It was even more surprising for me when I looked at the comments on social networks of a number of people from my circle of acquaintances, who are considered “Prague cafe” types – graduates of FAMU, journalists from Czech Television, artists, writers, even left-wing activists. They are all completely oblivious to the unjustifiable mass murder that is happening in Gaza. They all show full support for whatever Israel’s far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu decides to do.
Elsewhere in the world (given my personal history, I follow closely the news from the Czech Republic, the United States, Brazil, Great Britain, Slovenia and the Netherlands) the attitude is quite different, people are more divided, even among those who support revenge by Israeli forces for the terrible attacks by Hamas in October , find room to criticize the apparent disregard for any rules of war, such as the principle of not shooting at people with white flags or forbidding emergency aid to reach starving Palestinian children.
Czechs in general and the majority seem to have decided that everyone who is in Gaza is vicariously guilty and deserves the consequences. Imagine if Serbia decided to bomb Prague because Václav Havel and part of Czech society approved and supported the bombing of Belgrade in the late 1990s… Or if Al-Qaeda decided to kill Czech children because their country is part of NATO. Or if the Kremlin decided to punish the entire country because of the government’s support for Ukraine.
I have many Israeli friends. When I spoke with them recently, I compiled their views and feelings about the current conflict.
Most of them say that it is really necessary to arrest the tip of the existence of Hamas once and for all. Of the seven people I spoke to, only one thinks his government is doing the right thing, that bombing hospitals is justified because terrorists use them as hideouts, and that the children killed are just collateral damage. He even added that these children will also grow up to be terrorists, although he admitted that this will not happen because of any genetics that is determined by being Palestinian, but because they will grow up in an atmosphere of negative propaganda against Israel. I asked if these children would hate Israel just because they were taught to do so, or if they would grow up as inferior beings with no rights, much like the South Africans during apartheid. My friend was not impressed with my comparison and ended the conversation by saying that anyone who is not Jewish cannot understand it.
He hung up before I could tell him that I was part Jewish, that the original form of my last name was Golgotha. My grandfather changed it when he immigrated from France because Brazil is too Catholic and having a name that refers to the place where Jesus was crucified could lead to the likely conclusion that our ancestors participated in the crucifixion or maybe we got the name for being the ones who carried out the crucifixion…
Everyone else was very critical of the way this war was being waged. They don’t understand why the Israeli military can’t use intelligence more and be surgical and take the time to find every Hamas operative and leader instead of carpet bombing Gaza. “Not that Hamas has ever been defeated, because it’s an idea, not just a group,” said Lior, who is a civil servant at the Tel Aviv water company.
Maya, who is a bank clerk, told me that she is terribly sorry for the killing of children and other innocent people, and believes that this war will not end Palestinian anger, quite the contrary: “The leader of Hamas said in one interview that for every child killed, there are ten new ones members of his organization.” They claim that Netanyahu is using this war only to stay in power. That while the October attacks were horrific, the impact of the footage that showed the actions of Hamas, and that they were all at once, but that they offered nothing new in terms of the danger that Hamas poses to Israelis.
Rohan and his wife Iris told me that Gaza should be administered by the United Nations and not by Israel or another terrorist group like Hamas. They think Palestinians are victims of general racism and have reason to dislike Israel.
Eliana, a Brazilian Jew who moved to Israel at age 19, now 53, says she is considering leaving the country because she is disgusted by her peers who cannot see how racist they are against the Palestinians, comparing the situation to how the Brazilian middle classes look down on those from the favelas. It’s similar to how Brazilian police enter favelas and kill anyone who crosses their path, including 19 children last year, and society looks on without protest.
Levy told me that much of Israeli society is critical of the way Gaza is being destroyed, but few have the courage to say it out loud because “Israel has now turned into the Soviet Union, where even famous people are being put in jail just because they are 100 percent they don’t agree with the way the war is being fought”.
Just as not all Americans agreed with the White House’s war on Iraq and Afghanistan, just as they did decades earlier in Vietnam, not all Israelis agree with their government’s decisions. The same should apply to the Palestinians!
What is happening to Gaza is the same as what happened to Lidice. Innocent people pay with their lives and the destruction of their homes for an attack committed by others.
And to those who claim that all Palestinians support Hamas and are against the existence of Israel, I remind you that all Czechs supported the assassination of General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich and certainly also held the opinion that the Sudetenland does not belong to the Germans. So even if the people of Lidice agreed with what the Germans saw as a terrorist attack, that is no justification for the Nazis to do what they did either.
And for those who think that it is wrong to compare the Nazi forces to the Israeli ones, I should remind you that to the Palestinians the Israelis represent the same thing, because the Palestinians are forced to live in ghettos, they have no freedom of movement, work, even the amount of water they get for day, it is regulated by Israel as well as food that enters their territory, and I’m not just talking now, during the war, but it has always been that way. For the Palestinians, the Israelis are a foreign force that invaded their territory and has forced them to live as a lower caste ever since.
And let’s remind everyone that the Palestinians did not drive the Jews out of their land, they came centuries later to a place that no longer belonged to the Jews. The whole idea of the Jews coming back after two thousand years to reclaim their land is the same as if the Native Americans of the American continent decided to drive us all out and take the land that belonged to them 500 years ago. Ridiculous. the Jews decided not only “we are back”, but also “you will go away”. How fair is that?