Lital Asher-Dotan

What I wish people in the rest of the world would realise is that organisations like Hamas, backed by big money from States like Iran, want to destroy our way of life, our democracy, and our freedoms.

They manage to brand themselves as freedom fighters -- romantic notions that appeal to the young -- but they are anything but.

Israel is at the forefront of this as a Jewish State, but these people are against every democracy.

To quote Golda Meir (the fourth prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974), 'If the Palestinians lay down their weapons, there will be peace. If the Israelis lay down their weapons, there will be a massacre.'

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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